Bros. in arms

A year ago, Warner Bros. appointed Martin Tremblay as president of its interactive division. As the publisher prepares for its first major E3 outing, Michael French catches up with him to find out about his first 12 months on the job, and the publisher’s plans going forward…

Congratulations on your first year at Warner Bros. Have you done what you wanted to achieve in those first 12 months? Are you able to elaborate on what your strategy is for the year ahead?
Thank you. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is working to expand our capabilities and talent as a publisher, so we operate in the most efficient way possible. With our partners and our own titles, our slate has more than doubled since 2008, which is a significant accomplishment for us.

The launch of LEGO Batman – which has sold over five million units worldwide – and the recent launch of F.E.A.R.2: Project Origin are successes we intend to build upon. We are looking forward to a successful 2009 with several quality games, including LEGO Rock Band, Scribblenauts and Batman: Arkham Asylum co-published with Eidos, and a full slate for all types of gamers – hardcore, casual and family.

What’s the reasoning behind Lego Rock Band? Given that it fuses two major licence-holding companies with the development and publishing resource of at least four others, will it not have to sell in huge quantities to succeed?

LEGO and Rock Band are two beloved brands in the gaming space and we are hoping to fuse them into a great game that appeals to all ages of gamers.

Will you work with other licence holders to partner the Lego name with other well known properties?
Lego Harry Potter has been widely rumoured, and I’m sure the team at TT get plenty of suggestions…
WBIE and TT are committed to bringing fun and unique LEGO game experiences to audiences overall. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements.

On that note, Traveller’s Tales also produces the Lego Indiana Jones games for LucasArts. Other publishers might protect their studios from working with other companies. Are you happy having one of your studios working in a development sense for another publisher?
Looking at each opportunity for publishing and distribution partnerships, we determine how each product can best fit into our portfolio and if it will work for the individual title. Partnerships like the one for LEGO Indiana Jones make sense for TT, which is wholly owned by Warner Bros., and we will continue to partner where it works for our business.

Many of the Warner products are based on established or licensed IP. Will that always be the case or are you looking to find, produce and/or publish new IP? Could that new IP transfer back over to movies and other forms of entertainment?

Warner Bros. is an exceptional storytelling company. We have an abundance of great properties to work with and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is also dedicated to finding high quality, sustainable new intellectual property that fits our strategy for growth.

I have found all of the Warner Bros. divisions are open to working together to best leverage the properties for content and promotions, which is a huge advantage over traditional game publishing operations. Warner Bros. is building sustainable IP across all areas of entertainment and media, and we are making the most of this as a game company by working with established properties, such as Batman, and creating new IP ourselves.

Are there any genres that you feel the company is under-represented in, such as sports, that you want to enter?

We are exploring and working with the genres that we want to work with at this time, and our future will see more expansion into different types of games. WBIE will announce more when the timing is right for those games.

What is Warner’s current view on mergers and acquisition; are you open looking to acquire other businesses? Would you be willing to buy more studios?
We are willing to acquire more studios strategically as the talent and expertise work best for our overall growth. Our previous acquisitions – Monolith Productions, TT Games and Snowblind Studios – demonstrate the range of talent. In terms of Snowblind, they have the technology to make cutting edge games in the RPG genre. With Monolith, we utilise their renowned technological capabilities for making high quality FPS and hard core franchises and TT Games has shown repeatedly that they create outstanding family games that have wide appeal to all gamers.

With regards to studio expansion, what do you feel is better – to build from scratch or buy established companies?
WBIE is growing organically and by acquisition, to match the development technology with the key franchise properties in the best way. Ultimately, what we are trying to achieve is making the franchises into quality games for consumers, whether we do it ourselves or we work with partners. There is not always a right and wrong, but WBIE is focused on the future of gaming and the talent it will take to get to the brightest future for our games and establish our IP in the game space in the most sustainable way.

Used games are a hot topic at the moment; non-specialist retailers are entering the space and the category continues to grows. What is Warner Bros’ stance on this matter?
We will look to do whatever is best for a game in the marketplace. We don’t believe the used games market is the best thing for the industry, but we are looking at new data. It is challenging in this economy and with the declining lifecycle for games the pre-owned demand is there.

Are you happy with the reception received by the Watchmen downloadable game? Is this an area you’d like to continue working in?
We are continuing to expand upon the Watchmen: The End is Nigh game, as we have announced Part II with the very unique retail Blu-Ray HD game and movie hybrid, as well additional retail and downloadable formats.

Watchmen: The End is Nigh Part 1 and the upcoming Part 2, the second of two long-form, episodic action games will be released in conjunction with the Blu-ray and DVD of the motion picture in July 2009. We are definitely open to working in different areas of distribution as it makes sense for the products and consumers.

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