Shane Kim Interview, May 2008
1-1 with Microsoft Corporate VP and boss of Game Studios Shane Kim, in his most detailed interview this year. Halo Owns Gears, PGR5, buying Square Enix, 360 Slim & more.
Kikizo: Also from a Game Studios point of view, can you tell us about the background of hiring Kudo Tsunoda - why you have chosen him, and what he brings to MGS?
Kim: Well obviously John [Schappert] and Don [Mattrick] have experience with him at EA, so that's pretty good validation there. From my perspective, adding another creative leader is a good thing, because we want to do more things in the future, but in order to do that you've got to have the leadership. He fits into Microsoft Game Studios really well, and I think he's been pleasantly surprised coming from an organisation like EA. Whether he's working on Gears of War or being able to work on other ideas that we may ask him to lead, you can't have enough strong people, and that's how I look at it. He adds a tremendous amount to our senior management; there are a lot of people who know Kudo, have worked with Kudo, who want to work with Kudo.
Kikizo: Do you think that you can make Gears of War 2 as big a launch event as Halo 3 was last year?
Kim: No, that's a pretty lofty goal, I mean I wouldn't want to burden Gears with that kind of expectation. I think Gears is going to be huge, but Halo 3, like Grand Theft Auto, those are very unique. I love Gears of War, it's a great franchise for us and we're going to sell a lot of units. But there's still a little bit of difference I think in terms of the public perception of Halo, and Gears of War. In fact I was talking about this with some friends last night in my neighbourhood, you have a lot of parents who let their kids play Halo, even though they're not of age. And the kids, they all talk about playing Halo with their friends in school.
Kikizo: Well, Halo is harmless though, let's be honest - and Gears less so, in my view.
Kim: And there's my point - the fact that you have all these kids playing Halo lends itself very naturally to the kind of launch that we had last year, a big media event, I would say even more so than Grand Theft Auto, which has some content concerns.
Kikizo: One thing I am hoping that you can speak to, since I am a fan of Gotham - obviously the IP stays with you but Bizarre has moved on now, what do you think the future of that franchise might be?
Kim: That's a great question, you know, we have a great internal racing studio in Turn 10, the creators of Forza Motorsport. And our goal is to roll the studio so that they can do more creative execution within the racing space. So you can imagine a future where they would develop a new version of Project Gotham Racing. We don't have anything concrete there, and I do think that after four versions of PGR, it's really important for us to take a fresh creative approach to it and to really think about what we want the next version of PGR to be if we do that.
Kikizo: Sure. And one other studio I wanted to ask about is obviously Rare. We could go on all day about the history since its acquisition, and they have two new games to show now [Viva Piņata 2 and Banjo Kazooie 3]. But can you at least say if they have other stuff in development right now?
Kim: They have other stuff in development right now.
Kikizo: Well how many projects do they have on the go right now?
Kim: [Smiles] They have other stuff in development right now!
Kikizo: [laughs] OK then! Because I know from talking to Chris and Tim [Stamper] the day after the announcement in 2002, they did reel off a list of what IP was staying with them [versus Nintendo], some of which was exciting to me as a fan of Rare over the years. As an 'FYI', I would love to see a new Killer Instinct - and you don't have any decent firstparty fighting games...
Kim: Sure, sure. You are not the first person that has said that!
Kikizo: I guess when you have so many AAA titles it doesn't make sense to overexpose them at once. There are titles you are holding back on right now like Halo Wars and Alan Wake.
Kim: Yes, it's nice for us to have a pipeline of things, and there are some we're not talking about yet that I am pretty excited about as well, and it definitely gives us an opportunity to not have to rush things out. But you're right, the opposite is a terrible position, where you feel, "I've got to talk about everything!" even when it's years away. We've had our share of that too; I'm not saying we've not made that mistake, but I think, fortunately for us we're able to focus on things that we feel pretty concrete about. There's going to be questions about things like Halo Wars or Alan Wake, and I'll say we're not showing them today but I'm pretty confident you'll see that later this year and understand what they're doing and why they are taking their time, and why they weren't ready in May.
Kikizo: Do you think you might therefore show them at a possible X08, and showcase next year's line up as is traditional for that event?
Kim: I really hope we do. I like those events! It's great for us especially in Europe because we can get more European press. It's great to have people over to this event [in San Francisco] but we can fit so many more at those events.
Kikizo: Thanks for your time, Shane.
Don't pop your load over other interviews just yet; look out for our forthcoming exclusive, in-depth and revealing 1-1s with Tomonubu Itagaki, Peter Molyneux, Dennis Dyack, Kudo Tusunoda, as well as the creative minds behind Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts and Viva Piņata: Trouble in Paradise.