A2M on slipping Wet to Bethesda - Q&A
Studio head Denis Lacasse details his company's search for a publisher following split from Activision, staying true to risque IP.
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Activision Publishing picked up a surprisingly few number of Vivendi Games and Sierra Entertainment's product portfolios when the two companies merged in July 2008. While much of Vivendi's casual lineup, such as Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Ice Age, were deemed safe bets, a ranging list of more adult-oriented games were dubbed a poor fit, including Brutal Legend, Ghostbusters, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, World in Conflict, and 50 Cent Blood on the Sand.
Within a few months, nearly all of the high-profile Activision Blizzard castaways had been picked up by other publishers--that is, save for one outlier: Artificial Mind and Movement's Wet. A stylized, story-oriented third-person shooter, Wet quickly became known for its highly suggestive title, nubile heroine, and "Kill Bill meets Tomb Raider meets Prince of Persia" aesthetic.
Last week, Wet washed up on firmer ground, when A2M and Fallout 3 publisher Bethesda Softworks announced a publishing deal that would see the game's release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this fall. Speaking with GameSpot recently, A2M studio head Denis Lacasse offered some inside perspective on A2M's road to landing the deal.
"Activision informed us that they would not pursue the publishing of Wet during the summer of 2008," Lacasse said. "They took the decision to keep specific brands and games based on their publishing objectives. Our game and many others did not fit with their strategy."
However, even after Activision made the decision to step away from Wet, Lacasse noted that the publisher continued to support development on the project, meaning A2M was free to continue development on the game. He went on to say that while Activision initially took the lead in finding a new publisher for the project, A2M decided it would be better served to handle negotiations directly.
"Initially Activision Blizzard pitched our game to other publishers," he said, continuing, "but we felt strongly about our game so we quickly made a decision to buy back our IP." According to Lacasse, A2M picked up the rights to Wet in the fall of 2008 and from there began approaching publishers to secure a deal. Unfortunately, a self-destructing global economy meant many publishers were less than enthusiastic about taking chances on an unproven original property.
"The economy impacted everyone," Lacasse said. "Some games were canceled, some studios shut down. The publishing community became very cautious when it came to signing new games and they wanted to wait and see how the industry would perform during the holidays."
Bethesda, though, was different, according to Lacasse, as the publisher was "looking for an opportunity and new content to augment their portfolio. ... Bethesda manifested interest very quickly and we felt it was a beneficial partnership for both companies. We were looking for a partner that believed and shared the same vision for the game and they were looking for additional content to augment their existing portfolio of games."
"We see Bethesda as more than just a distributor; we see them as partners," he continued. "Their marketing and distribution teams are filled with highly talented and passionate people, and we know they'll do a great job. We also benefit from the great deal of experience and knowledge from their production team. It has been great to work with them."
Of note, Lacasse also affirmed that, despite Wet's provocative nature, no significant changes were made to appease publishers following its break from Activision Blizzard. According to the studio head, any feedback that the publishing community offered during this period was addressed in the game "where it made sense" and ultimately "improved the game."
"Our game is really about style and over-the-top action/universe," he said. "We are trying to bring to the game space a fresh style and unique genre, combined with innovative game mechanics, in a package that is daring and a lot of fun. We always tried to make Wet market-friendly, which in turn makes it publisher-friendly because it will sell. We've always believed that the gamers out there are ready for a fresh experience like Wet provides."
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