In part two of our interview with Bethesda vice president of marketing Pete Hines, we discuss why bolt-on multiplayer isn’t part of the Bethesda formula, and how its games will stack up against the Call Of Duty behemoth.
Check back to part one for his account of the company’s unique structure and its recent studio acquisition spree.
It seems like all the games you're publishing are ambitious, risky projects. Are you not tempted to make the cookie-cutter corridor shooter that’s a sure-fire multimillion dollar hit?
I certainly think that we never want to do anything derivative. We don't even want to do stuff that's derivative of stuff we've already made. We definitely don't want to do stuff that's derivative of something that somebody else has made. You look at a game like Prey 2 or you look at a game like Skyrim, and I use those two examples because they're both sequels of something that's already been done, one by us, one not by us, but in both cases there are wholesale changes. We're not afraid to change things up, we're not afraid to let the dev team try something new. They want to explore the universe. And we're the kind of publisher that says, "If that's what you think makes the best game, then go for it."
[People ask us] for a game like Skyrim or Prey 2, why doesn't it have multiplayer? Well our question is always the opposite when we talk to a developer. If you're doing mulitplayer, why are you doing multiplayer? What are you trying to accomplish by doing multiplayer? Because if you're doing it just to check a box or because every other publisher says you’ve got to have multiplayer, then just drop it, don't bother, it's a waste of time, it's a giant distraction and it'll make for a worse overall game. We want the best game possible, if that's a single player game that's fifteen to twenty hours then make that! Don't waste your time on features that don't make the game better.
id's Rage has a stronger narrative focus than the studio's previous games
Even with Rage, there’s some online stuff we're doing, but that game's primary focus is as an awesome single player shooter experience that has some layers to it, where you don't just have hallway, hallway, hallway, room, hallway, room and then cutscene. id wanted to do stuff with more narrative, and well, that sounds awesome – so do that. They love deathmatch; these are the guys that made deathmatch what it was from the very beginning. But for this game it just doesn't fit. Great, then wait! Yeah, it's a little bit riskier; people probably expect your standard deathmatch stuff – but that wasn't the kind of game they were trying to make.
Why is Bethesda willing to say yes to that stuff when so many other publishers in the industry aren't? What gives you that ability?
Or the reverse question would be, why when we're willing to do that aren't other publishers willing to do that?
Because they're terrified of piracy and trade-ins.
Do you think that's what it is?
The conventional wisdom says it all about stickiness: multiplayer isn’t just a checkbox, it's to keep people playing so that they don't trade it in.
Yeah, but we seem to be doing fine with Oblivion and Fallout 3. Maybe it's because our roots are in making gigantic worlds you can play in for 200 hours. Who else does that? We don't do what everybody else does, we're willing to take chances and just come at it from a different direction. I think we do that from a development standpoint and, since I came to Bethesda in '99, I've very much tried to take that approach from a PR and marketing standpoint. I want to promote a game in a way that makes a developer proud that that's how their game is being talked about.
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