Chris Taylor: Arguing Over Business Models Is Silly

Gas Powered Games CEO says gamers should support what they love and not get caught up in the noise; believes $50 is too much for a PC game.



Gas Powered Games founder and CEO Chris Taylor is fed up with gamers' eagerness to argue over business models. The longtime game designer who recently bet everything he has ever worked for on a new RPG/RTS hybrid for PC called Wild Man told GameSpot recently that gamers should simply support what they love and not let the rest rattle them.

Chris Taylor.
Chris Taylor.

"What's interesting about any model is that if you don't like it, you shouldn't play it. If you like free-to-play games or Zynga games, then play them. If you hate them, if you want to kill them, then don't play their f**king games," Taylor said. "When did consumer vote with your dollar ever stop being part of real life? What happened to common sense?"

Taylor said gamers shouldn't make decisions for other gamers, who in many instances have different interests. He likened the situation to that of him walking into a department store and arguing about women's underwear.

"I love how we can project ourselves as consumers into the shoes of a consumer that we are not and make decisions for that person. I don't walk into Target and walk through the ladies' underwear section and say 'I can't believe this lace…oh my God' and pitch a fit on the floor and they have to scoop me up and haul me out. And the security would say, 'What's wrong with that man?' 'Well, he's really upset about ladies' underwear.'"

"The point is I really see that happening in games. I see people getting really upset about [business] models that they don't like and my whole thing is: Why care? Unless you think it's going to sweep the entire business. But consumers get to vote with their dollars and they will win. Consumers will win. They will clear the path and the water runs downhill and it follows the shortest path to the ocean. The world that we're going to be living in in the next ten years is a world that will be decided by the dollars spent from all the gamers in the world."

Taylor is an outspoken and opinionated person. Not only did he share his thoughts about arguing over business models, but he also explained why he thinks Minecraft's charm is in its low-end graphics, why $50 is too much for a PC game, and why he paid $3 an episode to watch The Walking Dead.

Ed. Note: This interview was conducted prior to the Wild Man Kickstarter campaign going live and the ensuing substantial layoffs at Gas Powered Games. Around 40 developers were let go on Friday and Taylor has discussed terminating the Kickstarter effort altogether. At press time, the fund stands at $296,109 pledged (26 percent) from 5,652 backers with 24 days remaining.

On whether or not established game developers should use Kickstarter:

"Well, if you don't think they should, then don't fund their games. Give someone else your money."

On the possibility of Wild Man being funded by a traditional publisher:

"I brought it up very subtly to at least one publisher and I can almost say two, and the initial response I got was, you could just tell that wasn't where their head was at. When I talk about traditional publishers, you can guess who they are, and the reality is they are just not interested. And they are so heads-down right now; there is so much concern over the console business, when the next generation [of consoles] will come about, how that's gonna go, what's happening at retail. Their head is just a million miles away from saying 'Oh yeah, let's jump in and explore some cool s**t on the PC.'"

"[Kickstarter] is so much bigger than Tim Schafer raising money to make an adventure game. That was just the tip of the iceberg. "

"Someone might have said we'll publish it. But here's the secret: I don't want them to. There's a will inside me that's pushing this towards the direct relationship to customer. Because I know crossing this somewhat scary desert will get us to an oasis."

On Kickstarter:

"It's a revolution. When we saw that, we thought this is so much bigger than Tim Schafer raising money to make an adventure game. That was just the tip of the iceberg. That was only a fraction of the total thing that is happening here. And I really want to get the word out about that."

On the possibility of failure:

"Enormous pressure. If I fail, what do I do? If I fail at this, I think I'm moving away to the country and I'm going to live in a little log cabin and I'm going to be a weird old man. That's my next job. Even if we fail, it's still fantastic. It's still a wonderful adventure to go on. You look at people climbing the face of a rock cliff, and you say 'Why the hell would they do that? They could fall.' And usually someone does and they die. But that's the thrill. I have taken everything in the company; I have taken all the resources, and I have got it all on this game."

No Caption Provided
Don't like it? Don't support it, says Taylor.

On touch-based real-time strategy games:

"People got so excited about the touchpad when they thought about RTS. 'Oh, it's going to be so great; I'm gonna be able to control my armies, I'm gonna be able to pinch to zoom.' And that seemed like a correct assumption, but in practice, it doesn't work. Because the twitch factor of RTS is so high that your hand is physically moving and your arm is physically moving all over the pad. And not that I want to make gamers sound like they're lazy, but that's a lot of work. But with a mouse, you're literally moving your mouse a centimeter; the motions are very, very small."

"With the model we have with Wild Man, controlling your one hero character and having the camera stick on them is a much more doable game than having a battlefield where you're pinching to zoom and clicking, selecting, doing all this stuff. It may be true that it's not as good [as the PC version]. I am a mouse and keyboard zealot. I mean, pry my dead body off the mouse [laughs]. But when I'm at the doctor's office, and I've got my iPhone, and I'm sitting there waiting an hour, I'm thankful that I've got my iPhone with my cool touch display and I'd love to play Wild Man in that context."

On PC game pricing:

"I love where the pricing is going; I love the fact that the pricing is heading down. I don't want to buy a game for $50. It's too much money to spend. When I walk into a Costco and I'm buying my bread and my milk and I see the DVD rack and a DVD is $19.99, my first response is 'no f**ing way.' I'm not spending $19.99 on Looper. No offense, but I want to rent that for a couple of bucks. If it was to purchase at $7.99; there's a sweet spot. You'd have my sale every time. It's economics. I do not want to spend $50 on a video game, but I'll spend $20. $20 seems like the magic number. And if I feel like I'm getting extra content, I'll go from there."

"I thrive on that unknown. Jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and thinking 'F**k,' as I'm in freefall, how am I going to get out of this one?"

On AMC's The Walking Dead:

"When I was watching the series on Apple TV it was costing me like $2.99 an episode. It seems like a lot, but when you're jonesing for one more hour--sort of slapping the vein on your arm going 'take my money'--that's a good place for consumers to be. There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with creative people, the people that made the series, going 'People want it, they're going to pay for it.' I don't know how high that number can go, but I bet it can get pretty damn high, when I'm in a pinch for a fix."

On taking risks:

"I thrive on that unknown. Jumping out of an airplane without a parachute and thinking 'F**k, as I'm in freefall, how am I going to get out of this one?'"

On Wild Man's learning curve:

"I do not wish to push people through a steep learning curve. Part of the joy of a good game is the nice, gentle, entertaining but continuously progressing game that just sweeps me up and takes me for a ride. Fundamentally, we try to adhere to that philosophy."

On the allure of Minecraft:

"When my friend first said to me, 'Hey we've been playing Minecraft all weekend; it's really amazing how fun it is.' They sort of warn you when they tell you how awesome it is about the graphics. 'But when you look at the game, you'll freak out a little bit because the graphics are so retro.' And you're like, 'Yeah, but I can tell from the twinkle in your eye and the enthusiasm in your voice that the graphics don't matter.' And sure enough you're right. The graphics didn't matter. In fact, the graphics became part of the charm."

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