Focus Home Interactive’s boss Cédric Lagarrigue talks about the publisher’s ambitions for Dontnod's Vampyr and why he’d choose a sequel over DLC for the title. For more on Vampyr, you can also read our interview with Dontnod's narrative director Stéphane Beauverger.
How did you and Dontnod start working on Vampyr and how did the idea come to be?
These past few years, the vampire theme has been heavily-exploited with success in movies, TV and novels. Strangely, the game industry did not appropriate this phenomenon, even though the vampire universe suits it perfectly. With their emphasis on moral choices, character development, and narrative, we thought an RPG would be the perfect way to explore this. I played and loved Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, but it was released over ten years ago. We’ve been looking for years for a studio with a good vampire game project and Dontnod presented Focus with a new project. The artistic and narrative dimensions were exciting.
Last year we talked about Focus’ growing ambitions and move away from PC titles – is Vampyr the culmination of this?
Consoles have actually been weighing more than PC for a few years now. Our PC revenue is constantly increasing, but we now achieve 70 per cent of our global revenue on consoles. Our development budgets have increased a lot, and almost all our games are now multi-platform. Focus has, however, digital publishing embedded in its DNA. We have true expertise in digital releases. We now generate nearly 60 per cent of our revenue through digital sales on consoles and PC.
Vampyr certainly looks ambitious and it feels like it has the potential to compete with triple-A RPGs. How have you invested in Vampyr compared to your previous titles?
It is bigger than our previous titles, but is on-par with other games currently in production at Focus which will be released after Vampyr. Our budgets, even if they do increase, are that of games filling the space between blockbusters and independent games. It is true that the game is impressive and has a strong personality, but because of its budget, it is not a triple-A. However, the universe, theme and quality of the game all allow it to exist in stores next to the blockbusters. But this is also currently true for many games with smaller budgets, on less retail-focused platforms such as PC. Audiences have evolved a lot during the past few years. Players yearn for new experiences, originality and less generic direction. There’s room for blockbusters, but players are ever fonder of different experiences.
Vampyr was recently pushed back to Q1 2018. How has that affected your marketing campaign?
Many things we had planned for the coming weeks have been delayed to early next year. This has forced us to rework the communication schedule a little, but we are not completely turning it upside-down as the delay is just a few months. We decided to produce a few extra videos, including a big ‘making-of’ the game. We wanted to delay the game in order to give it the best opportunity to reach our objectives, which have not changed.
What are your sales expectations for the title?
It is always very difficult to make forecasts with a brand new IP. The game benefits from a solid budget, superior to most independent video games, however it is not a blockbuster, whose budget would be over €50m. From our investment, it will be considered a success when around a million copies are sold, but it will only need half of that to be profitable. These are numbers we now reach and exceed regularly with most our games. Vampyr benefits from strong recognition and expectations, which will only increase over the coming weeks. It has everything it needs to become a nice surprise on the market.
What features of the game are you most proud about?
The ‘Citizens’ system, which fits the curse aspect of the vampire, is very original. The player is doomed to kill in order to survive and become stronger. Players won’t just feed on unnamed prey. They will make difficult choices, as the main character is a doctor as much as a vampire. They save lives, but also kill to survive. By investigating potential victims, it’s up to the player to inform themselves on whether a character ‘deserves’ to be fed on or not. The impact of every choice will be felt through the story and the game’s various districts. It is very captivating and adds a lot to the experience.
How long are you going to support the title?
This is a purely solo experience; we did not plan DLC. We would prefer, if the reception of the game justifies it, to think about a sequel. We and Dontnod already have some ideas, as there’s so many incredible things to offer in such a universe.