At the DICE Summit in February, Gamasutra got the chance to sit down with Jon Goldman, exec at Foundation 9 (Death Jr.), one of the (and possibly the) largest independent development company conglomerate in the world.
Spread across North America and Europe, the company has no publishing elements, and includes studios as diverse as the U.K.'s Sumo Digital, U.S.' Shiny and The Collective, and the U.S. and Canada's Backbone Entertainment, among others, with more than 800 employees spread among multiple major offices. Its games include Sonic Rivals, Monster Lab, Godzilla: Save The Earth, and a host of remake and 'classic' titles.
Here, Goldman discusses his company's
Total Quality Initiative, which seeks to increase the studios' game
quality, the nature of pairing up development opportunities with the
right studios, and how their studio management philosophy is similar
to EA's new city-state ideals -- before EA even announced them.
The first thing I'm curious to talk about is the Total Quality Initiative that was recently announced. If you can give a little bit of background on that first...
Jon Goldman: Sure. Last year and this
year, we started tracking quality numbers, and we saw that... last year,
we issued a press release where we moved up in average quality by about
two or three points, while the industry average actually went down.
And that's actually not uncommon, and that's part of the cycle. In the
early part of the cycle, quality averages go down.
But we were surprised that our quality averages have actually gone up, because people associate work-for-hire licensed development with quality issues. We realized that one, there's a perception gap, and two, this is something we can manage to do and continue to improve. One is selling point, and two is a recruiting point. So, selling point for publishers, and two is a recruiting point for telling people this is a quality place to work.
The other thing we faced is that we really grew a lot over 2007. As a management team, we can't know what's going on with 60 projects, because that's what we had going on last year.
We have to have some process in place that shows that we're actually exercising oversight, because there are a lot of points where we looked a publisher in the eye and said, "I'm committing to this," and I certainly don't feel comfortable as a CEO looking somebody in the eye and committing to something with which I don't have any oversight function, other than turning it in.
So there's that, and there's also just really making sure that our employees and other folks know that as we grow, we take this seriously. That's an important motivating message to people, that big companies, not just small ones, can care about the product.
Because a lot of what I, or other people, message is about profitability and performance and things like that. But everybody knows that there's a difference between doing good product and doing good business. We want to make sure that's institutionalized, and not just something that we talk about.