The Mouse That Gamed: Graham Hopper Talks Disney's Video Game Strategy
July 27, 2009 Page 6 of 6
How many studios do you have now?
GH: Well we've got Black Rock in the UK; we've got Junction Point down in Texas; Avalanche in Salt Lake City; Propaganda in Vancouver; Gamestar in Shanghai and Wuhan in China; and we also have two mobile studios, one in Beijing and another one in Prague. Pretty much all over the place. Wherever the talent is, is where we are.
Do you fly to all those places on a regular basis?
GH: I try to get to most of them. You know, I have to admit, I have not gotten to Wuhan yet. But yeah, I do try to get to most of them. I like to meet with the teams and give them an opportunity to show us what they're working on. And get a sense of the pulse there, because successful teams, you can feel it when you walk in, and it shows up onscreen.
What about Propaganda? I don't know the exact sales of Turok, but I get the impression it didn't go quite as well as was hoped. Would that be a fair assessment?
GH: I wouldn't say that. It sold very well... in its niche. But, obviously, it was not Halo or Call of Duty. I think we were pleased with where it was, but it wasn't a blockbuster. But it sold well.
How do you feel about Propaganda right now, and what they're working on, and how things are going for them? Because I know there was a certain point where they did have some layoffs.
GH: Yeah. That team is, you know, we have Dan Tudge now in as general manager of the studio, who just joined us from BioWare. And the focus of that studio now is going to be far more around developing an expertise in action role playing games. So that was part of the hiring of Dan, and we've been bringing key talent in over the last few years, who have that RPG experience. And we're not trying to build the hardest core of RPGs; we want accessible, open, RPG-type games coming out of that studio. The studio loves that vision.
You should really take a look at [Pirates of the Caribbean: Dark Armada]. You'll see that we've done something really cool. It's not tied to a movie, so the project's got the time that it needs to gestate and be really effective. We've built a lot of technology that we need to build a really good role playing game. So, Dan's come in, thrilled with what he's seeing there. We have high expectations for that game.
Coming up, Microsoft has Natal and Sony has its wand and camera system. What do you think about those expansions? Do you think they can expand the audiences for thosec on soles? Do you think that those products are something that could catch on? Though they're gestating right now -- those products aren't really products yet.
GH: Again, like everything else: all technology needs software to bring it to life, and to make it real. But again, to my point about trend lines? The trend is very clear as to what people are looking for, so I was really excited to see both of those.
I think there were a number of announcements that struck me as being potentially seismic changes in the future of our industry. Seeing Facebook be embraced by manufacturers, and recognizing that social networks have broadened beyond the game consoles themselves – and are connected to a much broader sense of social community. That, I think, is a big move.
The progression of the human-machine interface: making technology accessible and open to people, I think, is huge. It's going to impact, I think, every other industry, of a kind that's involved in technology.
Most technology companies make boxes, and don't spend too much time making it easy for consumers to work with. In our industry, that's what we think about first and foremost: how do we make it easier and comfortable for the person to interact with an experience that's powered by technology? So I think these new interfaces we saw from Sony and from Microsoft are really showing the way of the future of technology in general, not just in gaming.
From our perspective, we look at the world and say, "Okay, we have a lot more women playing games right now. We have a lot more people of different age groups playing games. But it's still like78% male, 22% female." We still have lots of people who start playing a bit of games, but start getting intimidated by buttons on the controllers, and they put it down, and they don't want to play.
I think the future evolution of the industry isn't going to be about abandoning core gamers and the games that they like to play at all. That core is going to grow -- but it will grow from bringing more people in to the industry who get to see what the industry is all about, and the stuff that we make. Some may choose only to stay on the more casual end, but other ones will migrate to become core gamers. And, frankly, the more core gamers there are, the more we can make great games that they want. I think it's in everybody's interest to expand the industry overall.
And I hear some of the anecdotes about somebody's grandparents buying a Wii for the grandchildren, and the next thing they know, the grandparents are playing it more than the kids are, and so on.And that's just phenomenal.
We're starting to live up to the promise. We've always spoken about how we're "bigger than the box office", and" bigger than movies", and we're this, that, and the other, but a lot of that was sort-of hype before the reality. But I think we're now on our way to becoming a true mass market medium. Not there yet, but we're on our way.
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