Way before Square Enix bought Eidos, they made a deal with Gas Powered Games to publish Supreme Commander 2. While Square Enix dabbled with the real time strategy genre, a niche market in Japan, they haven’t done much with it. Why did Square Enix want to publish a real time strategy game and how did the RPG goliath guide Gas Powered Games? We brought those questions to Chris Taylor, CEO of Gas Powered Games.
How did the deal with Square Enix come about?
Chris Taylor, CEO of Gas Powered Games: Mr. Wada made plenty of announcements to the press, in the months before, saying he wanted to expand to the Western market. But, what is really important, it’s in the subtleties, is he was basically saying he doesn’t want to bring Japanese games, he’s already doing that, he wants to get Western games that are built in the Western market. He wants to expand the business in that new way.
It wasn’t about bringing the Final Fantasy storytelling techniques or model per se to the West, that’s already been done. It was about tapping our expertise and knowledge of a different kind of gamer. If you have a business you have this group [makes hand gestures], you want to get this group over here, and maybe this group here, and build it up until you have the biggest piece of the market share.
Those were his stated intentions. We were part of that plan and it worked beautifully.
I see how you fit into Wada-san’s business plan, but how did Square Enix help you with your game. I mean, you could have gone to another publisher.
They actually helped us in many ways. First of all, Square Enix makes games for a much broader market than we do. From my analogy, Square Enix fans are more horizontal and we are like a vertical strip. If you cross pollinate that, you expand the vertical audience a bit. It reaches out to more fans, more customers, has a broader hardware, goes back further. In another words, SupCom 1 needed a pretty beefy rig. SupCom 2 not so much. That’s a big step for us.
The story telling is a little broader. Very specifically, SupCom 1 and FA [Forged Alliance] was like The History Channel. It was like the war was the thing. In SupCom 2 it’s the people that are the thing. If you play the game, it opens with a dialogue between a husband and wife, the second set of operations is a dialogue between a brother and sister, and the third set of operations is a father and son. And then it all culminates.
Just by being in the same room with Square Enix it has helped us elevate our storytelling. It made us think more about what kind of stories, where people like to focus the story.
Let’s say, in some parallel universe, you weren’t working with Square Enix. Would you have come up with the idea by yourself or would the focus still be on the war?
In Command & Conquer world people are very excited about Kane. Kane this, Kane that, Kane goes shopping, Kane changes his hairstyle. Who are the other factions in Command & Conquer?
Yeah, but who was the guy who characterizes the GDI? It’s pretty general right? The Kane character is what makes the IP sticky and interesting. We didn’t really understand that until someone opened our eyes. That’s what Square Enix brought to us.
If you were to then take a different kind of question and Square Enix went away from us and we were left to do whatever we want after we learned the lesson? The teacher left the room. Would we go back to The History Channel or stick with the character storytelling? Of course, we’d stick to storytelling based on characters. Because we now see and understand the value in that where we didn’t before.