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Navigating A Crossroads: David Jaffe Talks

January 25, 2008 Article Start Previous 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.


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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Comments


Anonymous
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"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."

This sentence makes no sense, americans needs to learn that "could care less" and "couldn't care less" means completely different things.

Anonymous
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Actually they are very similar as "could care less" implies "could care less, but not likely". The reason is we Americans are generally sarcastic... as in "Most Americans could care less about our comments"... I'm sure there are various forms of vernacular in various countries that sound ridiculous... to those who simply care too much.

Oliver Snyders
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Thanks for explaining that ("couldn't care less" = sarcasm). I've always wondered why people say that when it sounds like they *mean* "couldn't care less". (This was not sarcasm. Or is today 'Opposite Day'? Now you're thinking!)



It's good that Jaffe is admitting to not knowing what the future holds because that is a real concern. Developers just need to do what they know with the data they have, strong and steady, and the crystal ball will become *less* murky in the next 6 months, I think.



My prediction - games based on advertising revenue cannot sustain themselves. Maybe for the foreseeable future (in that murky crystal ball) but relying on advertising as a financial model and expecting it to support your games for years into the future is a mistake. A few different models need to be used in a combination in order to create a reliable revenue stream.



This interview also got me thinking about the remakes on different platforms - isn't it funny how people go crazy over different levels of graphical achievement? A DS game could look 'gorgeous' while a PS3 game could also look 'gorgeous', only because they are capable of different things.



Well, I found it hilarious.

Anonymous
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Hmmf, Jaffe seems like, in this interview, that he's trying to act neutral and open minded to the whole 'console war' where, in fact, it is watered down hyperbole covering up his contractual obligations to talk good about his buddies at Sony. It's basically like him saying "Oh the Xbox has such and such features, but the PS3 has better. By the way we still wanna sell our PS2 brands". I wouldn't put it past Sony to pull a stunt like this, but Jaffe is a terrible PR agent. He's effectively pulling an opinion out of the air rather than coming up with one of his own.



My prediction? Sony will draw it's own crowd and standing with the casual gamer when the price cintinues it's accelerated drops. These are usually the most pliable bunch who often confuse marketing with true consumer information. It will however fall to second place in both the casual (to the Wii) and hardcore (X360) gaming markets, although it will be technically a success. Sony will trumpet on about another solid product made, while secretly trying to find out what the next generation's competitors will be doing, knowing they've barely escaped a massive failure with the PS3.



Jaffe will continue in the tradition of making GoW titles for Sony, further continuing the now stale stable of flagships that are churned out as the next big thing for the series. I'm sorry this is not Sony bashing, I was a fan of the PS2, but Metal Gear Solid 4? another Final Fantasy?



Also, I want to point out for Mr JAffe that Sony has no loyalties if it can impact Microsoft sales. Look at what happened with UT3.

Anonymous
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Reading the interview was tiring. The new insights I have got are these:

1. Look, I think I was like, you know, like -- the thing is, and I mean like, you know, like definitely those people -- and it's happening.

2. For a creator, it's "exciting" to be able to put ads inbetween levels of his games.



Also, "couldn't care less" is sarcastic without saying it the wrong way (that would be by leaving out the "not"). "Could care less, but not likely" doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

Anonymous
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For some reason, this sounds me like when Paul Steed left iD to make some web games...


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