Last month, Interplay CEO Brian Fargo revealed that he had resigned from the company he founded almost 20 years ago. The move was reportedly due to tensions between Fargo and Titus Interactive, the company that acquired majority control of Interplay last August. GameSpot caught up with Fargo to discuss his reasons for leaving, what he would have done differently, the things he is most proud of during his time at Interplay, and his plans for the future.
GameSpot: Thanks for talking with us. Can you tell us briefly about your reasons for leaving Interplay? How long have you been planning your departure?
Brian Fargo: I don't think it comes as a surprise that the last three to four years have been tough and certainly not fun. Somewhere along the line I ended up doing purely executive and financial management functions with very little creative, design, talent scouting, marketing, or any other work I enjoy. That said, I accepted the role I was thrust into and managed to lower the bank debt from $40 million to almost zero while still managing to maintain quality and ship some phenomenal games like Sacrifice, Baldur's Gate, Fallout, and so on. After coming very close to securing several deals for the acquisition of the company in early 2001, only to see them fail due to too many interests and then having a financing deal go sideways after Titus announced its intent to take over, I knew it was time to go.
GS: What can you tell us about the relationship between Interplay and Titus? Did your relationship with Titus factor in to your resignation?
BF: I helped to create a very strong sense of corporate ideology at Interplay that fostered one of the brightest, hardest working, and most fun-loving groups of people in the business. I think you would hear the same things from people who work there now or worked there in the past. Titus has a very different ideology of management that was not compatible with mine, which quickly put me into the "life's too short category."
GS: How have the new console game systems affected Interplay?
BF: Well, the new console systems will have a profoundly positive effect as Interplay starts to release the next-generation console games that have been in the works for years. As for the console business in general, we were hurt as the console business took away from the PC business and the categories inside the PC business hardened up into fewer select categories. Interplay was deriving 80 percent of its sales from the PC business, while most companies, and certainly the profitable ones, were the complete inverse of that, with 80 percent of their business in the console market. We did these great PC games but ended up being the tallest midget.
GS: What can you tell us about the BioWare lawsuit?
BF: It seems like it is settled at this point, and I really wasn't involved with that much.
GS: Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?
BF: From a market perspective, I would have clearly moved onto the console platforms much faster than we did. We moved slowly to change--our approach being influenced by a background of over a decade of straight profits from the PC. The cheese didn't just move, it teleported. And, organizationally, I would have focused on writing down our corporate ideology and building programs to support it. While we had great instinctive ideas about what made an Interplay person, we grew fast and ended up with people in the company who didn't fit. One of the bigger things I learned in management is that it's better to have no person doing a job than the wrong person. Because if no one is in the position, I know the job isn't being done, instead of thinking it is because there's a warm body in the chair. It's all been a wonderful learning experience that will help shape the next great company.
GS: Can you say anything about reports that Interplay is planning to take legal action against you?
BF: The whole thing is absurd and insulting. But I guess I should be flattered that just the idea of me competing [with Interplay] would elicit the "inquiry into my solicitation." It's sad that this negative approach needs to even exist. When I left the company I sat down with [current Interplay CEO] Herve Caen and made it clear that I wanted no severance, no bonus, and no problems. I had just gotten married and wanted to relax and think about my next venture. I was asked to remain on and work from home to help through the transition issues and some deal they were working on. I was happy to do so, and after four months, it was time to resign and start working on something else. But before I could meet with a single investor or publisher, Herve and company decided to threaten me with the investigations into my solicitation. The only job I have for anyone right now is to mow my lawn.
GS: What are you most proud of when you look back on your time at Interplay?
BF: I am most proud of the people of Interplay and its top development talent, helping to shape the industry from hobbyists to mainstream with great games, my reputation within the industry of working hard and being ethical, and the fostering of those small unknown development groups like Blizzard (Silicon and Synapse at the time), BioWare, Parralax, Gray Matter (Xatrix back then), and Treyarch, to name a few.
GS: Can you tell us about your plans for the future? Do you plan to start another game company or join an existing one?
BF: I'll definitely be back in the industry in a major way, but I'll save the details for later. I'm excited to build a great company again. As for the type of game, I know the RPG category pretty cold, so there could be something in that genre, but who knows...
GS: Thanks for your time, Brian, and good luck.