The Mouse That Gamed: Graham Hopper Talks Disney's Video Game Strategy
July 27, 2009 Page 3 of 6
You've had media from Japan like Spectrobes and Kingdom Hearts coming into America, and, Black Rock, who's also seen success in America, is in the UK. How do you look at gaming, as a global industry which allows for more global content creation?
GH: I think that's absolutely essential. And it's not like there is Hollywood and Bollywood and a few other centers of film production. In our industry, we really have complete decentralization: we have great developers all over the world, some of them in towns you've never heard of. And I love that.
It seems to be a very 21st century way to love. The creative team can live where they want to live, and they can produce great products, and the whole world will find it. And they will be made available to a global audience.
I think that's the way of the future. I don't see this changing. I think that one of the great strengths of this industry is encouraging this continuous innovation -- so we never get stale. Because when you get stale, that's when the consumer moves on to something else.
IP creation is especially key for large, multifaceted companies like Disney, and you do have a lot of games based on pre-existing IP from film and television. I'm assuming Spectrobesis, on the other hand, Disney Interactive's IP, and here are other products inthat vein. To what extent is IP creation a driving force within the strategy of Disney Interactive?
GH: It plays a very important role. We are keeping it down to about 30% of our business. That way we manage the risk, if you like. We can afford to go a little further out with a really great idea that's maybe a little riskier, and have some other, surer bets that are coming from known IP on the side. We don't have to bet the company every time we do something new.
But it is telling that we're able to manage these two pieces together: both existing content, plus the new IP, and bring something, especially, that's compatible with the Disney brand, and resonates well with consumers. And we do that effectively in different places.
I mean, you mentioned it earlier: different platforms, different age groups. We're able to be successful in all of them, because we focus on just creating great experience for whatever title it's going to be.
Do you think that as you create more successful IP, it's going to flow outward through the company? You imply 70% of your IP is flowing inward from the organization, so do you see that shifting?
GH: There is no doubt in my mind that that is going to happen. I mean, one of the reasons why Disney is investing in the games business is because we believe it has a potential to be a content creation engine at the same level as the studio is, and television channels are. So that is, most certainly, the long term goal.
I think it's been something people have been looking for a long time to see happen, and there have been some early successes with, for example, Lara Croft; and there has been a lot more interest more recently, with the convergence of movies made with game IP. I just think that's going to continue. You see a lot of filmmakers in Hollywood paying attention to games in a way that they haven't before -- bringing onboard people who actually know about the games industry.
Directors like Gore Verbinski and Guillermo del Toro have made comments about moving into games. Stephen Spielberg was famously at E3 this year. But there has been a struggle in getting it to mesh. The movies based on games have largely been B-movies.
GH: I don't think they've all lived up to their potential, but again: the future doesn't always arrive exactly when you want it to. What you have to watch are the trend lines. The trendlines are heading in the right direction. It's going to happen.
I don't know if it's going to happen next year, or the year after, or five years from now, but the trend line is absolutely clear. And I think that's what's so exciting about our business right now, is that a lot of the future trend lines are very obvious. We just need to jump on them and make the future happen.
Butat the same time, I guess there's a slight risk in trying to push it. You have to do it so it works.
GH: Yeah. Our philosophy is: we don't double down all over the company on something new. Otherwise, if we did it all the time, we'd put the company at risk at some point.
We try to achieve creative success in the medium. When we go out and make a game, our goal is to make that a great game franchise first and foremost. It's not about, "Well, it has to be changed a little bit to make it, well, it might be a movie one day, so let's do this...And it might be a toy one day, so let's do that..." and so on. It's not a conscious commercial activity; it's about making a great game franchise first. Once that happens, other stuff will naturally take care of itself.
I can always easily imagine Kingdom Hearts animation or something like that, coming down the road, but it's not something you ought to expect; it's something you can imagine. Those are the things you have to look at, and actually understand whether or not they make sense.
GH: That's right. And, you know, the world of television is a different medium. It tells stories in a different kind of way, and the way it gets programmed, there's a limited number of slots that are available that you're able to be on.
There's also the question of creative resources being on Project A or being on Project B; which one is going to be the most valuable one? So when you get down into the nuts and bolts of it, it does get quite complicated. It's not as simple as it first appears, to move apiece of IP from one medium to another.
But all that said, it's going to happen, and we will see more of it.
Page 3 of 6