Another thing John Riccitiello brought up is that EA used to shop its culture into their studios, and now the culture is seeping into EA from the studios. Do you feel like it's similar at F9?
JG: Well, I think we're a different
situation, because they're a publisher who's acquiring developers, and
there are actually a lot of different cultural issues. If you look at
it as a publisher, development is a cost of goods, as opposed to a source
of revenue. It's all we do. Development is our business. It's not something
that serves what our real business is, which is...
Shipping SKUs to Wal-Mart.
JG: Right. That's a natural potential friction there. The good parts of being a developer in a publisher is that there's probably a little more leeway in terms of some of the constraints you have, and you're part of a company that's capturing all of the upside, and there's some great franchises there. That's not a bad situation, but our deal is that we all come from the same background to begin with, so I think there's isn't that...
Push-and-pull, kind of?
JG: Yeah. I mean, the only push-and-pull is the natural push-and-pull is trying to have a creative endeavor inside capitalism to begin with, which is hard.
You guys aren't a publisher, and you do a lot of Xbox Live Arcade and PSN games, but you have them doing them for publishers. But you could cut out the middleman if you wanted to, right? You could go straight to Xbox Live Arcade with your own game. Have you considered doing that?
JG: Yeah. We're formulating various plans around that, but it's not an either/or situation. If somebody has a great property like Street Fighter or Bomberman, that's their property, so the only way that we can work on that is if we work with them. And XBLA and PSN are great opportunities for us to spend some of our money too.
Are you guys working on your own
original IPs? Silent Hill V
is a big, ambitious project, but ultimately, it's Konami who's in control
of the Silent Hill franchise. Climax
made the PSP one probably in hope that they'd make the console one.
I'm totally theorizing, but you know what I'm saying.
JG: I do know what you're saying, but... we have had some traction on projects like Death Jr., and we've got another one - Monster Lab - up in our Vancouver studio. That's part of the plan. We define our business as a portfolio, so the bulk of what we do is the kind of business we do right now.
We like the touch and feel of Silent Hill, and I think it's important to point out that there are a lot of people who are doing the types of titles we are doing that have a little bit of self-loathing. They hate what they did, because they really wanted to do something else. Silent Hill is a great project, and a lot of projects...
I think that would be exciting to work on, personally.
JG: Yeah. That's a good thing. And then there are some things that you vest in your own account, and if we do it all right, there will be a portfolio of things that are stuff for publishers, stuff that's our own stuff.
Naming no names, I do know people
who work at studios that work on licensed products, and they have a
continual dissatisfaction with the fact that they aren't able to do
what they want, or what they got in the industry to do.
JG: I can empathize with that. Again,
I think it's hard, as a general statement, to get everything you want
in a commercially creative endeavor. That's the difference between commercial
arts and fine arts. You can be a starving painter and show your work
in galleries, and maybe you'll hit it big, and in the same way, in our
business, you make sure you work on skills to make games, and sometimes
you get lucky and you get to push an original thing out the door, too.
I want to make clear that it's not
our strategy to keep people from the work that they find exciting, but
we operate in an ecosystem that is defined by making money, so we figure
out how to balance selling those opportunities. That's what we have
to do. From my standpoint, I'm just as happy to sell any type of deal,
because we never force a deal into the studios. If they've got a deal
that we can sell that's their own special thing, and we've done that
twice in the past couple of years, I'm excited to do that.