Would you rather be the company behind Call of Duty or Sniper Elite? On first blush, most would choose the household name hands down. But for Rebellion Co-Founder Jason Kingsley, OBE, when you fully understand the balance sheet behind these two franchises, Sniper is the clear winner. As a franchise with north of 70m units sold in its lifetime, the success of Sniper, as well as Nazi Zombie Army, have brought Rebellion to the place where they fully fund projects of their choosing and completely control their destiny.
In my latest conversation for Deconstructor of Fun podcasts, I sat down Jason to discuss his new book, Leading the Rebellion. In the interview, he recounted one of my favorite sections, explaining why he’d choose Sniper over CoD every time:
Jason “Our budgets are sort of around $10, $20, $30 million-ish depending on where we are. And obviously, those budgets are going up as time rolls on. But the budgets of things like Call of Duty or some of the Ubisoft projects, you know, that we’ve all heard about now…”
Ethan “with thousands of people working 24 hours a day around the world…”
Jason “Exactly, you know, those are up in the $100, $200 millions of dollars. We’re roughly 10% of the budget, possibly 20%, and we sell a quarter as well.
“I mean these are very rough numbers, but would you prefer to spend $20m on making $50m million? Or do you want to spend $200m on making $250m?
“And you think I quite like making our games. I mean they’re not small scale games, not these days, and anybody who’s an indie will know that spending $20m is quite a big budget. It’s a lot of money! But by comparison with the biggest they’re good.
“And what I’m proud about is you know it’s made by a great you know British team, made in-house with their own technology. We work with great partners like Microsoft and Sony and Steam and Epic. We have really great relationship with all of them. And what matters to us is getting our game out to as many people as possible worldwide.”
Now if you’re thinking “sure profit margin is all well and good, but the Call of Duty franchise actually makes $1b+ per year,” here is some additional context to help illustrate the power of Rebellion’s success:
- Jason and his brother own 100% of Rebellion. No VCs, no investors, full control.
- Rebellion fully funds their own projects and are highly profitable
- Rebellion makes the games they want to make on their schedule and on their terms
- Rebellion employs over 500 people in the UK
- Rebellion has the free cash flow to do cool shit like buy the 2000AD comics line or build massive movie production facilities
So sure, maybe Call of Duty makes a lot more top line revenue. But when you look at the scale of revenue of Sniper, and the amount of direct benefit Rebellion reaps from it, Jason’s perspective makes a lot more sense.
This was truly a lovely conversation with Jason. Be sure to listen to the full conversation embedded above, and check out his book Leading the Rebellion: Questing to Succeed in Work and Life.