Hanging in Limbo
February 24, 2012 Page 5 of 6
Did you run into a point with Limbo where you thought bad decisions were going to be made because of the investors? You seem satisfied with Limbo.
DP: They were never into the product at all. But I think it's the holistic approach to like everything around the product, like marketing, and the way to show it to people, and so on.
AJ: The more we felt that Limbo was something, the less we wanted to market it. So we didn't do any marketing. We just did some PR and talked with a lot of journalists. That was it.
And of course investors can't understand that. When I said we don't want to do advertising, they thought I was crazy. They looked at me like, "What are you talking about? You should advertise for a product! It seems crazy." So how do you convince people to not advertise something you're proud of?
DP: How do you convince businesspeople to not advertise? It's the only way they know. They have no trust with what consumers want, but they know advertising is expensive and expensive things work.
As far as being a CEO goes, I guess your job is more to protect the creative core of the company, to enable it. Rather than to make this a big business.
DP: Yeah. But I think it's a balance. We don't want to do something stupid, and we never want to compromise the product for money. I think that's what it comes from. A company like ours, the only thing we have of value is the creative people here and what we produce. Of course, that's the most important thing to protect.
I think it's like hardcore businessmen, they value money first and then good product afterwards. We're just the opposite. It's product first and money afterwards. But when these two things clinch, you know, there's a lot of discussion about the second priority. "Oh, you never think about money?" or "You never think about product?"
Well, you need money to make a game. You need money to pay 15 people.
DP: Exactly. I don't think we have found our funds are balanced yet, because we're using our money. We're slowly just working ourselves to a point where we'll be using our money, and we have to be responsible about it. Again, the most important thing is to really do something I think you're proud of. Also, I think the way we can reach talented people is also to have this environment where it's not about tough decisions.
Are you actively seeking a publisher for your second game, or are you just going to go under your own steam until you get to the point where you need one? Jonathan Blow is not looking for a publisher for The Witness. He doesn't need their money, so he doesn't need them until very late.
DP: We need some kind of partner for the next project, because we paid too much money to the investors we wanted out. But we did it because it was important for the company and the product.
But that's where you have to be careful.
DP: Again, if it in any way compromises our creativity and controls it... That's why we actually used so much money to buy out already. So, it will not work for us to just get new money in. I must admit it, it's really easy for us to get money now, because of the success, but it's still a challenge to find the right people. Not because they're not out there, but I think because the process of getting it to the core of what people believe takes time.
[Addressing Arnt] Do you enter those conversations? Or do you let him handle it?
AJ: No, we make every decision together. We talk about everything every day. But he knows me. [everyone laughs]
DP: I know where Arnt is sensitive and where not. Every day I learn new places where he's sensitive and not [laughs], but it's cool. I think we have something great. I love the challenges we meet every day. It's fun challenges, I think. I love them.
When Limbo launched, in the wake of Braid's popularity, you hit at the right time for success.
DP: But I think that's always a problem, looking back to predict the future, because it's always easy to look back. And it's what all the big companies do. They base all their choices on statistics and so on.
I really hate corporate thinking, because they always say yesterday equals tomorrow, and that's the only way how you will never get like in front of anything, and you'll never get innovation. No matter how much innovation you want to do in a big company, you'll never reach to it if you base your decisions on statistics.
AJ: With Limbo, we waited a long time, as long as we could, to find out how to put it out in the market. With whom we talked with, a lot of people, and a lot of publishers, all the way through. It was just in the end, with XBLA. We made that decision very late.
DP: Almost intentionally, because we wanted it to be. It wasn't important to us the way it came out, as long as it got the widest spread possible.
AJ: So maybe next time, it's going to be a new challenge to get it out. We don't know. We definitely won't decide for a long time.
DP: But I hope we can get to a point where it's really good, and we can get on the platform, and everybody afterward says, "Oh, we got the right timing." [both laugh] We always aim for that without using statistics, and more like taking really important decisions late, if they can be late.
I remember with Limbo, everybody in the beginning, like just after the concept movie you did, asked what platforms it's for. I was like, "It's so early!" Why was it important what platform it was on? Also we were sure with Limbo we were sure that we could just get it out anywhere. It's a matter of optimization. We could hire people for that. The problem is making the puzzles and all of that.
How many designers do you employ on the new project?
AJ: Gameplay designers? Four or five people.
So, it's a pretty big proportion of the company.
AJ: Yeah. As long as it seems right. I like to be in some kind of control of it, you know. I think it's obvious. Not like in picky control, just to know what everyone is doing, to look at the stuff and discuss it, and being a very big part of everything, to make clever decisions. When you have too many people, then it's getting really hard to have this feeling of what people are doing.
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