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A Veteran With Character: Roger Hector Speaks
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A Veteran With Character: Roger Hector Speaks

May 22, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 9 Next

It's a unique license, too, because it's a Japan and America co-production. So it's kind of appropriate for an American team in a Japanese studio to make it.

RH: There's so many ironies attached to the way the whole thing has worked out. The original property was created by a Japanese man, but combined with American, urban hip-hop music and style and culture... it's a huge part of Afro. And we're developing it at Namco Bandai in America. The lead producer on the game is an African American. We've just got all kinds of good karma flowing through this project, so hopefully it'll turn out.

Who's directing the development on that? Who's in charge of design?

RH: A gentleman named Dave Robinson, who is the producer of Afro. He's in charge of design. Now, we have several designers involved with it, and he and I work together daily going through it.

Dave has some good experience in the industry. Once I start naming names, there's a lot of people contributing to this. It's a big project. There's a lot of people, and we have a number of people. Dave has been the cultural, spiritual keeper of the flame, so that's an important person to identify.

How large is the team that's making it?

RH: Well, it depends on what day you ask. There were a little more than a dozen people that represented the core development before it hit full production. Once it hit full production, we do employ some outsourcing, and we have a very large group of people internationally.

I have to mentally add it up, but the size of the team right now working internally is around 35. But we have some art outsourcing that's being done that comprises another very large group of people. So roughly speaking, I'm going to say there's close to roughly 70 or 80 people attached to the project.

Will this group -- the internal U.S. group -- be making original properties as well?

RH: Yeah.

Interesting. One thing I wanted to talk about building and spending character equity was I was wondering if you were going to show a game that was an unsuccessful use of a license of a game. Is that spending character equity?

RH: Oh, without a doubt.

Are you losing it in the long term?

RH: Well, the basic idea is that if a character is used in high-quality entertainment, his popularity will grow, and his equity will rise. If you use the character in low-quality, that will diminish it. There are so many characters you can look at that used to be popular but are no longer popular. You can 100 percent ascribe it to low-quality entertainment.

It might be other reasons why it's lost its popularity, but that can be a major contributor, because it's a very common thing for intellectual property owners to... when they realize that they have a property that has value, they just want to capitalize on that and do it again, and again, and again. That's kind of a normal businessman's reaction, with a general expectation that once you milk that property for all it's worth, you move on and do something else.

That kind of mentality exists very pervasively in all of entertainment, and not just games. I was trying to point out that the Disney company, specifically, thinks of and believes in Mickey Mouse -- just as an example -- as not being something that's ever going to go away.

His value to the company is tremendous, and the importance of managing that value and his equity is one of the highest strategic values that the company has, among many other things. It's part of their corporate culture. Most companies don't see their successful intellectual property as having that real life potential.

There was this cartoon from Warner Bros. that used their classic characters like Daffy and Bugs Bunny and whatever, and it was supposed to be extreme (or whatever) and it was called Loonatics. It turned them all into superheroes with attitude and stuff. I just wonder what kind of long-term damage that sort of thing does.

RH: It's tough. It's very difficult. I made the point yesterday about Mickey being changed. And he was. He was changed several times. The idea was to update him to make him more contemporary to the modern audience, whatever that audience is.

You do run a risk of tampering with what was the success of what originally got you there in the first place. Yeah. It's a roll of the dice. (laughs)

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