MF: Going back to the Warhammer MMO, when you announced the change, you called it a “shift.” How far along was Dark Millennium before the change? In other words, is it really just a cancelation with a brand new project and the same name? Given that you’re talking about taking an MMO, which… I believe, Danny, that you’re a gamer, right?
DB: Oh, yeah!
MF: So… my understanding is that you’re very familiar with MMOs.
DB: Yes. Since Everquest 1, yes!
MF: You know that an MMO is a very different experience than a “single-player/multiplayer game with community features.” Is there really anything usable from the MMO that is going to be included in this new title?
DB: Yes, and the reason is that there was a lot of innovation in that game. In particular, the shooting mechanics are real-time, not turn based. The content is absolutely incredible, and any time anyone ever had any doubts about it, all I had to do was bring them into the room and show them progress on the game. So there’s a tremendous amount of content that was built. At its core, the mechanics are very action based. Nobody has seen this before. We’ve never shown it to anyone. The team is incredibly excited, and this is the truth, about the new direction for the game.
We’re not going to be talking about that game for a while. I know lots about it, and I could talk about it, and I think it’s absolutely incredible. You’ve gotta remember there’s five years of development and careful thinking and testing and prototyping and then building involved there. If you saw it, you would easily understand the vision for the future of the game, and when you see it, I think you’ll get it completely. It’s really awesome. It’s always been one of my favorite games in the portfolio and it still is.
MF: It’s interesting. You mentioned… and I’m a Warhammer fan. I loved Space Marine. I’m excited about that, but one of the interesting things you said about that, though, is that if people had doubts, you showed it to them, and their doubts would be allayed. In the announcement, you said that you were looking for a business partner, and that didn’t happen. I’m assuming that you pitched them with some of the content, and they saw it. If, as a gamer, I’m going to be excited about the game, what was the disconnect between finding a business partner who could get equally excited about where the MMO was going?
DB: Well, I would argue that it’s the business of subscription-based MMOs, and the state of that business right now. That’s what we were building: a big, ideally subscription-based, MMO. I can tell you that, unequivocally, certain people who have shipped MMOs, who saw this… a quote was, “that’s better than anything we’ve ever built.” That’s a quote from a room I was in, and that’s what kept the conversations going. There was a lot of, “how do we make this work economically, because it’s awesome?”
At the end of the day, and I know for myself in particular, I much prefer the route we’re going down than having brought in investors, and possibly diluted some of the controls around it. When you bring in more opinions, things will change. That game is still sitting with the people who invented it five years ago, and honestly, they are incredibly excited about the new direction. That is the absolute truth, and when we announce it, and you speak to them, they’ll be able to tell you themselves. You’ll really like it. If you liked Space Marine, you’re gonna love this thing. It’s much deeper. Space Marine was designed as a console experience. This one has tremendous multiplayer gameplay, and there is a lot going on in this game that’s spectacular.
MF: You talked about investors and, obviously, you have to do what’s right for the business and where you were at the time. However, it seems in terms of stock prices, as I said earlier, that there has been a 20% drop from March 29th until today. The fact is that you’ve gone from streamlining administrative staff to laying off creative staff. It seems that investors are reacting poorly to that. What are you going to do to convince people that play the stock market and let them know that this is the time to turn around and look at THQ seriously?
DB: The thing that keeps me going and gets me up everyday is the portfolio. I, of course, know every single game that’s in production. Some of them haven’t been announced yet. In the future, and you know this, only the best games with really quality marketing and proper investment are going to be profitable or, even, break out. There’s a lot of tough stuff navigating the waters of the industry and the changes in the industry, and transitioning this company to an original IP, core games company.
It takes time and it takes effort. On my laptop, I have the entire portfolio for the next three years, with video, creative and content and things that the public hasn’t seen and that investors haven’t seen. That’s what keeps me going completely. It’s because the portfolio that we’re preserving is, I believe, really, really strong. It’s a lot of games that I want to play very badly, and hopefully, so will a lot of other people. There’s a lot of talent behind them, a lot of investment and a lot of focus. As we roll them out—it’s gonna take some time, and it’s a long-term plan—but, as we roll them out, and each one succeeds, hopefully better than the one before it, the company will regrow.