Pete Hines on Bethesda’s past, present and future
Over the last three or four years, ZeniMax has started buying up a lot of other companies, like id Software. What's ZeniMax's acquisitions strategy? What's the goal?
The goal, when we started those conversations was just… This might go back to your original question. So Bethesda started as a ‘mom and pop’ company, and it moved into this larger role in doing multiplatform stuff and not just being a small PC-centric developer-publisher. But what we always wanted to do and what we always felt was that we wanted to work on three to four big titles a year. That's it, that's all we want to do. We don't want to do twenty, we don't want to do thirty. We're not trying to branch and be big in casual games or social gaming. We want to make the kind of games that we like to play, because we think there's lots of other people who like those, and every time we put one out we want people to stand up and take notice and go: "I’ve got to play that game". So that's always been our philosophy.
When we started looking at other folks to work with, the conversation with id, for example, didn't start with: "Hey are you guys interested in being acquired?" It was just that we knew those guys. We’d see them at GDC or at E3 or whatever, we'd have conversations, we had a lot of respect for them. It was just a conversation: "Look we want to work with you guys in some capacity. What are you working on now? What are your future plans and is there some ability for us to work together?" And it started there but then as the conversation sort of grew and went back and forth it became: "Hey, listen, it kind of feels like it makes a lot more sense for us to join forces and become one company as opposed to doing just a one off thing here and there." And everyone felt like the development philosophies and the culture of the companies was a good fit and it seemed to make sense and they obviously gave us a lot of experience that we didn't necessarily have. These are the guys who invented the first person shooter genre. They've got amazing tech in idTech, they've got John Carmack, who is legendary, and they have a ton of other people over there who are really smart and good at what they do. Why wouldn't you bring them in and do it internally?
Id's Rage was originally to be published through EA Partners before ZeniMax acquired the studio, and its properties in June 2009
We knew a bunch of the guys that were at Starbreeze who left and founded Machine Games and we had a lot of respect for them, the stuff that they had done on Riddick and The Darkness. We had them talk with the id guys about tech and look at some of the idTech stuff and the id guys were like, "These guys are really sharp. If we don't work with them we should hire them because we get a lot of people in here looking at our tech and these guys are top of the heap." So we were like, "Hey, listen, let's do something together." And we ended up acquiring those guys. We’d been working with Arkane on the game that they're making for us for a while and it just became a conversation: "What do you guys think about becoming a part of us?" And they were like, "Yeah, we would love that. It would give us more resources and address some issues and help us to grow better.." So in each case it didn't start off with: "Who do we wanna buy next?" It's just, who are the kinda guys that we want to work with? How do we work with them? And then if that relationship just goes to the point where we're making a game with them, like we're doing with Human Head and Prey 2 or Splash Damage and Brink, then great. If there are interests beyond that in terms of multiple deals or becoming an internal studio, then we'll have that conversation.
It's really on a case by case basis and sort of what feels right and how do they fit into the kind of games we make, and our culture. Personality is a big thing, you know? As Todd Howard has brought up in his team meetings, your culture is the thing that defines whether or not you're going to get through a problem. Because there's nothing worse than having a big problem and having to deal with a bunch of assholes to fix that problem. But if you have people that you really like and genuinely enjoy working with and you have a big problem it's like, "All right, here we go. We're gonna pull together and we're gonna get through this." So we're very big into finding people with common philosophies, common culture. Obviously, they're also talented. I mean you look at the Arkane guys, I mean you're talking about Raphael Colantonio and Harvey Smith and Victor Antonov. I mean these guys are big time – the art director for Half-Life 2; the driving force behind Deus Ex. They’re really talented people. So to have that talent and that culture match is a good fit and we'll continue to do that. Which is probably going to be one of your next questions – we'll continue to look for other developers. We're always talking to folks that we like and respect to see: should we be making a game together? What are your ideas? What do you guys wanna do? And wherever it makes sense, we will.