Leaving no part of the E3 reporter's notebook unused, I've come upon some slightly old (two weeks!), slightly illuminating thoughts from top people at Ubisoft and Sony about their company's games. These are thoughts worth sharing with you.
The first is from Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, at the start of an eight minute interview two Mondays ago. We zip through some thoughts about the Assassin's Creed franchise and the future of Ubisoft's Wii U support, but we start with me asking him about the games Ubisoft is showing at E3 and whether he can't help but have a favourite.
"I prefer not to say much about that. In fact it's very important that I don't speak much about it, because it changes. You know, in development, at one point the game is fantastic, the team is the best in the world, [but] in the process they cannot perform as well, because they probably were too... they sold too much [internally] and had problems delivering. I think we try to make sure each team has all the support it needs to create high quality product."
Guillemot: "In development, at one point the game is fantastic, the team is the best in the world, [but] in the process they cannot perform as well, because... they had problems delivering."
My guess, after the interview is wrapped up, is that Rayman Legends is actually his favourite of Ubi's current crop.
That's a fun little bit, but here's something better from Shuhei Yoshida, the head of worldwide studios for PlayStation. He oversees Sony's vast array of game development teams around the world, a roster that rivals Nintendo's in volume and quality. Reporting to Yoshida is Scott Rohde, who oversees the studios in the US. Combined, they have everyone from Naughty Dog (The Last of Us) to Guerilla Games (Killzone) to Polyphony Digital (Gran Turismo) to Sony's Japan studios (Rain, Puppeteer) to Sucker Punch (Infamous) to Evolution Studios (Driveclub) reporting to one or both of them. And so many more teams than that.
So, I ask, "When you're developing games internally, how do you decide what to go for? We need more shooters? We need more racing games? You have a couple of different racing series going on. And you have a couple of different shooters."
And he says: "Yeah, what you said is exactly what we don't do. What we do is we look at individual projects. We really want to see some very strong vision from a creator or from the team to have something really strong that they feel they want to make. We start from there for each individual title.
"Often times, because we like something new and we like to try out, more than maybe half of them will fail. So we just decide, 'Ok, let's take six months, nine months and do some prototyping and see what works,' and we make a decision, 'Let's not do it, it didn't work out.' Or 'If we change this it could work, so let's extend that period.'
Yoshida: "More than maybe half of [our internal game prototypes] will fail."
"So we have lots of these early projects that we usually do not talk about in the open. Otherwise if we prematurely announce it everybody asks, 'Where is that game?' [laughs]
"That's how we approach it, but because, we feel strongly that not everyone is good at everything, like, because it's creative work, you really have to believe in something so strongly that you go beyond normal terms to try to achieve it. In order for that to happen, the developer has to believe in it really, really strongly.
"That's how we believe in that, but we balance it in my level or Scott Rohde's level. We always look at the line-up, the pipeline we have. We always talk with marketing people and [consider] in what region and on what platform the next year and the year after, what kind of people, consumers, demographically or whatnot they are looking to move the platform. [We] try to see where are the holes. Where are we doing too much? Are there too many projects trying to cater to the same audience in the same region? In that case, we discuss whether we move some of the title or, in some cases, these titles are in early stages, and, when we have to make decisions from resources that we have, we cannot do both, which we choose. Then we we look at the platform's overall picture: this game fills in this gap that we have.
Yoshida: "Because it's creative work, you really have to believe in something so strongly that you go beyond normal terms to try to achieve it."
"We use that overall picture as an additional factor when we make decision and try to balance them all when we cannot do that perfectly, so we always get shouted at by our marketing teams: 'Worldwide studios, you fail! You fail!' [laughs] So we are always told we are not doing this or that."
There you have it. A peek inside the psychology of the top man at Ubisoft and one of the top men at PlayStation. That should explain... some things.