THQ’s Danny Bilson Doesn’t Focus Test – He IS The Focus Test

THQ’s Danny Bilson Doesn’t Focus Test – He IS The Focus Test
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THQ’s Danny Bilson is fast becoming our favourite mouthy Gaming Exec. He announces games randomly in interviews for the hell of it, he talks out of turn constantly. In short, he’s a walking news machine – and we like that. His latest quote-worthy statement? He doesn’t use focus groups, he is the focus group!

According to Bilson, he has what most game execs don’t – he actually plays and enjoys games, and he’s more inclined to go with his gut instinct.

“We don’t test,” claimed Bilson. “What are 16 teenagers in Encino going to tell us that we don’t know? If I ever get to the point where I need to ask what a 15 year old wants these days, it’s time to go to the rest home. Because you’re done.”

We like this approach. Focus tested products rarely hit the right notes. We might not love all of the products that THQ produce, but it’s good to know that creativity and vision is being valued over the soulless drivel that usually results from over reliance on focus testing.

THQ core games boss talks creative marketing [Gamespot]


  • Interesting, Valve do focus testing, and they don’t seem to have any problems with quality.

    Last time I checked, focus testing was to see if anybody who is not just you would enjoy the game.

  • So I guess it was the 12 year old halo nerd in him that decided it would be a good idea to make Homefront multiplayer into a snipefest, instead of finding out if people that aren’t snipers would enjoy the game?

  • I guess it depends what you’re testing. Focus testing for stuff like making sure your difficulty isn’t completely whacked, or that your players aren’t getting stuck in poorly designed levels or the like I would argue is pretty helpful. A QA group that’s been looking at the same game for months if not years is already going to be beyond experts at your stuff.

    Focus testing to decide the substance of a game though is bad.

    • That’s the point I wanted to make… there’s a difference, and sometimes the outside opinion is helpful.

    • There’s a difference between focus testing and play testing.

      In the interview he’s talking specifically about focus testing concepts. They don’t take an idea to a focus group and ask for their opinion. A concept is pitched, THQ says yes or no and then play testing comes in later to polish the game.

  • I was at Volition (THQ) when they had an exceptional focus testing group and its work resulted in numerous improvements to the UI, player control, and balance for Saints Row (certainly not soulless) and Red Faction: Guerrilla. You don’t fix everything, but it fixed a LOT. The designers may not always have been happy with the feedback, but they respected the information that they were given.

    If one person tries to replace all that then the games stop being about the people playing them and start being about Danny Bilson, which, I agree, will probably make for some compelling news.

  • As a followup, here are the results of Danny Bilson acting as THE focus test for THQ.

    Metacritic scores:
    Homefront – 70
    Red Faction: Armageddon – 71
    Space Marine – 77

    THQ’s stock price when Danny Bilson was hired – 7 to 8.
    THQ’s stock price now – 1 to 3.

    He is a “walking news machine.” Unfortunately for THQ, most of the news appears to be bad.

    • *Small* mistake on the stock price. When Danny Bilson was hired, THQ’s stock price was around 18-19 and today it is 1.60–a 92% drop.

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