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Catching Up With Gearbox's Randy Pitchford
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Catching Up With Gearbox's Randy Pitchford

June 13, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 10 of 10

Did you see Gore Verbinski's DICE keynote?

RP: I missed it, no. They had me in so many meetings at DICE that I missed some of the good ones.

One of the things that I really took away from it is when he said, in making the first Pirates of the Caribbean, they have the dailies shipped back to Disney, and the people at Disney who are looking at the dailies said, "Holy hell, what the hell is Johnny Depp doing? Is he gay? Is he drunk? What's wrong with his performance?"

And of course, the key to the movies is Johnny Depp's performance, actually. And Gore Verbinski's point is that you can make a big, slick production, but it has to have that nugget of something genuine and something different that ties it together. I see that with Brothers in Arms, in the sense that the squad tactics angle... it's a gameplay nugget rather than a performance nugget, but do you know what I'm saying?

RP: Yeah, thank you. I agree with you. I did not see Gore's speech, but I think there's a lot of wisdom in that idea. We can break down the word innovation. If everything is insanely innovative, we'll all reject it, because it will be so weird that we won't even understand it. If everything is exactly the same, we'll also reject it, because we'll have already had it before and we're bored with it.

The key is making decisions about what we're doing that's familiar and comfortable and twisting it and breaking it a bit so we can be surprised or refreshed by it, and excited again. We don't blindly leap off the building. We take careful steps toward things that are exciting that are on the horizon.

The more risk-averse you are, the more careful your steps are, but the more comfortable you are with risk, then you get things like the Wii, right? You get some things that are familiar, but there's also something totally new or an angle that you didn't expect or imagine.

The Real Story on the Consoles

I think the Wii probably couldn't have happened if Nintendo hadn't been on a downward trend.

RP: (laughs) Maybe. It's nice to believe that a company that... by the way, I don't agree that they were on a downward trend, but I do agree that they wanted to reach more customers than they were reaching.

Depending on how you look at it, Nintendo arguably won last generation in terms of return on investment, if you think about how much they spent, versus how much they made. Microsoft was in second place in installed units, but their balance sheet was largely...

They had one profitable quarter, I believe, with Xbox 1.

RP: They were like a billion and change in the hole with Xbox 1. Sony was profitable late in the PlayStation 2's existence.

They were very profitable, though, because they had such an install base and so much software, and they were selling the software so well. Nintendo, though, in terms of return on investment, might have been in the best spot.

I believe Nintendo only had one quarter of loss during the Gamecube. Then again, of course, the GBA was a big contributor during the Gamecube era.

RP: The GBA was great. The DS was great when they launched it. The Gamecube itself, they're making money on their games, they're making money on the hardware, they're making money in every single place. Meanwhile, everyone else is losing money.

Sony and Microsoft both initially lost money on hardware and had to spend the marketing on top just to get it installed. Then they had to make it up over time with software. Microsoft is still trying to make it up.

They're finally getting to the point where you can actually look and see, I think, some consistency.

RP: Yeah. They're having positive quarterly balance sheets now. We've seen a couple of those. By the way, I love the Xbox 360 platform. I'm a big fan of it. But -- taking a step higher.

Nintendo had some goals there, so they took a risk, and it's nice that they took a risk instead of doing the same thing. It's only by taking a risk that they were able to have a chance to succeed. If they had done the safe thing, they probably wouldn't have succeeded.

Article Start Previous Page 10 of 10

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