Fallout 3 has been an great success for you. Can you walk us through the topline numbers, revenue figures, etc?
As a private company we don’t generally give out financial information, I’m afraid. Our target unit ship-out was 750,000 for the UK/Eire and we came very close to that. If Paul Oughton had spent less time eating cakes we may have sold more.
Have sales been in line with your expectations so far?
Yes, sell-through in week one hit our forecast and we expect the product life cycle to be extend to nine months at least, following a similar pattern to Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
Which territories have been particularly successful for you?
The UK, US, Australia and Nordic countries have been the best performers to date. We’ve not done so well in Chernobyl, though.
How are you looking to maintain sales going forward?
Word of mouth will spread from the hardcore opinion formers to the wider market first of all. Quality is always paramount. Promotional activity at retail and above-the-line will continue to Christmas and the downloadable content and add-on discs will help maintain a consistent sales pattern.
How do you feel about the Christmas season this year? The release schedule appears to be even more packed than ever…
For next-gen consoles and PC in particular it’s not a question of the volume of releases – as there is still a lot of crap out there – but the sheer quality of the big hitters. 9/10 reviews are ubiquitous for Fallout 3. Our key advantage is that we are not just another FPS… and our game won’t be completed in a few days and traded in! Thank the Lord we are not trying to compete on other formats at this time of year.
There have been some aggressive price promotions at retail on key new releases recently. Has Fallout 3 been affected by this? And what are your thoughts generally on the price cutting of new releases?
We have been affected by this as Fallout is such a key title. In a free market economy there is little we can do to alleviate this. My personal belief is that the price promotions from retail are a year early and consumers would pay more for the top titles – although in the current economic recession this may be less valid. Our industry may be somewhat insulated but it does not exist in a vacuum.
Given the fact that Fallout 3 had some issues in certain territories regarding classification, what are your thoughts on the PEGI versus BBFC scenario? Would you prefer one system over another?
We have worked hard to get the game rated in Australia and Germany in particular and had some issues initially with the BBFC. The key concern was ensuring the game delivered on all the promises to consumers, which I think we achieved. We would certainly like to see one unitary system.
Going forward, what do you have lined up for 2009 and beyond? Can you maintain this momentum?
We have a number of key releases from our internal studio and from third parties, with the emphasis on quality not quantity. We are not setting release dates until we ascertain what quality threshold we can reach. Anything less than an average 85 score is meaningless on Bethesda-branded products. We will delay releases until we are confident we can achieve this. As a private, cash rich company we are able to do this, which gives us a unique advantage over publically traded competitors.
Compared with many other publishers, you appear to have a strategy of releasing fewer titles per year. What benefits – and problems – does this bring?
The mantra is quality over quantity – clichd but true. We shipped 4.7 million units globally on one product with Fallout 3. That is more than many publishers ship in a lifetime on their entire catalogue. The key problem with this approach is that you need to guarantee a highly-rated product and back this up with substantial marketing support or you can’t compete. The key advantage is that you can have long holidays inbetween – I wish.
You signed a long-term development agreement with Splash Damage earlier this year. Are there any more details on this project? And is your general strategy to sign deals with studios, rather than acquiring development outfits?
Our strategy is a mixed portfolio of third party development deals and acquisitions to bolster internal development. We are just waiting for the right deal to present itself on the acquisition front. Splash Damage was a great deal for us as those guys ooze quality… even though they are based south of the river
Last year your parent company Zenimax invested $300m in Bethesda and at the time it was suggested that much of this would be used to fund a move into the MMO sector. Is that still the case? Are there anymore details on this?
We are remaining typically tight lipped on the MMO at the moment. Most of the $300 million will be invested in retail product rather than the MMO though. And a significant portion of that will be here in Europe.
You’ve got the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer and MGM’s Harry E Sloan on your Board. That must give you good access to Hollywood movie licences? Are licensed-based games going to play a big part in your long-term strategy?
We have access to a lot of licences, although most of them are not that interesting for us. The moment you have a licence, consumers are often reminded of their previous bad experiences and then you face an uphill struggle from the start to change their minds. We prefer creating original IP which has more value. However, certain licences are appealing if they are well established and match our core values. I would still like to enter the driving genre in a big way – with a well established cult brand like Driving Miss Daisy…
And finally, is it true that Wonder Woman is related to Bethesda?
Yes, Linda as we call her (Linda Carter) is married to our chairman Robert Altman. And no, before you ask, I have not seen her in her famous costume in the office – despite constant requests on my part.