When you say "mini-products", what do you mean?
WG: Before The Sims, the law of expansion packs was that if you had a big hit, you'd make one expansion pack, sell it to 20-30 percent of the customer base, and then you were done. When we did the first expansion pack, even Will said, "Why bother? It's a stupid idea. It'll never work." The first one, Livin' Large, was not that great. We learned by the second and third one that not only did we need new objects, but we needed to do new NPCs, and new C++ code for new gameplay. The expansion packs became something that nobody imagined when we first started.
EA's adaptation of the book and feature film Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix
Is co-development what's happening with the Spielberg project?
WG: Yeah. The guys who did The Matrix also tried to co-develop a game with us. They were thinking about an interactive and a non-interactive version going down parallel paths. The movie business learned this a long time ago. With Saturday Night Fever, they started developing the soundtrack and the movie in parallel, and Star Wars is famous for trying to develop toys and the movie in parallel. It happened in music, it happened with toys, and to some degree it happened with theme parks, but it hasn't really happened with the interactive element yet.
The reason it hasn't happened yet is because the people who make movies, by and large, don't play games. That will start to change as there's more successful movie makers who have grown up on Nintendo. They had to be in junior high school in 1987, or younger. When those people start making successful movies, we're going to see more and more convergence.
I assume that's not the case with Spielberg himself.
WG: Actually, Spielberg, Lucas, and Zemeckis were early adopters of digital in movies, so they're kind of adult onset digital media people.
So would you point to that as the poster child of co-development?
WG: I think the poster child of co-development is going to be something that defines a new product category. One of the things we've learned over the years is that when new consumer behavior happens or new hardware happens, it's really useful to try and invent killer apps.
We thought interactive movies might be a killer app. We thought The Sims might be a killer app. Those are really hard to predict. You can predict when it might be possible to make something that looks like it, but it's hard to tell what's going to be killer. I never would've predicted that Madden would be a killer app on the Sega Genesis in Europe, for example.
One of the things I admire about Nintendo is that Miyamoto tries for his products to have new social purpose. They talk about blue ocean theory, about making stuff where nobody else goes. That was the good thing about The Sims. Other hall-of-fame designers said, "You're trying to do a people game, Will? People games never work." We had in the company the guy who was a producer on Little Computer People from Activision in the '80s, and he was wildly disappointed in it, and he was pretty sure that The Sims would never work. So doing stuff that a lot of people think is a bad idea can be good.