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Q&A: Exigent's Steed On Why 'Mobile & PC Are The Future'

Q&A: Exigent's Steed On Why 'Mobile & PC Are The Future'

April 17, 2007 | By Ishaan Sahdev

April 17, 2007 | By Ishaan Sahdev
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More: Console/PC

What's famed Quake artist Paul Steed up to nowadays? Working as Chief Creative Officer at Indian game outsourcing firm Exigent, it turns out, and he spoke to Gamasutra about educating Indians on making games for Western markets, and why "...the future of gaming is really mobile games and PC games."

When we last spoke to Steed, he was working as Creative Director at Atari, but in late 2006 he signed up with Exigent, which is based in Noida, India. The company has titles such as Quake IV and the NFL GameDay series on its resume, and is already working on art for several next-gen titles.

Thus, here are some key points, from Steed's point of view, on what he's doing and the future of outsourcing and the game biz:

What he's doing for Exigent, and how he started

"I’m based in the States. I left Atari in September. Now, here’s the thing: While I was at Atari, I would meet people like me [now] who worked at outsourcing companies, and when I had to ask them a question, a lot of the time, they wouldn’t be able to answer it, and I’d be like, “Why can’t they answer my questions? Why am I not speaking to someone like me?” They had a ton of problems with inconsistency and stuff.

Later, my partners spoke to me and said that they had infrastructure in India, so I met with a few folks in June and I was blown away by how dedicated you folks are to gaming. Now, we’re an outsourcing company. We hire people who love games. If you don’t love games, you can’t work here...

But to answer your question, gaming is new to India. So, we have to teach Indians how to make games for an American audience. And it’s complicated because what makes good Indian art doesn’t make a good American game. There’s this cultural difference. So, our focus is to teach our staff about these cultural differences. Our ultimate goal is to have a game made by Indians that Americans buy. It’s sad, but most games are made either in America or in Europe."

What he thinks of the future of the game biz

“The future of gaming is really mobile games and PC games. There’s more computers in the world, there’s more cell phones in the world than there are consoles and that’ll never change. India’s interesting because the government’s really supporting broadband users. So by 2010, there’s going to be 20 million people with broadband. For me, the future is the global market, not the U.S. market...

You know, some day in the future, we’re going to go from Exigent to Exigent Interactive. And when that day comes, we’re going to be focusing solely on PC games. That’s what’s most accessible for audiences. You know, people talk about making the perfect game, but is there a perfect platform? What if you had the perfect game on the wrong platform? How many people wish they could take those SNES games and put them on your cell phone?"

Exigent's positioning and attitude

"The difference between us and other companies is, we’re an outsourcing company that’s trying to beat China. China’s the country with the largest outsourcing, so it’s our main competition. And most importantly, my goal is to make a company that people go to because we’re good, not because we’re in India. So, we focus on training and hiring the right people with the right attitude. It’s all about the attitude.

The reason I’m in India is there’s this growth in India and China. A lot of analysts believe that India and China will be the top economies in the next five years. I mean, think about it. There’s more English speakers in China than there are in the U.S. because of their population.”

Regarding Sony's issues with the PSP

"In my opinion, what happened was that Sony just lost focus. They tried to do too much with it. And God, the price. You look at the PSP and you’re like, “Hey, do you even realize your portable costs as much as Nintendo’s next-gen home system?”

You have iPods for media and you have the DS for games. Why would you want a PSP? Dedicated devices are always better than all-purpose devices. The PSP was all set to kick the DS’s ass. And it would have, had Nintendo not released their tech demo of Nintendogs. No one knew what to do with two screens and a touchscreen before Nintendogs showed them."

Steed's outspoken attitude to casual games

"Well, you gotta understand, the casual gamer is like, 44-year old housewives who don’t want to pay for anything. So how do you market a game to a 44-year old housewife who doesn’t want to buy it? A real casual game is at a mall, where you’re just hangin’ out, you know? And for years, my friend’s been going, “Let’s do the mall game and get all the girl gamers!”

And I’m like, “Number 1. Do you really want to ask your girlfriend if you can play on her PlayStation 2?” You don’t want your girlfriend on your Wii. I don’t want my wife or girlfriend gaming. I want her to go shopping. In the real world. You know, leave me with my games!"

On the prevalence of and attitudes to piracy

"My take on piracy is kind of weird. I know I can’t stop it, so I don’t try to stop it. I just try to create a whole fanbase. If you can buy it, buy it. I was in China and I saw a copy of my book ... my first book, translated in Chinese and it had my name on it, and I was like, “Well, at least they put my name on it!” I don’t think people mean to steal when they pirate your stuff. I just don’t think they realize that it only increases the price."

[Article author Ishaan Sahdev has published the full interview with Paul Steed and a separate interview with VP of production Jesse Rapczak on his Flame War Advance weblog, for those interested in reading more.]

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