Beyond Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks as a publisher works with other developers, so you don't actually just have two or three games across six years when dealing with retailers. Do you get a lot of pitches from prospective studio partners, or do you seek them out?
PH: It's both. It's really just finding folks we think are doing the kinds of stuff that we want to work with them on. We don't necessarily focus on genres -- "We need two third-person shooters for 2010." It's just, "What are you doing and does that fit with the kind of games we like to make? How are you pushing the boundaries and what kind of new things are you trying?"
It's getting a sense of how passionate are they about what they're doing. Do you get a sense that when you're hearing them talk about what they're doing, that they're genuinely excited?
Because you'd be surprised -- not everybody is like that. I meet with a lot of developers. I end up getting pulled into a lot of meetings where there are the guys making it, but it's not their passion.
They're doing it because it's a project they picked up to pay the bills. But when you meet the guys where you see the talent and you see the passion, they're the ones I get excited about working with. I know how much they're driven to succeed and make a great game.
I talk to a lot of developers, and they're used to going to other publishers. They'll start coming up with the features for the back of box -- "What about multiplayer? How does that sound?"
I have a very different approach, which is, "I just need to you sell one copy of the game. I just need you to sell me on wanting to play it. If you do that, I'll sell all the other copies. Don't worry about it."
Should we do multiplayer? Well, I don't know. Is it going to be any good? If it's not, don't bother. I'm not looking for features just so they can be bullets on a box. Then they say, "Everybody else tells us if it doesn't have multiplayer, it's not saleable." Well, if it's multiplayer and it sucks, what is it you're trying to do? What is it you want to be good at?
Don't worry about ticking off boxes on a feature list. What are you passionate about? What can you do that'll be great? Get all the other crap out of the way. Don't add features if it's not core to what you're about.
That's the approach we try and take with our own stuff, and that's the approach we take with what other people are doing: figure out what you really want to do and what you can do great, and do that.
2K Games/Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
We make single-player role-playing games. That is not something where you would inherently say, "Oh, yeah, those guys are just made to be successful with that genre." But we execute it to a point where people go, "Shit! Have you played that? Oh, my God."
I believe that philosophy can be applied to any game if it's good enough, and if the people who are putting together are talented enough.
On that note, it was interesting to see you sign up Splash Damage. That company also comes out of that early hardcore PC tradition, but the 100% opposite end of it. It's so far from what Bethesda makes.
PH: Right. I agree with that. But look at those guys and where they came from. It's a bunch of guys who got their start doing PC mods, and just grew and kept doing stuff people would notice. Time after time, people would say, "This is really well done, this is really good."
We took a look at some of the stuff that they're working on and said, "These guys have that passion. They're crazily fanatical about what it is they want to do. They'll make it great and move mountains to make it happen."
You can look at what they're doing, and say, "By God, I think they can pull it off. We should be talking to them and working with them on this." And we are.
So they're sticking to the multiplayer thing, then.
PH: Yeah, I don't think we want to get into yet exactly what it is they're doing, but obviously they've done shooters and they've done multiplayer. So we're not having them do a Barbie horse-riding game.
Well, you should have them do that.
PH: I pitched them on it, but they were lukewarm. Square peg, round hole.