Midway looks to big Q4

Ben Parfitt
Midway looks to big Q4
Since we last spoke there’s been a lot going on at Midway – do you feel that your plans are now coming to fruition?

We have been very focused over the last few years on gearing up for this next generation cycle with the philosophy of fewer, bigger, better and Stranglehold is really the first game to come out of that mantra. We’ve got Blacksite, Unreal Tournament III this year and Wheelman at the beginning of next year. So that’s really been our push and our drive. We’ve invested a fair amount of money in next generation technology – $100m. Now we’re really coming through with the big titles.

In the last few years we’ve more than doubled our internal development teams. We were about 250 people back at the end of ’03 and now we’re close to 700 people. So we’ve had a pretty big growth spurt. Our Austin studio was 60 people now its nearer 200, and we’re growing our Chicago studio. We’re growing internally by hiring.

Midway’s ethos is built around releasing big name blockbuster titles – but are you looking into making an increasing number of casual games?

I think if you look at Midway’s heritage, going back to pinball we had a 70 per cent market share at the height of the arcade business. We have a long history and our guys understand casual games. In the arcades it was all about quick-and-easy, compelling gameplay.

Touchmaster is a good example of that and we have a game called The Game Party coming out this holiday for the Wii that leverages on our history and expertise in that casual games area. We’re big believers in the Wii – we had four launch titles, and we had three more this year. We have Mortal Kombat Armageddon, The Game Party and Cruis’n all on the Wii so we’re big supporters of the console.

Looking at your line-up you have made quite a commitment to 360 – how do you feel that platform is performing at the moment?

360’s doing great – it had a great start and has some great software. Microsoft has done great on the marketing front. I think they’re a little behind where they want to be but I think that’s true of a lot of us. I think this autumn you’re really going to start to see more games like Stranglehold and other high quality titles that will bring it to the critical mass.

Halo 3 will also help. There are some really great games coming out at the moment. Even before Halo comes out you’ve got Bioshock – it’s going to be a big holiday season for 360.

PS3 is another platform that you are supporting. Is it selling in line with your expectations – and where do you stand on its price?

It is ultimately about the games. I think they had them on PS2 and they now have some good first party titles coming out for PS3. Stranglehold should help push things along. Price is an issue. Eventually all hardware comes down in price eventually but I think it’s a big issue for the US and a big issue in Europe.

What is your product strategy in terms of licencing and original IP?

Predominantly we try to work with owned IP. Mortal Kombat is a good example. We have a good library of IP and also we are looking to introduce new IP like Blacksite. But licences are an important part of the business, Unreal Tournament is effectively a licence, along with TNA Wrestling and Happy Feet, but I think that the majority of our releases will be owned IP.

The run-up to Christmas is always frenetic – do you think the market is more competitive now that it has ever been?

The truth is there really aren’t that many good games to buy on next-generation consoles at the moment, but I think there are a lot coming. There are a quantity of true triple-A games out there but not as many relative to what there were a couple of years in on Xbox or PS2.

It’s all about the games for us – we have a lot more titles to announce next year. Our goal is to grow market share and we’re really focused on this next console generation. We’ve made a huge investment and where that takes us we will see. We expect to grow and we have much more coming.

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