Speaking exclusively to Develop, Hetherington – the co-founder of Psygnosis and one time CEO of SCEE who is also chairman of MotorStorm creator Evolution – said the company plans to "look at significant developments in the online sector" thanks to the $31m cash injection from US financing group New Enterprise Associates announced last week.
Realtime Worlds – founded by CEO and creative director Dave Jones, the creator of GTA – is currently finishing Crackdown for Microsoft and working on All Points Bulletin for MMO firm Webzen. The security granted by the £16m worth of funds allows the company to start "controlling its destiny" said Hetherington.
He explained: "What the money does is allow us to act independently for a while and if we think we need a publisher involved later on then we'll get one involved. Its very hard when developing these products to prototype an online game and get to an open or closed beta stage – and it's a difficult concept for publishers to deal with.
"So now that were are independent from publishers we can move at our own speed and our own pace – quicker than a publisher will, actually. They can't take the risk assessment half the time. What this allows us to do is take a product to a level where it's de-risked and pretty ready for market."
He added that the online sector is "without any shadow of a doubt" the key area in which developers will flourish over the coming years – chiming in agreement with studios' increasing affections for digitally distributed games and online-enabled titles. US team Red 5, founded by former World of Warcraft creatives, will no doubt agree – as will its investor Benchmark, which earlier this week gave them $18.5m in funding to push forward their own online plans.
But it is "hugely unlikely" that Realtime Worlds will acquire another studio in the short-term, with the money instead going to bulking up staff numbers, already at over 100, at the Dundee HQ as the company starts establishing relationships direct with consumers in the online space.
"In future the developer will be synonymous with the product and that's who the consumer will have their relationship with," said Hetherington, pointing out that the template set out by Blizzard hin introducing a point of contact between games players and games makers in its game World of Warcraft is one to envy.
"The consumer plays and interfaces with the game and the developer produces the game – that's the total relationship."
More views from Hetherington will be published in the next issue of Develop.