Navigating A Crossroads: David Jaffe Talks
January 25, 2008 Page 5 of 5
What do you think about the future
of, you know, people being able to create high profile, high budget,
$60 console games, and find success?
Budgets are rising on games. That's obvious. You have to sell more copies
of a game to be profitable. Does that worry you about package software,
$60 packaged software for next generation consoles? Do you think we're
going to reach a saturation point, where that might be a problem?
DJ: Just the cost of making games, you mean?
Yeah, I guess so. The cost of making games, basically.
DJ: You know, I don't know. I think it's definitely nerve wracking. I think we're starting to see less games. I think we're starting to -- well, here's the part that scares me the most. The part that scares me the most is that I look at these break-even spreadsheets, when we're working with Sony on our games. You know -- this is how many units you have to sell to break even, and this is what your current budget is.
Let's put it this way: it's really, you're at a whole new level, and it's not scary in the sense that I want to get out of it, and walk away from the problem, but it really is amazing to look back at, say, Twisted Metal 1, and go, "OK, we were selling that for 49 bucks, and that cost about $800,000 to make." And we sold 1,000,000 copies, and we were just like, "Hell, this is great!" And now you look at selling a million copies of a title that's going to cost 10, 15, 20 million [to develop], and you're like, "Man, I hope the low end is a million copies!" Because if it ain't, you're screwed!
It's really scary. Especially when you're publishing on a single platform, versus spreading your title out amongst all kinds of places. So, you know, it's definitely on our minds, we definitely worry about it. But we don't necessarily know how it's all going to pan out. I don't know if it's going to mean less games, or -- the knee-jerk is to say that it'll mean less artistic choices, but I think if you look at the amazing games that came out toward the end of 2007, that does not seem to be happening.
We are getting some amazing titles out there -- thematically, and technically, and gameplay wise -- like Call of Duty, and Orange Box, and BioShock, and Rock Band. So, you know, you'd think that would be a problem, but it doesn't seem to be.
Do you think it helps drive the
ball into Nintendo's court, to an extent? Because the DS and the Wii
have much lower barrier of entry to some of the smaller, and even not-so-small
developers that can't afford the budgets, or afford the marketing dollars?
DJ: You know, maybe. It's hard to say. I don't have enough data -- which is not that it's not out there, I just haven't looked at it in a while -- about selling on the Wii. I mean, you know the first party stuff is selling really well. I saw recently that Carnival Games, which is a third party title, was doing pretty well. And so it's the same way when you asked me what I thought about PS2. I love the fact that there is an option out there for developers and gamers who are like, "Look, you know, we don't care about the bleeding edge so much. We just want to have a good time." So I think it's nice that that has opened up.
And I was going to use the word "niche," but I think considering the success of the Wii -- at least so far -- that would be a disrespectful word to use when describing it, considering how stunningly successful it's been. So what it may really be saying is that the vast majority who want to play video games could really care less if they're playing the leading-edge graphics. They just want to have a good time and get on with their lives. So, you may be right, that may be actually opening up a whole new world for developers. But I think it's too early to say if anybody other than the first party developers on Nintendo's platforms, like in the past, are going to be able to reap those rewards and benefits. Or if you're only talking about Zelda and Pokémon.
No, you're right. And I think that,
just like we were talking about with casual versus hardcore, and PS2
transitioning into PS3, all of this stuff, I just feel like right now
we are at a crossroads where we can't really see what's happening. All
these things seem to be up in the air. Do you feel that way?
DJ: Yeah, absolutely. And then when you roll in the whole digital distribution model, in terms of what is going to happen to the brick and mortar stores, and is this stuff going to be downloaded through your television, or are you playing on your cell phone? There are so many options now, and that's the great news; the bad news is that nobody knows where this is going to end up. And so it's scary but exciting.
That's why, to me, I love the downloadable model. I saw something, it might have been on your site the other day, that the game industry estimates that they lose a billion dollars a year to used game sales. I love the digital download model for both casual games and free games. I love the fact that game makers are being able to play with, and experiment with a lot of these different ways to get games to consumers.
In some cases it's cutting out the middleman altogether, and going right to the consumer, right to the game player. So it's a real exciting time. I'm grateful to be in the business at this point in its life.
Page 5 of 5