In the second part of our exclusive interview with Rockstar Games’ president, Sam Houser has offered further insight into the creative process at the often-controversial developer.
Specifically, he explains that although the company’s games are some of the highest grossing titles on the market, especially recent release GTAIV, the company doesn’t design its games for the mass-market consumer, and rejects the practices followed by other publishers, such as focus testing.
Even though the games market has changed and expanded considerably between the launch of San Andreas in late 2004 and then GTAIV a few months ago, Houser said the team didn’t really take those changes into account when developing the fourth Grand Theft Auto.
"We always tried to make games that anyone could pick up and play. They may, over time, reveal a lot of structural and mechanical complexity, but the first mission of more or less any Rockstar game is very easy and engaging for a reason – because new people playing the game have to be gently led into the world of 3D action games, or open world racing games or whatever," he explained. "This is the way we try to cater for a mass-market."
He added that the hardcore/casual "division doesn’t make sense to us" when asked about the new casual market in the industry, adding: "Good games will usually sell and be popular, bad games will struggle – of any type or genre or style. But we still believe big, high impact games will help the industry evolve and further surpass the movie industry as the next mass-market story telling medium."
Houser criticised the more marketing-driven process of thinking in terms of specific demographics, calling it "an anathema to creativity":
"In order to be successful, we are going to have to continue to do what we have always done – make games that we would want to play, and hope there is audience for them.
"We don’t believe in focus testing ideas (it’s like asking an audience what album they want to hear – they don’t know until they hear it!) or thinking of a target market or anything like that; it’s an anathema to creativity. We are trying to make commercially viable art, not sell washing powder. While people like what we do, we will continue to do it to the best of our abilities. When they don’t, we will have to stop and do something else."