Trilogy Studios was founded by three guys who left high-level gigs at some of the biggest game companies on Earth. CEO Michael Pole (pictured) tells us why IP creation doesn’t fly in big corporations, and also talks about Trilogy’s upcoming FPS / RPG, tentatively titled "Daybreakers".
Trilogy co-founders Michael Pole, Rick Giolito and Mark Skaggs know what it’s like to work for large corporations, which is a large part of the reason they decided to go indie. Between studio CEO Pole, COO Skaggs and president Giolito, the trio has held executive positions for behemoths including VU Games, Activision, and the biggest of them all, EA.
The list of games the group has contributed to is impressive as well. As VP of worldwide product development at VU Games, Pole managed games including Chronicles of Riddick and SWAT 4; at EA, Skaggs was an executive producer and headed up development of Command & Conquer Generals and Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth; Giolito was VP and executive producer at EA, and was in charge of IP development. He helped create Medal of Honor. Of course, the Trilogy guys have many games besides the ones mentioned here under their belts.
Sticking it to the man?
So enough about credentials and track records and such. The point is clear: these guys left very comfortable gigs at the biggest game companies not as mailboys, but as high-level execs. Is this just a case of three guys who are out to stick it to "the man"? Not exactly, according to Pole.
He said in so many words what many already understand: large game companies aren’t exactly hotbeds of creativity. "What seems to have happened is that it just became more difficult — almost impossible — to create new IP within these very large companies. Everybody was betting on the licensed IP, everybody was betting on the sequels and franchises. We just felt that after being in the industry for so long, that the time was now to build a next generation game studio with the sole focus of creating intellectual property, and also paying very close attention to what we believe are going to be the new distribution markets, which is all about online and episodic content. We’re focusing on true innovation; expanding genres and gameplay. That’s the reason we came together to do this."
Another factor that works against creativity in large game corporations are fiscal-based deadlines. "I think anyone that has been in this business enough knows that magic happens in the last 90 to 120 days of a game’s development cycle. If you don’t afford people the opportunity to allow that magic to occur because you need to get it out for a quarterly target, that could be damaging, and you may lose the opportunity to ever build that game again."
"Think about it. The pressure of delivering milestones for quarterly numbers for these large distribution and publisher organizations does not have a positive effect on innovation and creativity," he added.
Pole made sure to note that while creativity and innovation is key for Trilogy, he still intends on making his investors money, and that money will be made because of a creative environment, not in spite of it. "At the end of the day we believe games that are bleeding edge with innovation and the creation of new IP will bring financial rewards down the road."
In the face of rising development costs, many developers would love to have solid financial backing from a major corporation, instead of going out to raise the cash their own. Take Lionhead, Microsoft’s most recent developer acquisition. Founder Peter Molyneux conceded, "The environment for independent developers has become very challenging. The amount of money needed or required to develop a game is absolutely phenomenal. It’s often very difficult to persuade publishers to invest when they have internal resources."
While Pole is starting out the Trilogy venture as an independent, he implies that an acquisition is possible in the future, but it’s certainly not the priority at this point.
"You know what? I think it’s all timing," he said. "Peter Molyneux, he is one of the ‘game gods’, right? So I’m not going to speak against what Peter’s thoughts are. I think Peter had people at Microsoft who very much wanted to be in business in the long-term, and Peter saw it as an opportunity to kind of fund his group in a way that would allow him to do what he wants creatively."
"For us, down the road, who knows? We’ve been approached. There have been two or three [propositions]. We’ve been a studio for all of nine months, and we’ve already had two or three offers to buy our company outright. While I’m flattered by that, we’d very much like to see where we can land after at least delivering our first product. Right now, we’re going to remain fiercely independent."
Pole added that Trilogy is "very close" to having raised enough second round financing so that the studio can pay for the game development itself, and that raising funds so far "hasn’t been very hard," thanks to the company’s management track record.
Next: The first game: Daybreakers
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