Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Forum Trawl: MCV interviews 2K

UK-based Industry webmag MCV (The Market for Computer & Video Games) recently had an interview with "2K Boss" Christoph Hartmann about a few upcoming projects. While not entirely bland and market-speaky, a few choice words were elicited from the dev. I quote:

“The ‘90s generation of gamers all love Xcom and we own the IP, so we thought OK, what do we do with it? Every studio we had wanted to do it and each one had its own spin on it. But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth. But this is not just a commercial thing – strategy games are just not contemporary. 
“I use the example of music artists. Look at someone old school like Ray Charles, if he would make music today it would still be Ray Charles but he would probably do it more in the style of Kanye West. Bringing Ray Charles back is all fine and good, but it just needs to move on, although the core essence will still be the same.
“That’s what we are trying to do. To renew Xcom but in line with what this generation of gamers want. The team behind it is asking themselves every day: ‘Is it true to the values of the franchise?’ It’s not a case of cashing in on the name. We just need to renew it because times are changing.”

Wait for it...wait for it...okay go.

Aside from the fact that he sounds like a complete douche as well as someone who has never actually listened to Ray Charles (note: if Ray Charles were to start making music for today, everyone would stop buying Kanye West albums and ONLY BUY Ray Charles albums. Unfortunately, Ray Charles is dead. Douche.) he says some pretty controversial things about "contemporary games". Specifically, that strategy games are not.

But I'm not the only one with strong feelings about these words. Let's see what's been said as the interview's been making the rounds:

Over on the RockPaperShotgun forums:

  • "I find this quite interesting because, if my memory serves me well, 2K Games happen to be the publisher for both Civilization IV and V."
  • "Well that sort of thing is about audience vs. production cost. In this case what we've got here is a AAA dev team with a background in FPS needing work and a publisher thumbing through their back catalogue."
  • "Tell that to Relic, Paradox, Blizzard, The Creative Assembly and 1C."
  •  "The CoD bubble will burst. Just like rhythm games and WW2 shooters before it. What are developers going to do then? Sit idly by while the birds chirp trying to think up something that doesn't involve shooting people in the face with contemporary weapons?"
  • "He said strategy games in general, not turn based strategy. He actually is saying that games which probably outsell his entire companies catalogue are obsolete.

    I'm guessing videogame execs have never actually played a game or done any research about the industry, and just show up in their employees offices saying 'all my kid plays is CoD, make this game like that'."
  • "I think he's quite correct. Turn based strategy games just don't have too much of a market on consoles. Maybe on hand held devices there's a market, where control constraints sort of necessitate that kind of control scheme (as opposed to real time); and possibly on the PC as well. But if you look at the current TBS or even RTS games that have done well commercially, I think you'll notice that it's really the brand name that's propped up the game."
 Over on The Escapist:

  • "Yeah... in my line of work, we call this type of response "Bullshit"."
  • "If your goal with the marketing for this new XCom is to piss off as many fans of the original games as possible, mission accomplished.  If, however, you were trying to calm the fanbase... the fuck?"
  • "This new lineup of screen shots actually gives me a bit of hope in this game now. Lining this up against the teaser trailer, I can pick out customization characters, squad selection, research dynamics and a strategic map with mission choices... I'm, not entirely sold on this (I would have preferred the real time reboot they were working on before it got canceled.)...but... I'm willing to not pass permanent judgement on this game. I'm just rather skeptical of an FPS mechanic for the game."
  • " "... in line with what this generation of gamers want... " No dumass. Newer generation of gamers don't care about an old IP like X-Com and the original fans don't want a fucking shooter. This thing is going to crash and burn because of lack of market research."
  • "You're wrong. You're also arguing about something you have no interest in for the sake of arguing. Please stop it.
    The penultimate X-Com game was a TBS that also had Real Time Strategy. It was called X-Com: Apocalypse.
    The last X-Com game was a space strategy game called X-Com: Interceptor.
    After Hasbro bought the line, they re-started it with X-Com: Enforcer - which was a crappy Quake Clone, and X-Com: Email, which was...A TBS. Neither are considered part of the main canon as they haven't been released together - or within the canon storyline.
    XCOM actually retcons the entirety of the series, therefore isn't part of it. And it's Americentric AGAIN.
    As has been said, there are many different names "Zombies Ate My Neighbours 2" which would have made more sense to licence, but this is a shallow eyed cash-in by people who don't know or care about the licence. Strategy isn't Contemporary, my ass."

Even some GamePro Staff had some words to say:

"As the GamePro editor most passionate about strategy games (and Civ, especially), I have to say that....Hartmann is full of crap. Strategy game adapt and evolve quicker than just about any genre -- take a look at games from Cryptic Comet (Armageddon Empires, Soulium Inferum) or even the changes in 2K-published Civ or THQ's Dawn of War."

My own words...well, let's just break down the interview a bit first.

Interviews are always strange beasts, especially since they aren't normally scripted or featurey like most sneak previews or "reveals". It's just one guy who has opinions about a game he's working on and likes to talk. In this case, Christoph Hartmann is indeed the boss, but it's still a bit disingenuous to mischaracterize the entire company based off his comments. All the same, this is the guy making the decisions as to how this game should be made. For that, I say cut him down.

As has been mentioned in the aforequoted forum posts, strategy games are not "not contemporary" (forgive the double negative). People still want to play these games. People still want to buy these games. I honestly think this is an attempt to simply stir the pot and get hype going for this game. Now, 2K has set themselves up as having something to prove. The "hardcore" fans of the franchise will probably be completely turned off at this point, but anyone with only a passing impression of what the game was will probably now have MORE interest. It's a rather daring move. Also, this doesn't actually push anyone away who wasn't already planning on not buying the game anyway.

Extract the marketing perspective from all this and what you're left with is pure jackassery. And I really have nothing to say about that.

I refuse to be trolled.