2K talks Borderlands launch, BioShock 2 delay

Publisher president Christoph Hartmann explains why he's not afraid to launch a new intellectual property in the thick of this year's fourth quarter; new trailer inside.

2K Games' upcoming Borderlands faces some stiff competition at retail this holiday season. When the Gearbox Software-developed "role-playing shooter" launches October 20 in North America, it won't have to worry about other titles occupying the exact same genre niche. However, it still needs to stand out from a crowd of high-profile titles in established franchises, such as Halo: ODST, Assassin's Creed 2, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and New Super Mario Bros.

Despite that assortment of big-name offerings across all the consoles, 2K Games president Christoph Hartmann told GameSpot the field of contenders is actually light compared to the last stretch of 2008. The executive also touched on the difficulties of launching new intellectual property in the game industry, the decision to switch up Borderlands' art style, and how 2K Games is like an apple tree.

GameSpot: Any particular reasoning for that release window?

Christoph Hartmann: Holidays are a great window for great titles. I don't think we have to be afraid of competition or shy of what's out there. And we believe in the game. It could be one of the big surprises of the year. And by the way, I think this holiday season is a little bit lighter in triple-A games than last year. It's actually a good holiday to put something out.

GS: What are the advantages and drawbacks to launching a new IP in the holiday quarter when the new release shelves are clogged with hit sequels?

CH: There's always risk and opportunity. The risk is you have a hard time standing out against established IP. The opportunity is you have a lot of traffic here, and it can be a much bigger product at retail than it would be otherwise. And there's a lot of core gamers out there who buy more than one game [during the holidays] so it doesn't mean you have to beat the number one game. You could be the number two game and still have tremendous success.

Obviously, that's backed up by our instinct, but there's also a lot of data around that. If you hit a certain quality bar, it really doesn't matter what season you launch.

GS: There have been lots of new IP launches in the last year that met with varying degrees of success: Assassin's Creed, BioShock, Mirror's Edge, Army of Two, Dead Space. What lessons did you learn from those games? Do you think of launching new IP in a different way than three or four years ago?

CH: Well, three or four years ago, we were still in the old generation [of systems], so it was a totally different ballgame. When you say "launched," it sounds like the last month of the production schedule, but for us, it starts much earlier. We always want to be the leaders in innovation because it's not enough to simply take the biggest budget and go out and try to conquer the market with it.

Look at BioShock. Many people would never have done a game like BioShock. We were willing to do it, and it worked. It's the same with Borderlands. There's been a lot of discussion about the [change in] art style. Ultimately, it's a risk we took, but the press loves it, and when the press loves it, we assume the consumers will love it. Look at [Borderland's] RPG element within a shooter. Two years ago when we talked about it, people didn't like it. Now it resonates with people.

I think all that leads to our launch strategy. Basically, what's in the game is going to be the strategy. It means getting the press on your side, making them excited, showing innovation, and getting the consumer excited about trying something new. That's how we build an IP. I don't believe just creating a lot of noise [and not] fulfilling your promise will do anything good for you. I have seen titles with a lot of noise that don't do anything, simply because they didn't resonate with people.

GS: You mentioned the switch in Borderlands' art style as something of a controversial choice, even though it was a new franchise that didn't yet have an established art style. Is that the sort of change in development you could only do because this is a new IP?

CH: You can do any sort of change at any time. It just always comes with a price. Look at the lessons we learned from BioShock. BioShock portrayed a very unique atmosphere, when you look at the water and the rest of Rapture. It's all about emotions.

A good game needs amazing gameplay that's intriguing and pulls you in. It also needs a great, unique atmosphere so that when you stop playing the game, you still have the emotions, like with a movie. We want you to be at a point where you hear a song that's in the game and all those emotions from the game come back to you. And that means far more than the gameplay.

Borderlands developers know nothing lightens up the holidays like a dude on fire.

Look at Borderlands. Gearbox created its own universe, with open space, some insides. It didn't immediately have a unique look like [BioShock's] water elements, but what the art does is give it a lot of uniqueness. And it works. Look at movies, like the graphic novel look of 300. People were skeptical, but it's one of my favorite movies. It looks very different to what's out there, but if it were just a standard movie, it wouldn't have worked, maybe.

GS: Will Borderlands have downloadable content?

CH: Yes. I think nowadays it's standard to have DLC. But we're not ready to reveal what is planned.

GS: You mentioned this holiday season may be a little light on titles.

CH: Not light; but it's maybe not as heavy as last year.

GS: Part of that is of Take-Two's own making, with BioShock 2, Mafia II, and Red Dead Redemption being delayed, but there are a lot of publishers that seem more willing to push their holiday games out into the early part of the following year. Is the holiday release window less important than it once was?

CH: I think it has nothing to do with the release window. It's a great window, and everyone knows it. It's that the quality bar goes higher and higher. Ultimately, to be commercially successful, you need a triple-A product. And everyone knows pushing a product out the door just isn't going to get you there, so they're going to do the right thing.

