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Do you feel like placing these kind of bets creatively -- is it important for not just attracting an audience of consumers and getting the differentiating products in the market, but also attracting publishers?
RP: At the end of the day, it's really about entertaining people. If we want to isolate art, I don't think you can. I don't think that's really fair. I think a pitch, a piece of interactive entertainment, is a combination of style with story and with design. You can't really isolate art and say, "I'm going to place a bet on X art style and that's going to help me out."
If your art direction doesn't fit with the game play and the game design, and neither of those things fit with the story, it doesn't matter how awesome the art is, it's just going to fail. It all has to fit together harmoniously in a way that ultimately excites a customer. And then when we decide to choose a game and play it, we find that our expectations are met or even exceeded, and we're constantly having joy and surprise and fun, and that keeps us gratified. If those things are true, then you tend to succeed.
In terms of the studio itself, do you worry about publisher relationships -- I mean, of course you do. But do you primarily worry about the creative product and driving interest in consumers, rather than driving interest in signing deals with publishers?
RP: At the end of the day, we are here to entertain people. I am genetically built to create entertainment, and the people at the studio, our mission is to create entertainment. The metrics we measure ourselves by are how many people can we reach and to what extent have we gratified the people we were trying to reach. That's goal number one.
Publishing partners are awesome, because they're people in this world that love solving problems like manufacturing and distribution logistics, or love solving problems like sales relationships with retailers. That's exciting and to them -- or marketing, and all that.
That's great, because if I can partner with groups that are good at that, and love doing that, and feel really gratified when they do a good job at that, then it's a perfect symbiosis because we don't have a lot of experience being a sales force. We have no experience with manufacturing and distribution, and we don't necessarily want to have that experience. Like, we're not looking to try to build that experience. We want to create entertainment. So, that creates a really neat symbiosis.
The publishers that we tend to have the best relationships with are publishers that are really expert in those things and also really get -- when we set out to start, they get what we're doing and they commit to us and they commit to our vision and the publishing relationships that I think work the least are when publishers tend to... they kind of want to create themselves through us and use you as a tool to create their own things. I think there's a lot of studios that are happy being work-for-hires but Gearbox just doesn't tend to work that way. We tend to be the ones that create the value.
What about funding? That's also an issue, right? Funding large projects. It seems you need publishers for something on this kind of scale.
RP: Financing is always an issue. But if you're making a good decision and what you're creating is worth existing, then financing can come from a lot of places, and honestly, we shouldn't be doing things that, if push comes to shove, we couldn't really handle it ourselves.
The reason why I like publishing partners to be involved in the financing because it proves that they're interested in the game and care, and are invested in what we're doing. The other thing, too, is publishers play a much wider field. They're a lot more diversified than we are. They can afford a miss, where we cannot. So it's really a convenient relationship.
But there's a lot of equity in who's financing it, so when we do take financing from our publishing partners, they get a lot of value for their money. There's a cost of money, so they get upside from that. If you want to get financing from other means, whether you put it in yourself or you raise money in different ways, wherever that money comes from, there's value to that capital.
You just said "we can't afford a miss," which is a state of a lot of developers of PC and console games -- big games -- are in. The sense is that the business of it is a very tough business. How do you hedge your bets there, or control that situation?
RP: You don't want to take that comment out of context. That's in the context of, like, if I were to -- I always go into something where I would have the means to finance it through if I need to, but if I did that and it missed, that could be it.
But that's a very singular point of view. If I'm actually getting financing from other sources, some other places, and I have the capital to see any of it through on my own if I needed to, now you actually have a lot of liquidity and a lot of strength that makes it comfortable for you to take risks. Where you can then afford to miss. It's only when you can afford to miss that you're not afraid to take a risk.
And, in fact, if you fail to take risks, you might have a higher chance of missing, because the nature of entertainment and the nature of technology. You need to take risks if you're going to have a chance of succeeding. You need to try things that no one else has done before.