Joseph Olin Talks 2007 DICE Summit

Joseph Olin Talks 2007 DICE Summit

The D.I.C.E. Summit is coming up next week, so Next-Gen is kicking off our preview coverage with AIAS boss Joseph Olin, who talks about his event’s role in the wake of E3’s collapse, the awards and a few details on Phil Harrison’s session…

Taking place February 7-9, the 10th annual D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate and Entertain) Summit and the corresponding IAAs (Interactive Achievement Awards) are more than just an amalgamation of acronyms created by the AIAS (Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences).

Now that the gargantuan-style E3 has been laid to rest, AIAS president Olin thinks that the relatively minute D.I.C.E. (he expects about 600 to attend vs. 60,000 at E3 2006) may pick up some of the slack. Holding his cards to his chest, he doesn’t confirm any big announcements that will be made next week, but Olin says the void left by E3 will give companies opportunities to showcase some new technology and maybe make bigger announcements.

He adds, “I think that the change with E3 has probably benefited us from the perspective of there’s more attention towards us. We have more media interest in what’s going on at D.I.C.E. this year than in previous years and I think some of that has also spilled over to the Game Developers Conference as well.”

For the uninitiated, D.I.C.E.’s specialty is bringing in some of the most recognized leaders in game development and business into a smaller, controlled environment with a strong focus on networking. Sounds absolutely wild and crazy, right?

Sure, in addition to the business aspect, there’ll be the parties, the golfing and the poker, but Olin says from a size-perspective, he’s not aiming for D.I.C.E. to become a big bloat. “We’re pretty happy with the size,” he says. “I think that we make a concerted effort to try and strike the balance between getting enough of the people that we believe help contribute to making D.I.C.E. [an event] that’s anticipated. But we don’t want to be so large that people who want to interface [can’t].”

20 questions for Phil Harrison

Some of the big gaming names showing up to make D.I.C.E. presentations, speeches or appearances include Sim-master Will Wright, outgoing Entertainment Software Association president Doug Lowenstein, Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopulos and SCE Worldwide Studios head Phil Harrison, among many others.

Speaking of Harrison, he’ll be interviewed on-stage by Newsweek tech journo N’Gai Croal for what is shaping up to be one of the more interesting D.I.C.E. presentations.

“I think that we’ve titled it ’20 Questions You Wanted to Ask Phil Harrison but Were Afraid to Ask,’” says Olin. “…I think that Croal asks tough questions when tough questions need to be asked.” According to the official D.I.C.E. website, questions will be polled from developers and other industry types.

Olin elaborates, “The ground rules are that I don’t think we’re going to ask Phil about his personal life and I don’t believe that N’Gai will ask Phil certain questions as Sony is a publicly traded company, and there are certain rules on what they can comment on and what they can’t comment on. Other than those two areas, N’Gai has free reign.”

The IAAs and the little Daxter that could

The Interactive Achievement Awards will again be a major component of the D.I.C.E. Summit [Want IAA controversy? See past coverage.], and Olin hopes that the IAAs will eventually become the true top-tier recognition in the games industry.

“I think that has been the mission of the academy since it was founded in 1996,” he says. “As most organizations that function on the periphery of the entertainment industry, our challenge is to rally as many of the publishing members, our studios and our independent members to get behind the importance of recognition.”

One of the ways that Olin hopes to bring the IAAs more coverage is by continuing to work on broadcasting the awards via TV and broadband over the coming years, although nothing is set in stone. “We are trying to finalize a [TV] agreement right now. There is still the possibility that there will be broad consumer exposure for the 10th Interactive Achievement Awards, but I will make that announcement when things are signed, sealed, and delivered, because I would hate to say something and have it not come true.”

He also says that the AIAS has considered opening the IAAs to the public, adding that the Academy’s board is “very open” to looking at ways to include consumer gaming fans. The IAAs this year will again be hosted by comedian and self-proclaimed gamer Jay Mohr.

God of War was the big winner at last year’s IAA’s, but who does Olin think will be the big winner at this year? He actually doesn’t know yet who will win, and opts not to go out on a limb with predictions. However, he does say that Sony and Ready at Dawn’s PSP game Daxter, a triple-nominee, is a pleasant surprise because of its relatively low-key status.

Olin explains, “Daxter’s inclusion as a finalist in the action/adventure category is a big kudos for Ready at Dawn. It goes up against Gears of War, it goes up against Twilight Princess, Splinter Cell Double Agent, Saints Row. Those are all big titles and here you have this PSP game. I don’t know that people ever think about PSP games and excellence, so this is great for SCEA and certainly to Ready at Dawn.

“I think [Daxter’s nominations] show that game makers really have a lot of respect for each other and really take a lot of care in looking at the work,” Olin says.

Next-Gen will be bringing more D.I.C.E. interviews leading up to the event next week, as well as rolling coverage and additional interviews from the event.