Oftentimes people in marketing and other positions aren't necessarily savvy about the process of game development, and can't evaluate games on that level, early on. Is that something that you work to communicate, organizationally? To say, "Look: we'll evaluate it for what it is at this time, and move forward in terms of what makes sense."
GH: Yeah, we have a stage-gate process for tracking the evolution of the game. I play a lot of games, I expect all of my executives to play a lot of games, and frankly, I don't know how you could market a product if you don't physically get hands-on with it yourself. So, we expect a high degree of passion from everybody involved in touching the game.
If you want to be involved in any way in the creative direction of the game -- and that includes pretty much everybody in marketing, because they have a voice in this thing -- they need to have hands-on experience with games. And they need to learn the process of making a game.
And I think that, across the industry in general, marketing teams are more and more savvy about this, and are becoming good partners to development teams. Because you're not seeing two groups with completely different objectives and perspectives coming together; we're trying to get these two different areas to collaborate at the same goal, which is making a great game.
And part of that is understanding what the product is, and not expecting a polished game when you're a few months in, and just trying to find the fun.
The choice of platform is becoming increasingly important, and it's not just about hardware, now -- there's next-gen, Wii and handheld, plus the choice of packaged versus download, which service to use, and then is it casual, is there a PC version, what's the business model...
GH: Yeah. Welcome to my world, Christian.
How do you make those tough decisions? You guys have a very large line-up. Larger than I had anticipated, I guess, and it maps across a wide array of platforms and IP. And within those platforms, different... You know, I don't know. We'll call them "hardware" and "platforms".
GH: We're trying to be as informed as we can about making those important platform distribution decisions. And part of that is tracking quite carefully who owns what. If we were focused only on hardcore gamers -- that is to say, people in the typical 18-34 age group – if that's all we were thinking about, our life would be a whole lot easier, because our platform decisions would be almost, in some sense, made for us.
But where we are, we have a broad sense of demographics that we try to serve, we really have to pay attention to who owns what box when, and try to make projections into the future, what we think the install rate is going to be on those boxes -- and use that very carefully, by really having a good sense of who we're making a game for.
If it's Split/Second, we know we're going next gen on that. If it's going to be something aimed at a seven year old girl, we'll look at the DS and see what we can do with the DS, because we know they own a lot of that platform, and we can customize the experience to that age group. So, I think, laser-like focus on the product and its customer base, and then understanding as best you can where the install base is going to be, is the thing we have to try to weigh out on every one of our properties.
If you have a little perspective on the games industry, and you look back a few years, and you had to try to imagine how many platforms we'd develop on... If you start to take telephone handsets, smartphones, digital downloadable games, shrink-wrapped DS games, all the way up to console, there's just a tremendous number of platforms. But that's what's making the industry so exciting, because there's so much innovation going on that we haven't had an opportunity to get stale, which is great.
I mean, what other great industry can you think of that is serving so many platforms at the same time? So much innovation happening, and the consumer experience is getting better every single year because the envelope is being pushed? You just don't see a lot of it.