In the second part of our in-depth Q&A, we chat with Eidos’ creative director and head of acquisitions about online games, and how Eidos can, after the Hitman and Tomb Raider movies, exploit the crossover and collaboration with Hollywood…
As head of acquisitions, what else do you want to bring to the Eidos portfolio? Are there any genres or areas you want to cover off?
It seems to me that genres are blurring. A first person shooter can also qualify for an action/adventure game. The blockbusters tend to have a bit of everything in them these days as consumers actively seek out certain titles more than staying faithful to certain genres. But there are certainly areas in which we will show increased interest, with online being one of them.
Eidos has experimented with downloadable content in recent months (such as Tomb Raider's episodic XBLA content and the free Kane & Lynch add-ons). What have you learnt from these initiatives - and how do you plan to push the model further?
Eidos has learned a lot over the last couple of years about what gamers want and how they play - not only through Tomb Raider and Kane & Lynch - but by working with a range of partners in digital distribution and online content. Every publisher is testing the water with what can and can't be done with DLC and what the consumer really wants. Eidos has already taken huge strides with DLC and its a very exciting proposition for our game offerings for the future, DLC will definitely be part of our future business model. We’ll be bringing that together with our web and digital distribution work to give a more coherent focus to all our online presence.
There's been a marked and widely reported rise in the number of casual players in the games-playing audience. How has that influenced Eidos strategy and work over the past year? How will it develop going forward?
Our re-structure delivers a studio-led business with focus on cornerstone franchises. Within that structure we have recognised the importance of casual games with the formation of Eidos Play. We have achieved great success already, being one of the first publishers to recognise the importance of this growing market and now we have a focused division looking at growing our presence in this market.
From the Lara Croft movies up to the recent Hitman movie, it's clear that crossover between the Hollywood and games fields is well established – and Eidos has a front row seat. In terms of how the mediums overlap creatively how far can this be pushed?
Very far, I believe. But we need to understand and respect that film and games are two different media. Games are interactive, mainly gameplay driven, often community based, technically very challenging and obviously less linear than movies.
Movies are very controlled in terms of story progression, and you see the same story no matter how many times you watch a film, even though you might understand more of it the second time you watch it. But from a creative perspective, games and movies need great characters, immersive stories and a lot of entertainment value. Both create a lot of inspirational concepts, write manuscripts, do field studies and research, compose music, create art and marketing assets, do voice casting and recording; the list is endless. I believe that we can learn a lot from each other.
As special effects and visuals get more complex and costly, and the quality of games get closer to the quality of the big screen, we should start sharing more assets and processes. But at the end of day, it is about innovation breakthrough in terms of concept and content. I don’t think we have even seen half of it yet.
And - where should we draw the line when it comes to this kind of convergence?
It is difficult to restrict innovation. It needs discipline but not restrictions. And when you innovate, you need to push it out there a bit, even with the risk that you might occasionally get it wrong. So I don’t think we need to draw the line here. The consumers will do that for us.
Also on this point; what are your thoughts on the fact that we're seeing a number of movie firms, like Warner and Paramount, enter the games fray? Do you think they'll be able to compete with the established games companies?
For both movies and games you need a great idea and a highly skilled team to turn that idea into a reality. We know it takes different skills to make great movies and must-have games, but today both use common skills in areas such as music, dialogue, lighting, script, camera, voice, etc.
What is apparent from both businesses is that there is a huge amount of talent and ideas out there. The consumer has never had it so good. So with the right kind of partnerships, anything is possible.
Given that a number of studios are now trying to move into animation, could Eidos subvert that model and move into movies/entertainment, perhaps creating something like an animated Tomb Raider movie on its own terms? A number of other studios have recently announced their intentions to reuse game assets in CG movies...
Why not? In Lara Croft, Tomb Raider has one of the most recognizable games characters in the world. She has already starred in two blockbuster movies and became a pop culture phenomenon. She is likely to be popular in any media. Eidos has always specialized in character-based games and we have a number of titles that lend themselves naturally towards feature animation films, television series or feature films. The visual quality of games will continue to improve with the hardware and software cycles, so it is more a question of the entertainment proposition than anything else.
But I don’t underestimate what it takes to create a great CG movie, the same as movie companies appreciating how hard it is to make a successful game. I have the highest respect for Pixar and Dreamworks. I see this more as an opportunity for cooperation.