Q&A: Monolith CEO Samantha Ryan

Longtime Monolith leader Samantha Ryan checks in on what the acquisition by Warner Bros. means for the crew in Kirkland.

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Yesterday, Warner Bros. exercised an option it had to purchase Monolith Productions, the developer of such games as No One Lives Forever, Tron 2.0, and the upcoming PC game F.E.A.R and MMORPG The Matrix Online.

GameSpot spoke with Monolith president and CEO Samantha Ryan just hours after the news was announced and asked her what is now in store for the fast-growing studio that already has four projects on its docket.

GameSpot: Where is the upside for Monolith in this deal? How do you folks benefit?

Samantha Ryan: I think there’s a lot of future potential for Monolith in working with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. For one thing, they have one of the most extensive libraries of IP in the world. It will be pretty exciting to have access to that. In addition, they’ve made it very clear that they want Monolith to continue to create original franchises that can transfer from the game space into film, TV, comic books--whatever it might happen to be. So the combination of access to wonderful licensed properties as well as the great ability to create original franchises--well, you can’t beat that combination.

GS: Will Warner Bros.' property take precedence over Monolith's original ideas or vice versa?

SR: I wouldn’t say philosophically one takes precedence over the other. It purely depends on the individual product. Both options are exciting for very different reasons. I think it’s really satisfying when you can do both and enjoy the good side of both.

GS: And what about resources? Now that you’re owned by Warner Bros., do you have greater resources to tap? As a result, do you see Monolith growing and more development taking place?

SR: We currently have four projects in development, two of which are public knowledge and two of which have not yet been publicly announced. We have 150 employees, and our goal is to make great games. So in the future, as part of Warner Bros., that goal doesn’t change. Will we grow? It’s hard to say. We may. We will do whatever is best for the company, and we will make sure that we do whatever is best for us to continue to make great games.

GS: Do you already have publishing partners for those two unannounced properties?

SR: Yes. And it’s worth noting that Monolith plans to continue to work with other partners besides Warner Bros. There will be no change in the status of F.E.A.R., which is a project we currently have in development with Vivendi. And there should be no fears that that project is going away. We are superexcited about the game launching next year.

GS: What was the reaction from the staff when they heard the news?

SR: The reaction by Monolith staff has been really positive. It’s been wonderful. A large contingent of people from Warner Bros. flew up to be with us today, and they are a great group. We’ve been working with them for a while now on The Matrix Online, and we’ve gotten to know them very well. So, this purchase for many of our employees feels like a very natural transition.

GS: How will this development change Monolith in terms of structure?

SR: Monolith will continue to operate the same as we always have. I will retain my position, which is president/CEO. There will be no management changes, although I will now report to Jason Hall at Warner Bros.--which is ironic since I used to report to Jason back when he worked at Monolith.

GS: Will you be staying with the core group?

SR: Yes, I will remain ensconced at Monolith as I am now. Again, there are no plans for any changes in Monolith’s management. I’ll run the day-to-day business. I have my talented executive team, and no one will be moving down to Los Angeles. We want to stay headquartered in little bitty Kirkland.

GS: Are you on the lookout for additional development talent?

SR: Well, yes. Monolith has been doing a lot of hiring in the past year, and I would suggest that you have people check our Web site where all of our job openings are posted. But we are a high-demand developer, and every year projects get bigger and bigger, so we need to meet those needs in order to deliver Triple-A-quality games.

GS: What sort of progress is being made on The Matrix Online?

SR: The Matrix Online is going really well. It’s been a huge development effort; the team is very large. It’s a very complex game, but we’re really excited with the progress that we’ve made, and there have been people that have started in the beta, and we’ll be expanding that in the next few months.

GS: A closed beta...

SR: Right now it is a very closed beta, but it will definitely be opening up in the future months.

GS: Samantha, thanks so much.

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