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Toying With Games: Todd McFarlane On Halo And His MMO
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Toying With Games: Todd McFarlane On Halo And His MMO

November 12, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

So when it comes to something like this, the game is shipping soon, but obviously you guys have been working on these products for a long time, so what's it like working for Bungie and Microsoft, to sort of come together and have these things ready in time?

TM: You know what, I was a little concerned working with Microsoft only because it's such a big company. And whenever we've dealt with these big corporations, sometimes it can get silly. But they've been tremendous. They've been given a great liason into letting the people at Bungie do most of the art commentating, and working as a facilitator, so they've been... you usually would think a company can sometimes actually get in the way and be an obstacle, but between myself and Bungie they've been a tremendous asset.

And then the people at Bungie -- wow. They've gone overboard. They've literally been more sensible on this line than any other license I've ever dealt with before. Besides delivering the assets, they've given us color codes, to how each one of the pieces works, and the designs, and all the scales and stuff, and the weapons, and then every time we do something they come back with instant notes, to say, "Hey, you know what, the rivets are supposed to be this way." And I don't think that they're pushing us wrong because it's their baby, and I actually want to deliver it.

So when we started, we asked for and they gave us their data from the game, to use their wireframes from the game to start with. So instead of us looking at still pictures of captures of the screen, we actually said, "Can we have your wireframes?" and they said, "Yeah, sure." And they gave us their wireframes -- we had to cut them up so that we could put them into moving parts in 3D and had to make some minor adjustments, but we're going straight from Bungie's information as much as possible.

And when it comes to making action figures you said you hadn't done some game ones for a little while, you've been concentrating I guess on comics or movie stuff?

TM: No... Well, yeah. Movie toys are a big one. Batman, Superman, Spiderman stuff, that does well for us. Half our business is now sports -- we do the NFL and the NBA and the NHL and Major League Baseball, but it was just waiting for the right license.

Because what was happening was we put out the Metal Gear Solid, and a couple other companies put out some stuff, and then all of a sudden five or six smaller companies started burning through the games. They're not all worthy of being turned into plastic goods, so I took this step back and said, "No. Next time we go into the videogame market it's going to be with an A-list title." And we were fortunate enough, with Halo coming up, that were able to go "Wow." We could go straight to the top of the list there.

Well, I was talking with [McFarlane executive director of PR] Carmen Bryant a moment ago, and she said that right now toys aren't in GameStop. There was a point where... I think it started with your Metal Gear toys, those toys were kind of like a watershed moment in realistic game action figures. That was the genesis. That game was so huge, and it started picking up and picking up and I think there came to be a point where you got to GameStop and it basically was an avalanche of toys falling on you. It almost took away from the games. Do you think they got cautious?

TM: I think what ended up happening, they found out the same thing with their toys that they found out with their games -- all toys are not created equal, just like the games. Just because somebody turns it into plastic does not necessarily mean it's going to sell at the same rate. So what happened was they were very generous with bringing in a lot of product, but all of a sudden if it's not selling... you have to be very cognizant of the reality that a toy that's four inches thick, when you look at it from the profile, is equivalent to about five sixty dollar games. That could be three hundred dollars instead of a fifteen dollar toy. And and some point you're going, "What are we giving this space for? That could be six hundred dollars we're giving away to that big fat toy!"

So they then pulled out, I believe, all their toys. I think they threw the baby out with the bathwater. But we're going to have a follow-up conversation here with some of their executives and go, you know, "What if I built you a dump? What if I built you kiosks -- floor kiosks -- that I could put the product in so you don't have to take away your space, because I don't want to take away your space. I understand not wanting to take away your space. What if I created new space for you and sent it off to all your stores and gave you some exclusive pieces?" If I can't turn their heads with Halo, I don't have too many more that are going to!

Yeah, it's top of the line. Is Microsoft working with you guys on this, or is it kind of like once you get the toys created and you work on them, it's you from then on -- you take them, you finish them, you manufacture them, market them, all that stuff.

TM: They've been very good and very supportive of either lending people out to give some sales pitches and/or letting us know the information that they're using for marketing, so when we're trying to get the product put on shelves that everybody understands the wide breadth of effort that Microsoft's going to be putting on it, which will completely engulf anything we're going to do. Forget what we're going to do to market it -- which we'll do. It's what Microsoft's going to do as a whole, like launching a giant movie. And so they've been there, and then I'm sure once the game comes out, then we'll be able to do a few more things, because everybody, as you might imagine, is a bit distracted right now.

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