Dave Karraker, new senior director of corporate communications for Sony, didn’t take this job at an easy time. Signing up with the company just a week before the Tokyo Game Show, he’s arrived in the middle of a console launch ramp-up, and amidst an anti-Sony trend in the blog communities. Coming off experience with the 3DO and Dreamcast launches, not to mention having to represent Martha Stewart, he’s no stranger to controversy.
Dave seems to be fighting fire with fire in his new position, making up lost ground for the time Sony spent without corporate PR in the U.S. The outspoken Karraker is in many ways a breath of fresh air for the often-stoic company, and may be just what Sony needs for the launch of its newest, and most controversial console.
Gamasutra: I’d like to get into your background first – can you give the full rundown of past work?
Dave Karraker: I actually started as a television reporter in Santa Barbara and Reno (for CBS and NBC). And then got disillusioned when they told me to localize the Heidi Fleiss (prostitution ring) story in Reno, and I was like ‘you know, prostitution is legal here, so I’m not sure what you want me to do with this story.’ And they’re like ‘go out to the Mustang Ranch, and interview a prostitute that slept with a celebrity,’ and I was like ‘alright, I’ll get right on that.’ That was probably the beginning of the end, and I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore.
So I moved back to LA, and ended up at Rogers & Cowan, kind of a celebrity firm, and that’s how I wound up working with Crystal Dynamics at first. So I worked on Crystal Dynamics when they were only doing games for the 3DO, and my first big game was Gex, which a lot of people remember. It was pretty awesome for the time.
Anyway, Scott Steinberg was over there at the time, he’s now at Sega, and Chip Blundel, who’s now at EA I believe. We were all working on (Crystal Dynamics). So then I came up to Sega of America, where I worked at Access Communications, and worked on 3DO. So Trip Hawkins, and the whole crew over there…Rick Earl who’s now at EA, and it was for both the hardware, and then Studio 3DO, which was the internal software group.
I started out there, and then started picking up all kinds of software clients in addition to that. Virgin Interactive was one, which is now defunct, ASC Games and U.S. Gold. It was kind of funny because while I was working with U.S. Gold I remember them bringing in the storyboard for this action adventure game with a female protagonist who would search the world for treasure, and that of course ended up being Tomb Raider. We put together first plans for that, and then I left before that actually ever happened. It was kind of cool to see how that evolved. (U.S. Gold owned developer Core Design prior to the Eidos purchase)
ASC Games was the original Grand Theft Auto. Yet another game where I remember seeing the storyboards early on. And then Sega showed up. So I worked on Sega for about three years, I guess, during the decline of the Sega Saturn, and the rise of the Sega Dreamcast.
GS: What made you leave games, and what made you come back?
DK: Well, I left to go chase dot com millions. But that never came to fruition. My 100,000 shares turned into about $33 (laughs). So that wasn’t brilliant. I left to go launch Kmart’s e-commerce site, is what it was, which was a joint venture between Kmart, Softbank and Martha Stewart. And that obviously went belly-up, so I worked for Kmart for a bit, then left Kmart when the bankruptcy happened, and then Martha Stewart, but I was there during the Martha Stewart…problem.
GS: Sounds fun!
DK: Yeah, it’s funny, when I was interviewing (at Sony), they asked ‘how are you with crisis communications,’ and I really kind of looked at them and said ‘you’re kidding me, right?’ I mean, I worked with Martha Stewart during her incarceration, I think I can handle it!
So from Access I went to work at Allied Domecq, which used to be the world’s biggest liquor company. So they own brands like Stoli, Beefeater, Maker’s Mark, Kahlua, and also Dunkin Donuts, Baskin-Robbins, and Togo’s, but I just worked on Spirits of North America. But then that company got bought out by a French company, and they laid off everybody here in the United States.
DK: Yeah! So I wasn’t doing anything for about nine months, just kicking around and travelling the world, and a friend called me who worked at Sony, and said ‘hey, there’s an opening here, and you should know about it.’ So I sent my resume over to Peter Dille, who I’d known previously when he was at THQ. So that’s why I got back into it.
I don’t know if I’m the smartest guy in the world, for jumping in two months before launch, or the dumbest guy in the world.