About a year ago you announced the shutdown of your game development studio partly due to your frustration about how Electronic Arts handled ‚Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath‘. How do you feel about this matter now?
It’s in the past and we’re moving forward. In general, it’s reflective of the state of the industry and how innovation and exclusive limited platform penetration can push some publishers to refrain from even promoting your product.
All Oddworld games received great reviews but I think their unusual style always kept many players from buying them. Have you never thought about developing a game with a completely different style and setting?
The business is too complicated to sum up that easily. There are a lot of reasons why things sold or didn’t sell what they did. For the outside world, they look at sales numbers alone and the rest of what happened is lost to history. They don’t consider how hundreds of thousands of games were lost in werehouses by floundering publishers, or how marketing failed to fund advertising and PR because a title was exclusive to one platform, or how Xbox failed to sell well in Europe and Japan and untimately only sold to hard core gamers and not the casual gamers as was originally hoped. It’s too easy to believe it’s always the content when we’re in a marketplace that is plagued by so many other issues.
Creatively speaking, I’m interested in creating content that has a more mass market entertainment appeal and that has more innovation and relavent storytelling taking place. For the most part, I don’t feel even the best selling games have much of this quality. It’s still largely a core gamer driven market, and designing for what this market specifically wants… is not something that seriously interests me creatively. There’s plenty of that on the shelf already.
Other reasons for your frustration were the general tendency against innovation in the gaming industry and the rising production costs. Which possibilities do you see for the industry to get out of this dilemma?
I never said frustrated – disappointed would be a more accurate perception… and the truth is I’m more excited about film and I want to be more prolific than I have been able to be in the games business.
I don’t see the industry gettting out of this pattern any time soon. Not so long as each next gen system requires a complete rewrite of your code base. This creates a counter innovative culture for game development. It also indirectly makes the development community more of a technology community than a content development community.
What do you see in the next five or ten years for the gaming industry? Will there be the big crash many people are already prediciting?
For the large majority of titles… more of the same with better graphics, sound and multiplayer options. As they say in advertising, same stuff – different wrapper. Pretty much like what we saw with last generation. I do believe we’ll see gamers getting bored with games if games don’t branch out into more interesting and innovative directions, but there will continue to be enough of a core market (players that like blowing things up and playing sports) to keep the industry on firm feet. We will never see what happened to Atari happen again. Games are here to stay, but a lot more developers will get gobbled up or go out entirely, and so will some of the big publishers.
What’s your opinion on the next-generation consoles? Isn’t the Nintendo Revolution exactly what you wanted? An innovative platform with moderate game production costs?
The Nintendo system is interesting in how it’s trying to foster innovation, and it’s good that they’re seeking a unique market and not chasing the usual suspects.
Yet, it appears underpowered in its ability to compete directly with the PS3 (which may prove to be the case with the Xbox360 as well.) Ideally, we would have seen the Xbox architecture remain the same, while increasing it’s power exponentially. This would have been amazing, because all of the developers code base could have been ported over and immediately started taking advantage of the additional power – and better games would release sooner for lower cost and more innovation could be affored. Yet, as it stands, everyone is rewriting their engines for the new mutli-threaded architecture for both the 360 and the PS3. So overall, the 360 and PS3 are rather uninspiring from a development perspective.
Enough about games: What have you been doing the last year?
Relocating and mostly focusing on our CG film development.
Any progress on the Oddworld series or movies you were talking about?
Yes, but not getting into any details at this time.
How exactly has your company changed since last year?
We cut the game development group and are developing several new properties. Largely focused on film first approach to development.
Is there the possibility that we’ll see another Oddworld game in the future? If not from Oddworld Inhabitants, then maybe from a licensed party?
It’s possible. Personally, I don’t want to see any new console based Oddworld games until after there is an Oddworld film.
Finally, when can we expect an annoucement?
When the fat lady sings ;-)