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Evolving Disney: Graham Hopper Speaks
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Evolving Disney: Graham Hopper Speaks

January 15, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

I think the Junction Point acquisition was a surprise, and from Warren's comments when that happened, he was like, "Everyone's like, 'why Disney?'" I think there's probably skepticism that remains, but at the same time, I think everyone's excited to see what will happen.

GH: Don't forget, Warren has been privy to what it was what we're doing on the inside, so he knows. He's seen more than perhaps what most people on the outside have seen, so the question that people might have asked about why he would make this step is crystal-clear to him.

From our perspective, to have greater talents like Warren on board and part of our creative system is absolutely essential. It's not that different, if you think about it, to what happened at Pixar over the years. Pixar has grown on finding great and talented directors to work with John Lasseter.

Like Brad Bird.

GH: Exactly. Brad's a great example of that. For us, having great creatives actually feed each other, we get better work, better results, and better creativity. And that's really what we're trying to do. So we are, first and foremost... this is a product-led renaissance, and that product is credited to great people and great contents that gamers love so.

It sounds pretty simple when you put it that way. I think part of the problem... well, not the problem, but the perception is that it's sort of like a syllogism. Like, "Kids' games are crappy, and Disney makes kids' games, thus Disney will be crappy as a publisher." You know what I mean. It isn't necessarily true, but that's probably the conclusion that people are reaching, to an extent. And also Disney doesn't fit the Deus Ex, hardboiled, incredibly complex, mature image... stuff like that is probably what people were thinking.

GH: You know, Christian, you look at the broad spectrum, yet a lot of people are trying to produce games that appeal to, say, the 18 to 34 or 18 to 40 age group, if you like -- of hardcore titles. That's one segment. But there's a whole other part of this business that we appeal to, too.

I talked to a lot of people, particularly people that have kids, about what they're looking for, and why aren't these people looking for games that they can play with their kids. And they were gamers. I don't know how many gamers you've talked to that have stopped gaming because they got married and had kids, and it just didn't fit into their lives anymore the way it used to.

I think for us, to create great content that appeals to a broad audience, it's not just about selling to kids. We want something that grown-ups will want to play with their kids, and that gamers will play. I think Kingdom Hearts is a great example of what they can do. There are plenty of single guys in their 20s who love Kingdom Hearts. There are plenty of families that have played it, and kids that have played it, and that's the kind of model we're looking for.

Not everything we do is going to be designed to appeal to everyone, so when we create a game like... we just had a [Disney] Princess Wii title. When we create something like that, we're bringing young girls into the world of the Wii, and into gaming for the first time ever. When we saw what we could do with the controller, think of it as a magic wand moving through a world. It creates magic and excitement and joy for kids. Would a core gamer want to play it? No. But if it was designed for a core gamer, no kid would be able to access it.

We try to focus our product to specific segments, and make sure that we are appealing to them. People will see some games and say, "These are not right for me." They shouldn't assume they are of bad quality. In fact, I think they are high quality to the audience they are intended. They are designed with accessibility and ease-of-use to a specific audience. When you play Turok, that's done as a brand new game for us, but that is a hardcore-type game. We know that we're designing for the right audience.

Oh yeah, definitely. But I mean, at the same time, a lot of kids' games -- and this is something that's been a big topic with the resurgence of Nintendo with the Wii and the DS, is how do you compete with Nintendo? That's been a big topic of discussion. It comes up all the time. Ubisoft has come out and said, "We'll compete with Nintendo by making our games as good as Nintendo's." And everyone's like, "That's a bold statement!" A lot of publishers brought half-baked games on the Wii and thought they would sell, just because the Wii's popular, and then some people end up retreating from that. My point is that not all kids' games are created equally.

GH: They're not. One of the things we have a strong, vested interest in is the whole notion of licensed games based on movies or Disney properties or so on. The games are not generally as good as they could be, so everybody gets lumped in the same box. But because we own so much of our own content, we have a strong, vested interest in changing that, and we are trying to change it.

I think sometimes it's regrettable that there are some segments of the gaming press that don't recognize when a game is trying to be different. It's easy to say, "This is for kids. It's not fun," or whatever. But I'm hoping that there is going to be recognition that games are designed for different audiences, and should be viewed and rated and judged appropriately.

The other thing to this is that some people who sometimes people feel that games that aren't suited for core gamers are somehow diminishing the industry. I don't think that's the case. And I think the gaming industry has a long way to go in terms of growth and appealing to more people. I don't see a situation where core gamers are being left in the dust, with no games being made for them, because kids or families are being addressed.

That's become a bit of a debate with the success of the Wii, because you look at the new audience, who bought it expecting Wii Sports, and then core gamers respond, "Well, is Nintendo going to abandon us, the fans it's had for years?" Obviously that's not the case, and I feel that Super Mario Galaxy is an obvious example of how Nintendo's not abandoning its audience. But it is definitely a debate.


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