2K SPORTS IN EUROPE
Aside from the popular Top Spin series, 2K’s Sports division isn’t well known outside of the US. Is it important for the label to grow across Europe?
“I think you have to look at sports in general,” says Hartmann. “North America is a much bigger market, the society is obsessed about sports, and there are three monster-big sports. In Europe it is all soccer. Every country has a little bit of this and that, Germany used to love Formula 1, but when Schumacher left that went away. Some countries are into tennis. But it is all soccer. There are already great games in this field out there. If someone has a good idea to give a new angle to soccer games that no one has thought of, and we think adds a lot of value, then hey, we’ll sign it up.
“For me it is not about establishing 2K Sports in Europe, we just want to make great sports games. It is driven by the content. If there is a great opportunity in Europe then we will go after it. By the way, the numbers for our NBA game in Europe went up a lot. Based on that data, I think it went beyond the die-hard NBA fan and actually appealed to sports gamers looking for something different.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF NEW IP
2K is a company that has plethora of big brands, from BioShock, Civilization and Mafia, to Carnival Games and Duke Nukem. But the firm is continually investing in new IP. It’s a part of 2K that Hartmann is proud of, as he says pumping out sequels is one way to kill a franchise.
“Our studios don’t want to do the same things all the time,” he says. “I have seen so many franchises die because of poor quality or creativity running out. Not everything is meant to go on forever. You have to push yourself and build new things, there’s no way around it.
“My vision for 2K is to be the Miramax of the early days, when you had all these great movies that won Oscars but were also commercially really successful. That’s what we want to do.
“In the last generation of consoles, I remember walking around E3 and seeing nothing but WWII games. Everyone had one. Back then costs were much lower, but now the industry really has a problem with costs. I know we all like to play safe. But we should not just be competing for gamers because everyone can enjoy games. We should be competing with other things people spend time on, like email and Facebook. So we have to deliver new ideas and fresh ideas so that people spend time with us.
“It is always a risk to put out a new IP, with so many strong players with established properties, but you have to, we have got to be different. We are about making great things, having fun and making money. Like life.”
Hartmann stresses the importance of building games that studios want to create, and not just assigning projects based on corporate planning.
“I am not of the belief that you need to strategically move into genres because they are growing,” he explains. “You have to have the right studio that is passionate about that genre and believe in it. And you need to add a unique twist to it, like Gearbox Software did with Borderlands.
“It’s not about having our matrix and saying ‘oh we don’t have a game in this genre,’ and then saying ‘well, who can create one for us? How about 2K whoever because they have just came off a project.’ “That doesn’t sound like a good formula for success. Someone needs to drive it and the team needs to have a great idea.”