Ken Levine And Todd Howard On Whether Hardcore Gamers Should Fear The Wii [Transcript]

For our readers in Canada and the U.K. who are unable to watch our region-blocked videos (sorry!), we’ve transcribed part of the Vs. Mode Live panel that took place at New York Comic Con. Here’s 2K Boston’s Ken Levine and Bethesda’s Todd Howard talking about the Wii.


Multiplayer blog editor Stephen Totilo: I wanted to ask you guys about the world’s favorite video game console: the Wii. Everybody loves the Wii, right? [a few audience members applaud] Mixed reactions to the Wii, and some negative reactions to the Wii among a lot of hardcore gamers. The games we’ve been talking about that you created were obviously not on the Wii, and they are both great games. They’re also championed by a lot of gamers who I think are feeling a lot of anxiety about the onset of the Wii and how more and more publishers are developing for the Wii. What’s your take on whether hardcore gamers should feel anxiety about the Wii, and as developers of games that didn’t go on to that console, how do you look at that system for yourselves in your own interests?

Bethesda’s Todd Howard: I mean, this will sound bad, like I’m not threatened by the Wii because unfortunately, I actually view it like I view Teddy Ruxpin or Cabbage Patch Kids [laughs] — it’s a toy. [audience laughs] It’s a great toy. I think Nintendo does really amazing things on it, but there’s a toy value. When you talk about video games to people who don’t play a lot of games, I think they break into two camps: they think of the Wii, if they’re parents and their kids have one, and that’s a kid’s toy. And then maybe they have friends or an older teenager, twenty-something, who plays Xbox 360 and that’s for evil kill-fests. I don’t think there’s a lot of middle ground right now, so the kind of games we make…

Newsweel’s N’Gai Croal: Evil kill-fests?

Howard: Well, I think “Fallout” is more than an evil kill-fest but it’s good at that thing as well. The kind of games we make, we view as big entertainment, and the 360 and the PS3 are better for that. Our company also has a division that makes Wii games. They’re doing one called “Medieval Games,” it’s a really, really cool idea. You get to joust and sword fight and do archery and all those kind of things, but there’s definitely a toy value to it as opposed to story arc entertainment.

Croal: I think you’re right, that the Wii is Teddy Ruxpin or Cabbage Patch, but what does it say…

Howard: That’s going to come back to me…

Croal: No, no! At least you didn’t say it was two GameCubes duct-taped together. But when you look at that, what does it mean for the month of November alone, Teddy Ruxpin [the Wii] outsold the two super computers and all the other hardware by itself. What does that say about the state of the audience?

Howard: Well, that was my point. I like the Wii, but I view it as if Teddy Ruxpin also sold well. I don’t view that as a threat to what we’re doing. I view it as two completely different things.

Croal: I don’t mean so much as a threat. If large swathes of the audience, if the dominant console, the effective lead platform of this generation, is the Wii — I mean, you’re doing really well, but a lot of your peers are laying people off, or going out of business, or getting acquired and that kind of stuff, I mean what does that say for high-end gaming and its prospects of the future? If big chunks of the audience are going in a completely different direction?

2K Boston’s Ken Levine: I don’t want to speak for Todd, but I think he might feel the same way. If you’re going to make a big game, and spend years of your life on it, it has to be the thing you want to make. You better be pretty sure that that is what you want to spend three years of your life on. And so I really don’t even think about it. Like if they’re saying it was appropriate for that platform, or saying it’s appropriate for the DS or the PSP, then I’d spend three years making that game. But it’s not like I’m a 360 guy or I’m a PS3 guy; I’m a game developer. we talk, the team sits around and talk about what we want to do and we come up with something we all agree on and we think is a cool thing, and we make that. Last time it was PS3, 360, and PC, and next time maybe it’ll be something else.

But if it makes you passionate — I was just up looking at the “GTA” DS game, and you can tell those guys are passionate about making that game because it’s just like nothing you’ve seen on the DS. I’m not just being a company man here, it’s going to come out and it’s going to be awesome. Because they looked at that platform, but they weren’t like “Oh God. Are we going to make this game on the DS? Oh Jesus.” They wanted to make that product, and they had a passion for it, and I think that’s what drives you.

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