INTERVIEW: Bethesda

Ben Parfitt
INTERVIEW: Bethesda

Bethesda’s upcoming release slate is brimming with promising new IP, not to mention the sequel to its 2008 smash hit, Fallout 3. MCV speaks to Bethesda’s marketing boss Pete Hines to discuss the company’s line-up, digital downloads and its MMO ambitions…

Fallout: New Vegas and Brink are Bethesda’s big titles of the year. What are your expectations for these titles?

I think both games bring something unique to gamers, and to their respective genres.

Fallout 3 was tremendously effective for us and appealed to a wide range of gamers. Fallout: New Vegas builds on that by playing to the strengths of Fallout 3 while at the same time adding a whole host of new features and experiences.

Brink is obviously entering a heavily competitive genre, but it has the legacy of Splash Damage’s expertise in making great multiplayer experiences and builds on idTech 4 technology that allows for great visuals.

Brink also draws on the wealth of experience and talent that Splash has assembled from other studios and blockbuster titles, and adds to that further with innovations in a number of key areas. I think we’re very confident in our ability to deliver a game that stands out from the pack, and our ability as a publisher to get it the attention that it deserves.

Fallout 3 was a massive hit. Can New Vegas really live up to this?

We’ve built on the strengths of Fallout 3 and added a whole host of features and touches that further improve the experience for gamers.

By taking all of that to a new setting like Vegas, which is a great fit for the Fallout brand, it gives us every reason to believe that this game can be a huge success for us.

Based on what we’re seeing so far from the response at retail and from gamers, I expect New Vegas to do even better than Fallout 3. We’ll have to wait and see just how much better when the game is released.

Rage is the first title to be published by Bethesda after your parent ZeniMax’s acquisition of id Software. What do you think id brings to the table?

id Software brings a wealth of experience and expertise in the first person shooter genre. To have a group like id working as an internal studio for Bethesda is a tremendous advantage. I think what they’re working on with Rage and Doom 4 is going to show the world their true potential.

Brink is a new IP, as is Hunted: The Demon’s Forge. Are you confident these new titles can find their share of voice?

We expect both of these titles to do really well. They are new IPs, but they are both games that draw on the strengths of the teams making them. Brink is being made by a studio that made their mark in the shooter space with some terrific multiplayer titles, and Hunted is being made by a team who have been around a long time and have a huge passion for doing a dungeon crawl game like it’s never been delivered before.

Is new IP a key area for Bethesda?

I think a healthy combination of new and established properties is important. What’s also important is that we continue to push things and innovate, even within established properties. As you’ve seen with work we’ve done on Elder Scrolls games, and Fallout 3, we aren’t afraid to take chances and try new things.

I think for us what makes a video game stand out is to find out what kind of experience you want the player to have, what you want them to feel while they’re playing it, and then polish, polish, polish until you get that experience just right.

We will support new IP and make them stand out by helping development to focus on what makes their game great to begin with.

We will give them whatever tools they need to make it happen, and then go out and make sure everyone knows about the title before it’s released.

We’ve shown the ability to bring a lot of attention to our games and get people interested because we focus on a few key titles.

What can we expect from future established IP such as Elder Scrolls?

We aren’t talking about what we’re up to next on The Elder Scrolls or when you’ll be able to play another one. You’ll just have to wait and see. But our established franchises are clearly something we take very seriously.

Bethesda has invested heavily in the MMO sector. Why have you done this and what can we expect from Bethesda in this genre?

It was something we felt like we were ready to do, and do in the right way. ZeniMax Online Studios’ head Matt Firor is a guy with a ton of MMO experience, who we felt was the right man to lead a studio and put together an experienced team to make a great MMO. That’s what he’s been doing the last couple of years. I think the challenges of making an MMO are well documented. You have an incredibly successful, well-entrenched market leader; you have a number of other titles in the space each trying to use a different business model to be successful and competitive. It is not something to be undertaken quickly or lightly.

Perhaps some of your biggest releases last year were the Fallout 3 DLC packs. How has this shaped your digital strategy going forward?

They’ve done extraordinarily well. Fallout 3 is the type of game that benefits well from DLC, where people are playing the game for hundreds of hours and want additional content to add to their existing game. I don’t really think it has affected our strategy so much as verified that we’re on the right path in terms of the kinds of DLC we provide.

Bethesda released DLC at retail. What role will retailers play with digital distribution in the future?

Retail continues to be really important when it comes to giving gamers additional content, because there are still plenty of people who want to play our DLC but don’t have online connectivity. So offering it at retail gives us the ability to do that – a trend we hope to continue going forward whenever possible.

You have recently opened new offices in Germany and France. How will this help Bethesda grow its presence in Europe?

It is our desire to have as direct a relationship as possible with retail partners and to have direct control of how are products are promoted and distributed. The opening of these new international offices is another step in that process.

France and Germany are hugely important territories to us in our global strategy, and bringing onboard experts in these markets like Frank Matzke (Germany) and Julie Chalmette (France) further strengthens our publishing operations in Europe.

But will the UK remain as one of your core markets?

The UK is hugely important for us as it’s our largest market in Europe and second only to North America worldwide.

We’ve got a very strong sales and marketing team dedicated just to the UK market, and our success there to date has been due to the tremendous – and I should mention, award-winning – work they’ve done to date.
Moving forward I think you’ll see our presence in the UK market will only become bigger.

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