The rumors are no longer rumors. As learned this morning, Insomniac Games has signed a publishing deal with EA Partners to expand the once Sony-exclusive development house onto the Xbox 360 with a brand-new game. Why? How? What's next? I had a chance to speak with Insomniac CEO Ted Price and EA Partners VP of marketing Craig Rechenmacher yesterday about this landmark deal.
G4: Since it's the day after the Lost finale aired, we're actually going to talk about that for the next 10 minutes.
Ted Price: [laughs]
G4: I want to start with this fundamental question: why Electronic Arts?
Price: We decided to do a multiplatform title a while ago and we began looking around for publishers who have a global reach, who are multiplatform and have an expertise in marketing and all the distribution [connections] and all the things that we need help with as a developer. After talking to EAP [EA Partners], we found that we were really compatible in terms of our creative approach and our mutual focus on quality over quantity and certainly you can't argue with EAP's success over the last several years. It ended up being a great fit.
The other thing that's important is that EAP works with some of the most well-known independent developers in the world who own their own IP [intellectual property]. For us, that was also an important aspect of this deal -- to retain creative control of the intellectual property.
G4: You said this was a decision you made a while ago. Can you walk me through the process of how you came to the decision that you wanted to expand Insomniac's outreach to multiplatform?
Price: Yeah, we've had a very measure approach to growth over the last 16 years and we're now at the point where we have multiple teams working and we realize that we had an opportunity reach more players. Not just players on the PlayStation 3 but players on the Xbox 360, as well. We began laying plans for creating a multiplatform title and, as I said, it was a little while ago and we took things step-by-step and we ended up meeting with EAP and getting along great.
G4: Maintaining control of the IP is important to you. Why is that important? What have you learned from previous relationships where you haven't had full control?
Price: Well, for us, being able to control the IP means a lot of things. First, ownership of the IP has benefits in terms of being able to take it to other forms of media down the road. We like the idea of driving things creatively and internally, as an independent developer, it's something that gets our team really excited when everybody understands that we're driving the bus here. This is ours to take to new heights or drive off a cliff. In this case, we think we're gonna take it to new heights. [laughs] We're excited about it.
"This is ours to take to new heights or drive off a cliff. In this case, we think we're gonna take it to new heights"
G4: It puts a little more pressure on you guys. Before, you could offload certain things to a publisher. Are you going to feel more pressure now that everything falls to Insomniac?
Price: Just to be fair, over the years we have generated all of the ideas for our games here at Insomniac. Sony, our other partner, has been fantastic in terms of working with us. We maintained creative control when it comes to the practical aspects of development, but Sony does own the IP to Ratchet & Clank and to Resistance.
G4: What does this new partnership with your existing relationship with Sony and those two IPs, where are clearly beloved by a lot of fans?
Price: We still have a very strong commitment to Ratchet & Clank, to Resistance and, of course, to Sony. We'll continue making games with Sony, so this is something...our ability to expand to multiplatform doesn't affect our relationship with Sony.
G4: When I talked to you at DICE, something you wanted to maintain at Insomniac was having the smaller studio feel. You could have already expanded more if you wanted to. How does this affect that, trying to maintain that smaller studio mentality as you guys are clearly getting bigger and going to a larger audience?
Price: Well, we're not necessarily getting bigger. What we're doing is we're taking more time on our titles to make sure that we get it right, to make sure that we put the right amount of polish into each title and can deliver a great experience. That doesn't mean expanding significantly as a studio.
G4: This is being made in your Burbank studio, not North Carolina, right?
G4: I know you're not talking too much about the game itself yet, but what would you describe as the Insomniac touch? What are the fundamentals of an Insomniac game that we can come to expect with something new from the studio?
Price: [laughs] I gotta be careful here because I don't want to give away any details about the project. So, I'm gonna give you a fairly generic answer, which may not be useful. [laughs] Our goal, as always with our products, is to deliver a super-polished experience for players, something that will have a great story, makes 'em happy. Again, I have to stop there because then I'll start getting too specific.
G4: Was this multiplatform approach borne completely out of appealing to this Xbox audience, or is this reflective of Insomniac interested in Wii or iPhone, an expanded reach outside Xbox?
Price: For now, we're just focusing on PS3 and Xbox 360.
G4: Is that because what you guys for in terms of gameplay experiences require the extra horsepower?
Price: That's certainly one aspect of it, yeah.
G4: The timing of this announcement is just before E3. Is there a reason you wanted to get ahead of it now or is simply the deal is finally sealed, so you can start talking about it?
Price: No, you got it right. We did want to get ahead of it and make sure that we talked about it before any rumors started flying.
G4: Especially with EA Partners, we're seeing them collaborate with studios that want to control their IP. How prevalent do expect this be? How many studios can really demand that?
Price: I think it really depends on the developer and what the developer wants to do and the developer's track record. Craig can probably speak more to that than I can.
Craig Rechenmacher: I think we are seeing a shift towards IP ownership but it's the bigger studios that have the ability, have the pedigree, they're the ones that we're seeing really push for this IP ownership and I think you're going to see them taking their franchises into new gaming mediums and that's probably what predicates that IP ownership.
G4: From EA's perspective, how is the EAP relationship compared to one with EA? Theoretically, there could have been another deal where you were publishing this game and owned the rights.
Rechenmacher: You know, it's not as important to us. What's important for us is to work with world-class developers like Insomniac and our job is to help them take their IP to as many people as humanly possible and if we do our jobs right, they're gonna wanna work with us on that IP moving forward. Our job is to doing an incredible job. Sony set a pretty high bar, so we need to do a very good job on this next IP and hopefully that sets us up for future partnership with Insomniac.
G4: Are we going to hear about this game anytime soon or is announcing this partnership more about getting it all in the open and to temper expectations we'll see the game anytime soon?
Price: The latter.
"We've been working with Sony for a long time and we'll continue working with them"
G4: Is this a longterm partnership or one game?
Price: What we're talking about today is this particular deal, which is a one-game deal. But I will say our goal is to find partners that we can work with longterm and, as I mentioned before, we've been working with Sony for a long time and we'll continue working with them and it's great to find folks who have similar interests and similar approaches and we certainly feel that way about EA right now.
Rechenmacher: I think we're thrilled to be working with Insomniac and we're off to a great start. Our goal is in EA Partners is that we have such a great relationship and such a great partnership and really help take this title to the masses that we earn the right to future business with Insomniac.
G4: To wrap up, Insomniac inspires a rabid fan base. To a lot of fans, change isn't always good even though change should be and can be good. What is the message of this to Insomniac fans, to the ones who might be be saying "well, we've liked Insomniac how they are with Sony. Why does it need to change?"
Price: [laughs] Well, I hope they're excited about a brand-new franchise on the PlayStation 3. I know there are often wars between the Xbox 360 fans and the PlayStation 3 fans. We'd like to reassure the folks who have been loyal to us and to our PS3 games that we will be making more PS3 games, including this one, and they should be prepared for a fantastic experience.
G4: Any chance we'll hear about this at E3?
Price: No. We won't be talking about it at E3.