Yesterday, Gathering of Developers cofounders Harry Miller and Mike Wilson unveiled their latest publishing venture, the suggestively named Gamecock. The new publisher also announced its first five games, one of which was Wideload Games' followup to Stubbs the Zombie, the zoological party game Hail to the Chimp.
Today, Wideload founder and CEO Alex Seropian spoke with GameSpot about the decision to go with Gamecock for his company's next game. Along the way he discusses the developer-publisher relationship in the industry, how both Wideload and Gamecock are benefiting from outsourcing grunt work, and gives ever-so vague an idea of what to expect from Hail to the Chimp.
GameSpot: First off, the name Hail to the Chimp has some political implications, but the premise of an animal kingdom party game could be entirely apolitical. Should gamers expect any sort of satire or political commentary in the game?
Alex Seropian: Definitely expect satire. We don't have that much info to give out about the game right now. The little that we have is that it's a party game and the characters are different animals in the animal kingdom and they're all fighting to become the next king of the animals. That in itself is a political process as seen through our cockeyed glasses.
GS: Can you say if it'll be any more family friendly than Stubbs the Zombie?
AS: Oh yeah, sure. It will be.
GS: Gathering of Developers had problems with financing and less-than-ideal relationships with some of its developers before being folded into Take-Two. What convinced you to sign on with Harry Miller and Michael Wilson on their new publishing venture?
AS: Mike and I have our own history that goes back to those days. Gathering and Bungie [which Seropian also founded] both were distributing games through Take-Two, so we were kind of bastard stepchildren. But we talked a lot back then about potentially working together on a project but the timing and our various scenarios never synced up until this year.
There's a bunch of stuff about what they're doing that's very appealing to us. The fact that they're a nontraditional publisher--they're not a giant public company that's going to exert a lot of creative leverage over us--is nice, and the fact that their whole MO is that they're developer friendly, meaning we have a lot of control over the creativity of our games, is really appealing to us. And obviously, owning the intellectual property is very appealing to us.
GS: Gamecock outsources their publishing duties as much as possible, much in the same way that Wideload outsources its development. Are there any specific issues you expect to arise from that, or any specific advantages that gives them above and beyond what Stubbs the Zombie publisher Aspyr did?
AS: You're right, we kind of have similar theories on how to execute on stuff. One of the things that's really cool about that is you can partner up with people that are really, really good at doing something specific. You don't always have that capacity in-house.
When you say they outsource their publishing or we outsource our development, it's important to be careful about those words and understand that when we outsource our development, we're still the creative force behind the game. We design the game. We put everything together. It is our game. We leverage people outside our walls to do some of that work and they're doing the same thing. From my perspective, it's a huge advantage that they can go out and have people that have a lot of connections and a lot of experience on the PR side and the distribution side doing that for them.
GS: Do you have any concerns about getting sufficient distribution when you're working with a partner that the retail chains don't know as well as they know EA or Activision?
AS: If you just look at the words to that sentence, the answer would almost have to be "Yes." But if you put the words "Mike Wilson" and "Harry Miller" in it, I think a lot of those concerns go away. Those guys have a reputation and they're really good at getting noticed and making a lot of noise. That's part of the reason we're doing this game with them, too.
GS: You said that you're retaining the IP rights to Hail to the Chimp, and Gamecock's Harry Miller told us his company retains the sequel rights to the games they publish. Is this the best deal an independent studio can get in the industry today? Are there any traditional publishers open to that idea?
AS: There's no cookie-cutter deal in our business. Most publishers have some kind of standard boilerplate contract they pull out, but as with everything in life, it's all negotiable. A lot of it just boils down to leverage and opportunity. Where Gamecock is trying to differentiate themselves is how they manage their relationships with developers. From my perspective, that's a huge differentiator and a great opportunity.
Is this the best deal you can get in the industry? It starts as that, but I don't see any reason why this wouldn't catch on elsewhere.
GS: So we saw the trademark applications for Founding Fighters and Cyclone...
AS: [laughs] Yeah, you outed us on Hail to the Chimp, you son of a... I even ignored your e-mail too. I thought that would work but it totally didn't.
GS: Well, you know... Any comment on when we'll hear more about these projects?
AS: What projects?
GS: Fair enough.