The great thing for the consumer is that normally when they pick up a game from the big publishers, they know they're going to get a quality, triple-A product. And that's a huge improvement from the last generation where they maybe didn't have that guarantee.

GS: Are you looking at the late 2009-early 2010 lineup as a turning point in Take-Two growing beyond its reliance on Grand Theft Auto?

CH: I can't really talk for Take-Two since I'm the president of 2K. But let's put it this way. Three or four years ago, we had a little seed. We put it out in the field and wanted to grow an apple tree. We had two nice apples there with The Darkness and BioShock. Then there was the apple called Civilization, which was a little bit of an import. But now the tree's going to blossom. It's going to have more and more fruits, and I think you'll see that. Borderlands is going to be one of those perfect apples on there, then you've got BioShock 2 and Mafia II coming. And then there are a few unannounced games, I'm not going to tell you about that perfectly fit into there.

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Discussion

173 comments
alien-killa
alien-killa

Why must I wait any longer for Bioshock 2 . Whyyy!!

Massacher
Massacher

"Look at [Borderland's] RPG element within a shooter. Two years ago when we talked about it, people didn't like it. Now it resonates with people. " nothing new here, Deus Ex did it back in 2000. still, looking forward to this game, i hope it does well.

nomorepain4u
nomorepain4u

this game looks okay but the only problem i have is that the main character is something that you killed countless times in the first so it might make you feel weak. plus the multiplayer will take time away from making a great campaign im guessing 8.3 out of 10 [multiplayer a useless addition]

newbreed20
newbreed20

this game is sick graphics r fatal i am so getting this game oh!! and bring on the downloadable content

perrin45
perrin45

Jury's out on the gameplay, but graphics wise, christ can you anime/cartoon types stick with making movies or tv shows instead of game art design, please? No offense to those that like those type of graphics but im tired of stylised graphics for mmos though cell shaded graphics perhaps isnt used as often. Maybe if the game just looked mainstream and "samey" beforehand why not improve or change the gameplay rather then simply making it samey, yet ugly at the same time?

kargion
kargion

One of the best games of this year. Can't wait. The art style they went with is sick!!!!

usedaw
usedaw

My favorite part is the 87 BAZZILION GUNS!!!!!!!

usedaw
usedaw

.... Barklikeadog if all you do is criticize a games graphics and nothing else you will start missing out on some great games i bet your a two year old with the mind of a squirrel with such decisions like that nut or the other nut??????? Grow up.

BarkLikeADog
BarkLikeADog

I dont like this game already. Looks like it was made from the team fortress 2 engine and then they decided that fallout 3 had a good thing goin so they better make it a big game. Edit: What in gods name is that bioshock delay doing there. Delaying it for this game? My god 2k, what have you done?

Galinoth
Galinoth

I am pretty pumped about this game. More big worlds to explore and blow up!

wraithbladeuk
wraithbladeuk

Hmmmmm, Demo would sell it for me. Can't make up my mind. Also, what happened to Huxley? Wasn't that supposed to be the MMO shooter?

Gammit10
Gammit10

I'm looking forward to this game, but I'm still not convinced. I hope there's a demo.

IXIWhistIXI
IXIWhistIXI

Online RPG shooters haven't done so well in the past, but this one looks like it might work out pretty well. It doesn't seem to be bringing much new to the table since lately we've all seen our share of coop shooters however it looks like the rpg elements will just simply make it addictive and keep you playing for quite some time. The only problem I see the game having is difficulty levels. I see most of the challenge coming from the fact that your gun is a piece of crap not because of amazing gameplay and level design. Hopefully they've found a way to overcome this. (main thing would be trying to reduce the amount of playerskill weapon stats can make up for). I have high hopes for the game and I'm crossing my fingers that the problems that have plagued all action games that try to put in rpg elements were recognized while making the game and hopefully were fixed with clever systems.

ArchiKiller
ArchiKiller

Love the art style and the whole idea of a rpg shooter =D

madborn
madborn

Looks and sounds great game! I do I like the combination of FPS and RPG.i hope be as good as Stalker Clear SKY! Way, Do you know who sings the song? I love it! sorry for my bad ENG!

andyclass50
andyclass50

RPG and FPS have always been a great combination imo. I love levelling "crap" up and progressing differently to everyone else or even to myself on another playthrough. FO3 may be a bit rigid on the FPS gameplay side of things, but it certainly is an RPS, I rarely used VATs as it had little benefit for weapons such as the Laser Rifle which have zero spread. Deus Ex is also an RPS (maybe not Deus Ex 2 though since they stripped almost all RPG elements from it). Borderlands looks like it has great potential, should be a fun game.

Pyromaniac32
Pyromaniac32

I wouldn't call Fallout 3 a RPS, since it's focused on more tactical fighting (via VATS) and melee or unarmed combat. In Borderlands, I think we can expect a more actiony style of play, like Halo or Killzone.

