Circle Studio: Jeremy Heath-Smith

Jeremy Heath-Smith, who created Lara Croft, is now planning a new raid on the games industry


In his own words, Jeremy Heath-Smith, who launched games developer Circle Studio in January, was “spectacularly fired” from his high-profile job at games publishing giant Eidos. If his name doesn’t ring any bells his creation will: Lara Croft.

Heath-Smith and Circle co-founder Adrian Smith were responsible for the global phenomenon. However, he lost his job when the launch of Tomb Raider slipped eight months, knocking Eidos’ share price.

Having set up his first company, Core Design in 1988, he sold it as an autonomous entity to CentreGold for £6m. Not long after, it was taken over by Eidos. Heath-Smith was made development director and, thanks to royalties and bonuses, he managed one year to be the second highest earning Plc director with a £6m-plus income.

On his sacking last summer, The Guardian ran the headline: ‘Bleak future for Lara’s founder’. But now he’s back and you don’t get the impression things have been particularly bleak.

On Heath-Smith’s dismissal the share price dropped considerably, but he’s got no axe to grind. No wonder, as he still has more than a million shares in Eidos and received a large pay-off along with permission to start again.

He’s signed 35 former Core employees, a team he considers the best in the industry. But it’s an industry in trouble, with 23 studios closing in the past year. So why is he willing to risk his reputation and money? “It’s an ideal time and there are rich pickings to be had,” he claims.

It’s also an opportunity to address mistakes, such as not delivering on time. With Tomb Raider the team spent only three months developing the game, after spending three years building its own technology. He has also revised his approach to scheduling, breaking each month down into weekly targets for an 18 month turnaround.

Ultimately, Heath-Smith wants five teams to stabilise the business, meaning a workforce of around 200. As a cash positive business funding isn’t a top priority yet. Instead, he expects the company to align with a publisher, but could take the bulk of the risk in exchange for better royalties and hopes for a £2m to £5m turnover from its first full year.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Circle Studio

Activity: Games developer

Founded: 2004

Investment: undisclosed

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