Cyber Group Studios Draws Inspiration from Video Games for Series IP

Two of the latest series on Cyber Group Studios’ slate take inspiration from the video game world: Alex Player and Press Start! The former is about an esports team, while the latter features epic adventures inside a video game.

Alex Player was originally developed by Pierre Belaïsch, chief creative officer of Cyber Group Studios, before he joined the company. “We really fell in love with the concept of a series being one of the first to take place in the world of esports,” says Raphaëlle Mathieu, chief operating officer. “I discovered this world of true competition, teamwork and real fun! Hence in this show, we are teamed up as well with Webedia, a worldwide leader in this field.”

Cyber Group Studios has aligned with two key European pubcasters for Alex Player in France Télévisions and Rai. “This is a guarantee that we will stick to a fun and appealing show that will have embedded in it true values appealing to kids,” Mathieu says. “We are also proudly co-producing the series with our partners of Graphilm Entertainment and the amazing Anna Lucia Pisanelli and Maurizio Forestieri, who are both incredible professionals.”

The team put a great deal of effort into the graphic style of the series and ultimately decided to adopt one style for each world. The real world, the world of kids’ daily life at school, is in 2D, while the world of video games, “World of Titans,” shifts into CGI. “We believe this really works in terms of energy and narration and are extremely proud of the final results,” Mathieu says. The series will be fully delivered this year.

For Press Start!, Ira Singerman, head of development in Cyber Group Studios’ L.A. office, introduced the company to the best-selling book series written and illustrated by Thomas Flintham that has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide. It turns out the author is represented by the same agent as Jonny Duddle, who penned the Gigantosaurus book that Cyber Group Studios adapted to much success. “Getting to know Thomas Flintham was an amazing discovery, as we realized that he had written the book to make kids want to read in addition to watching screens,” Mathieu says. “We also loved that he got inspired by a young kid living in his neighborhood who happened to have Indian origins, as we believe it adds to the uniqueness of the show.”

Cyber Group Studios teamed up with Peacock in the U.S. on the project. “The whole team there has been equally demanding and supportive from the start, and we believe the results are very exciting,” says Mathieu. “We aimed to produce a best-in-class show and are proud to have already presold it to Warner Bros. Discovery Italy.”

Determining the visual style for Press Start! came easily to the team, Mathieu notes. “We wanted to stick to the original visual, which has a Minecraft-like flavor with a bit of an ’80s look that we are particularly fond of. The challenge was to make it a bit brighter and glossier, and we used CGI for this purpose.”

Press Start! follows the adventures of Sunny and Rue, a brother and sister who are fans of a video game and discover one day that, thanks to their controller, they can actually jump into their favorite video game and help their hero, Super Rabbit Boy. “Our aim ultimately would be to develop a video game adapted from their stories and simultaneously have books adapted directly from the TV series episodes,” Mathieu says.

Cyber Group Studios has the same ambition for Alex Player. “So, let’s keep our fingers crossed—but most of all, let’s keep on working hard and be innovative and creative both in terms of storytelling and business,” says Mathieu. “Times are challenging; we need to be up to the task.”

The company sees many synergies between animated series and video games, including technological breakthroughs. “We believe both industries and universes have many points of convergence,” Mathieu says. “When we launched Gigantosaurus, one of our dreams, if this was to be a success, was to create video games adapted from the show. This is how the adventure began. We hired Disney Interactive alum Thierry Braille to run a unit that would focus on developing our brands in the video game industry. Thierry had been close to our chairman and CEO, Dominique Bourse, when they were together at Disney, as Dominique was in charge of video games at this time.”

About half a million copies of the Gigantosaurus console games have now been sold. “When we started our discussions on Gigantosaurus with a number of partners, we realized that real-time animation software could impact animation and that the animation pipe could, in turn, impact the video game pipe,” Mathieu says. “This is how we started working on creating assets in our series that can be used in a video game project and working as well to master the real-time animation technique. Now, our R&D division has put together a unique and one of the biggest real-time and motion-capture studios in Roubaix in France with more than 40 cameras.”

Mathieu also highlights the narrative convergence of the two fields. “When we talk about content, what matters most is the storytelling,” she says. “This is something we have been wanting to focus on, as video games are a big part of kids’ daily lives and a means for us to reach them with truly appealing stories. Hence, two of our most recent productions take place in the world of video games, both with very different approaches to their targets and visual identities. Alex Player is fueled with our real-time animation pipe.”