Pyromaniac32
Pyromaniac32

I personally love the new graphical style. It reminds me of a cross between Bioshock and Okami. And that Mikey Neumann guy is awesome!

PCbadjer
PCbadjer

I haven't played Fallout 3 yet and have been waiting for the game of the year edition. Maybe pick this up if I have any money left. Looks kinda weird though. Coop looks kinda neat. Wish this was Brute Force 2. I miss playing that game for some reason.

matt_teh_gamuh
matt_teh_gamuh

and btw if you want a fps rpg, fallout 3 is somewhat that.

matt_teh_gamuh
matt_teh_gamuh

whoa whoa whoa, hold the phone... over one million guns? gotta get this. and the reporter needs to talk into the mike, i had to turn the volume up everytime he talked.

jin-ro
jin-ro

looks really awesome !!!!!!! cant wait ....

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

@Sandallman, maybe English isn't his first language? Get a little empathy from somewhere,will you?!

shawnyboy12
shawnyboy12

It looks pretty good. It doesn't seem as awesome as it first did but I'll probably be picking this up to play with my friends over LIVE anyway. It looks like its all about grinding, I really hope the story aspect shines in this game.

nord1c
nord1c

It's about time for a FPS to go RPG. Still, if I had a crystal ball, I bet it would tell me that the co-op will be awesome and that PvP will be awkward, unbalanced and frustrating. Let's wait for the 'hands-on reviews' and should my imaginary crystal ball be off, I'll be all the merrier and buy this ambitious little sucker.

Sandallman
Sandallman

LOL@ Craze maniac, learn correct grammer mate. I dont see how this will fail, its just one of those games that i can expect to be good.

valientman
valientman

WEAK GAME? Granted that was an absolutely horrible trailer the game is still gonna be awesome. I mean four player co-op rpg first person shooter. Can it really go wrong? I guess it would be lame without friends but me and 3 of my buds are already putting this down as a must buy

Craze_Maniac
Craze_Maniac

i not really satisfy with the graphics ..a little bit of disappointment..

bennae66
bennae66

im willing to wait it out. personally i am very curious about this one. i guess if you just want a mindless run and gun shooter, any game with even 'remote' rpg elements wont do it for you. are the youth of today so shallow? give me more meat in my games. thats what i want. not photorealistic visuals (well they are nice) but solid gameplay. depth and yes, RPG ELEMENTS!

FLiPMaSTa1
FLiPMaSTa1

people are stupid...this game looks str8 up mad fun.....and that robot dancing deserves a freakin award!...or give him some guns baby!

Bloodthirsty23
Bloodthirsty23

Yeah,this game seems to be really weak,BUT,we must wait to see.

david_joseph93
david_joseph93

I like the game, But I thought it was gonna be more Realistic, don't like the Experience Pop and Level Up too. If the Models where to be realistic and overall a more realistic Art Setting I would Love This Game! But I just have to play it to see if its that Good.

syler4815162342
syler4815162342

First i saw this game i didn't like it but when i saw the video i like the mode.it's look like fallout3 and red faction guerrilla

3odai
3odai

WTF !!!!!!!! 87 bazzilion???!!!!!!!! really?

Snicker-Man
Snicker-Man

it looks really cool i love playing rpg shooting games like fallout

ARRunner
ARRunner

Looks like this game will be shaping up to be really good, ill pick it up. But IMO i reckon they should have made the release date in the early days of October so i wont clash as much with MW2. i can just see MW2 selling ALOT of copies.

Cicatraz_ESP
Cicatraz_ESP

Borderlands is going to own soooo much more than Bioshock 2 and alot of other top profile games coming out this year.

elaia
elaia

this game cant be bad.it has many elements i would like to see in a fps like the lvl thing,the art-style graphics,nice environments to see... only thing could ruin it would be a dumb AI

gameking5000
gameking5000

The hype of their games is very limited to a selection of games and since 2K Games only publishes very few hits (Bioshock, Civilisation etc.)

BadMonk
BadMonk

looks awesome :D more RP FPS titles all the better imo!! even titles like COD 4 etc have some sort of basic RPG elements like unlocking stuff, leveling up, getting better gear, XP etc which in my mind makes for a more rewarding and fun experience people like to see that they are achieving things in a game, getting that sort after weapon or armor, levelling up so an area that was not possible before due to a low level is now doable, being able to take on an enemy with better weapons etc etc love games like this :)

snake289
snake289

This game deserves more hype IMO.

airsoftmanic
airsoftmanic

this is a game i just have to have. ive been a fan of the RPGFPS for a while now as i always liked the customising of your own weapons to suite your own playing style. whats the point of just having a standard weapon with no unlocks and such? i see that as a waste. plus this and COD:MW2 are literally going to be the only games i buy this year so im not exactly stretched for choice.