INTERVIEW: Christoph Hartmann, 2K Games

Christopher Dring
INTERVIEW: Christoph Hartmann, 2K Games

Take-Two’s other publishing label is trying its hand at everything from boxed blockbusters to MMOs for Asia. 2K boss Christoph Hartmann discusses the firm’s initiatives with Christopher Dring.


2K may be known for BioShock and Duke Nukem but the publisher is not just about the triple-A blockbusters. At E3 last month, the firm announced a string of projects for Kinect (Let’s Cheer, Nickelodeon Dance) and Move (NBA 2K11). Does 2K see these devices as ways to extend the console lifecycle?

“Not at all,” says 2K president Christoph Hartmann. “I don’t think they are avoiding doing another machine but testing the water. Rather than coming out and saying: ‘this is our console now,’ I think they are playing around and seeing what they can do. These guys know how to manufacture the chips or push the memory, the kind of thing you usually get with each new console generation. But now everyone is looking for innovation and at online components, so they are experimenting.

“And it’s not been a case of just jumping on the Wii wagon – it’s been a case of learning about what Wii did and trying to take it somewhere.“Look, when Microsoft made the first Xbox, I assume there were always plans for Xbox 360. It was just the first Xbox was the machine to get it there. Microsoft was new to the party, so they used Xbox 1 to test the water. It’s the same principle.”


Last year 2K announced cult turn-based strategy series Xcom was to return – but this time as a first-person shooter. Fans recoiled at the apparent bastardisation of their beloved series, but Hartmann says there’s good reason for the change of direction.

He explains: “The ‘90s generation of gamers all love Xcom and we own the IP, so we thought OK, what do we do with it? Every studio we had wanted to do it and each one had its own spin on it. But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth. But this is not just a commercial thing – strategy games are just not contemporary. 

“I use the example of music artists. Look at someone old school like Ray Charles, if he would make music today it would still be Ray Charles but he would probably do it more in the style of Kanye West. Bringing Ray Charles back is all fine and good, but it just needs to move on, although the core essence will still be the same. 

“That’s what we are trying to do. To renew Xcom but in line with what this generation of gamers want. The team behind it is asking themselves every day: ‘Is it true to the values of the franchise?’ It’s not a case of cashing in on the name. We just need to renew it because times are changing.”


Next year’s BioShock: Infinite is one of 2K’s most anticipated video games. However, 2010’s BioShock 2 failed to do the numbers the label was expecting.

Hartmann explains why:  “It was the publishing window. It was the spring of death. We shipped two weeks after Mass Effect 2. Every two weeks there was a major release so you had two weeks to sell. And if you look at the statistics of all of those titles, sales fell off a cliff for all of them after two weeks.

“The window was really bad and it was a tough one. We were all shooting for autumn and all of us missed. So I think it was the window more than anything else because the critical ratings were good.”


2K has identified the Asian market as a major growth area, and has partnered with Tencent to create a basketball game, Nexon to develop a baseball title and XL Games to create an MMO (based on one of 2K Games’ major franchises) for the region. What was the thinking behind these partnerships? 

“We all know that browser and MMOs are a growing market and we need to be in it,” answers Hartmann.

“It’s not just because people say we have to be there. When World of Warcraft was the one thing everyone talked about, we didn’t run out and say ‘We need an MMO.’ We just feel that this is an area where we can really add value and the Asian markets are growing dramatically. 

“But despite that growth, there’s a lack of experience in that market and we feel we can help improve the quality of their games. So they can learn from us, and of course we can learn from them – I don’t know how to run 5,000 servers. So these are good partnerships.”

2K is also investing in a number of other platforms, including streaming services, tablets and more.

“Not necessarily everything will stick,” says Hartmann. “It’s the same thing as if you have 10 new IPs. Not necessarily all of them will work, maybe six or seven will. It is good for the industry. There’s some power shifting, and some new business models but it’s all about growing mindshare and getting people to invest time in the game.”


Tags: interview , 2k games

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This interview is an abomination unto god. A thousand angels fell from the sky, choking on their own incredulity, when he made that comment about Ray Charles.

If strategy games are so passé why does 2K keep churning out Civilization games?

If X-COM is so outdated why do people even care that it's metastasising into a soulless "cinematic" third-person shooter?

If this man is as stupid as this interview makes him sound, why is he in an executive position at a major videogaming company?

I'll need some serious geological and astronomic data to convince me these really aren't the End Times.

Alexander Gambotto-Burke

Alexander Gambotto-Burke INDUSTRY
Jul 13th 2011 at 10:28AM

0 6

That's the worst analogy I've heard in my entire life. Is this a PR stunt or does Mr. Christoph Hartmann think gamers are stupid enough to swallow such a bold and hard b.s. or is he one himself? How can you even mention the two with such a vast chasm of class, taste and quality inbetween in the same sentence? What a sorry excuse for a human being... I think he should just STFU and let 2K PR reps do the talking the next time. I can stomach all kinds of b.s. about "next-gen", "innovation" and whatnot but not THIS!
Oh, sorry about the profanity in my post, by the way. I'm under influence of Kanye West whose every song is about some "b.....s" and "mfs" doing some "f....g" and whatnot. Yep, that's the Kanye West this sack of rotten meat just associated with Ray Charles.

John Doe

Jul 14th 2011 at 5:45PM

0 2

Made an account just so I could agree with the above. K. West represents the "evolution" Ray Charles, really? What a shameful display. What's with companies making these brain dead statements, it's like they're financially suicidal. This sort of thing makes me want to boycott the new XCOM Even if it turns out to be actually good.

I am also tired of dev/publisher studios passing of FPS as "progressive". We all know why games get fps/action-ized and the reasons for it are less than admirable. Enough BS already.

And before this comment is dismissed I'm 26, not some "old geezer", and I'm not religious so the statement doesn't offend me in that sense (R. Charles was Christian).

Between insulting Ray Charles and the gamers I can only say "Hit the road 2K" (Yes I know it's not actually RC's song).

Roy Charles

Roy Charles STUDENT
Jul 16th 2011 at 3:34PM

0 0