The Mouse That Gamed: Graham Hopper Talks Disney's Video Game Strategy
July 27, 2009 Page 4 of 6
I'd like to ask you some status reports on certain elements in the organization, andanswer to the best of your ability: First of all, there has been discussion ongoing as to whether or not Pixar games are going to come to Disney Interactive. Can you comment on that?
GH: Well, I'll say this: we have a great relationship with THQ. They still have additional movie-based games that they will deliver under that contract. We recently -- about a year ago, now – went through a creative bake-off for Toy Story 3. We let them make the creative decision-- put it in the hands of John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar. We let them pick the game idea that they liked the best, and the game idea that they picked was the one put forward by our Avalanche team in Salt Lake City.
And that's the game that we're making for Toy Story 3. And that's going to be developed by us, published by us, and I think, based on the little bit of it we've shown behind closed doors, the reception is tremendous. So I think we've got something good there. But in the meantime, we've focused right now on Toy Story Mania!
You guys do manage the relationships -- when you work with an outside publisher, like THQ or Square Enix, you guys also still are deeply involved in that process; in a different way, but as deeply as you would be when you're publishing a product yourselves.
GH: We know, as a licenser, all our brands are at risk, and we view it as a strategic advantage. We can't make all the games against all the IP that we have that has potential to be a game. So to be able to go out and to work with the bodies that can do it, that have the skill set, or technology, or a set of creative assets, in the case of Square Enix...
Whatever those things might be, we don't feel like we have to do it all ourselves to be successful. We're operating under both kinds of models. And what we don't want to do is do it just as a money-making exercise and get poor quality products. I think it's bad for our brand, and bad for movie-based gaming in general. So we're selective about what we do, selective about who we work with. I think it's a strength of ours.
This may not be the road you're going down now, but I could still see some companies pulling back and saying, "Okay, Square, now we're going to farm a Kingdom Hearts crappy sequel out to someone else," and, you know, kill the cachet of the series. It might make more money at first, but I think it's going to kill the IP.
GH: We've been in business for over 80 years, and we've always been in business because we've focused on great quality products, and thinking about the long haul. The company was there long before I came along -- before I was born! -- and it's going to be there long after I'm done. So, stewarding franchises over the long haul? That's what we've got to do. And making money in the short term? When you sacrifice quality, it's a sure road to destruction. As many companies have found out -- in this industry and others.
Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
While we're on the topic -- there are three Kingdom Hearts products currently publicly announced, though not all for North America. There's the DS game, 358/2 Days, and there's Birth by Sleep for the PSP, and there's a mobile game for DoCoMo in Japan. How do you feel about that series' direction right now, from the perspective of your organization?
GH: From what I've seen of them, both games are going to be outstanding for the platforms. And the same is true for the mobile game, which I saw recently on a trip to Japan.
Square Enix's ability to drive a platform very hard, and really deliver outstanding graphics and great gameplay is phenomenal. So I'm very happy with the fact that we have more Kingdom Hearts content coming out. I think consumers are ready for it; they want to see it. It's a very successful and great collaboration, one that I'm very, very happy with. We love the franchise. We love [KH director Tetsuya] Nomura-san. We love Square Enix.
I got to play the PSP one in Japan; it just looks like a really, really strong game.
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