Fargo: Blockbuster Games Often Come Down To Instincts, 'Randomness'

Industry veteran Brian Fargo told Gamasutra there's no science to coming up with hit games, and a reliance on focus groups ignores expert instincts and the "ran
Game industry veteran and InXile founder Brian Fargo has been in the business for around 30 years, and has kept a close eye on what has been successful, and what has failed in video games. To him, the amount of money and risk that comes attached to big budget video game releases today has led game designers to try to decode a secret to surefire success. But he thinks that pursuit is in vain. "There's a need to feel like there's this science [game makers] need to apply," Fargo said in a new Gamasutra feature interview. "There's so much money at stake, the investors better hear about the science of how you're going to make a success." "The truth is, it's same old entertainment business it used to be. The same old instincts apply. Everything else, the way you develop games, is pretty much the same," he added. "But the truth is developers don't want to hear that. No one wants to devote hundreds of millions of dollars and say, 'It normally comes down to instinct.'" He continued, "...Steve Jobs doesn't believe in focus groups, okay. He doesn't believe that consumers are going to tell him what people need. He's going to tell people what they need. He says they can't imagine these things that he sees." "What stinks about it is that if [the instinctual guys] have success, then everybody is going to go 'That's the way to go. We need more instinctual guys,'" Fargo said. "If it doesn't work, everybody's going to say, 'Told you so.'" "But the truth is that it's just the randomness of the entertainment business," he said. "The approach isn't the only reason why a product succeeds. How hard is it to pick a product out in this business? They killed Steven Spielberg's game! We'll kill the Steven Spielberg project. It's just that tough." With today's video games, Fargo explained, "These things can [cost] $100 million. It's made publishers crazy. Whole careers are on the line. Whole companies are on the line. Creating products creates this intense pressure." Fargo is the founder of Interplay, established in 1983, where he worked on games including The Bard's Tale and Wasteland. While at Interplay, he also led the company in the publishing of memorable games like Black Isle's Fallout and Fallout 2, and BioWare's Baldur's Gate. In 2002, he founded InXile, which is currently at work on the Bethesda-published Hunted: The Demon's Forge, due in spring. For more from Fargo on mixing business savvy with game design, the "randomness of the entertainment business" and the risk of bringing Hunted to market, read the Gamasutra feature, available now.

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