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Q&A: Insomniac's Schneider On Marketing Resistance

Gamasutra caught up with Insomniac's marketing director Ryan Schneider at the recent MI6 Conference, discussing the state of the company and its messaging to consumers before and after Resistance: Fall Of Man's launch - with a possible hint at fort
Gamasutra caught up with Insomniac's marketing director Ryan Schneider at the recent MI6 Conference. The company's spokesperson was obviously in a relatively ebullient mood, following Resistance: Fall Of Man's emergence as the standout title for the PlayStation 3's launch. But how do you explain to users that the same folks who make the relatively cuddly Ratchet & Clank series can make the move to a gritty action shooter? And what's the state of the company and its messaging after Resistance: Fall Of Man's launch and before Ratchet & Clank Future's launch? We asked, and Schneider answered - with a possible hint at PS3 downloadable games for Insomniac to end? (Pictured: the February 2007 issue of Game Developer magazine featuring a Resistance cover postmortem.) With Resistance, you were launching another new IP. How different is that from a marketing perspective, to tell people not only about a product, but also to communicate, "Hey, we're not actually inexperienced with shooters, and we don't just make mascot games?" Ryan Schneider: I think we recognized early on that we had to tie the game to the hardware, because nobody's going to buy a launch title without the PS3 to begin with. A lot of the communications that we created had to demonstrate how we were using the PS3 to make a game experience that you might not be able to get everywhere else. We had to not only do that, but we also had to remind people that we actually have made a first-person shooter before in Disruptor, and the heart of Ratchet & Clank is about weapons. In many ways, some of the key qualities about Resistance: Fall of Man are about weapons, so it's not that far of a stretch. So there were two different tracks that we had to go on: support the hardware, and demonstrate that we have the chops to back up our claims. Have you found it difficult to get across that some things can only be done on the PS3? RS: It's all in how you communicate. We try not to get into the hardcore debate of, "Well, you can only do this on the PS3 compared to the Xbox 360 and the Wii!" because there's always situations where maybe you can. But you cannot argue with the processing power. You cannot argue with the parallel processing and the storage space. There's things that you are able to do on PlayStation 3 that make it advantageous. Whether you can do certain things on 360 or Wii, it's hard for us to say. We've worked exclusively with Sony since the beginning of the company. For us to diss the competition is not something we can do. All we can do is say, "Here's what we're doing with the technology." We create proprietary technology to maximize the hardware, and that's mainly all we can focus on: talking about what we can do. We'll leave the press, the analyst community, and Sony on some level to fight that message. We want to focus on making great games with the technology that we chose to go with. Sony's MO for a long time has been exclusives. That's how they sell consoles. So with exclusives being less and less possible because of how much everything costs, what you guys do is more important to them than ever. Have you found a different stance from them, as far as pushing you further to make things so amazing that consumers absolutely have to pick up a PS3? RS: They don't have to push us. We do it ourselves. They can't push us any more than we push ourselves already, and that's just the straight-up truth. We're perfectionists at heart, and we want to get it right. We want to demonstrate to everybody why the PS3 makes sense to buy, because at the end of the day, if we can help do that, we'll sell more games. Have you felt satisfied with the sell-through so far? RS: It hasn't been revealed yet what the numbers are, but what we can say is that we're really happy with how it sold. It sold at a more aggressive rate than our past games, and we're really happy with that, especially with it being a launch title. We've never been a launch title [before]. It's done great in Europe, it's done great in North America, and we're still supporting new content. We've got new maps coming out for multiplayer, so Resistance is going to be here for a long time. I assume that it has a very high attach rate to the PS3, but the concern is how many PS3s have actually been sold. RS: All I can say is that it's pretty clear that it's among the most popular, if not the most popular PS3 game. As you can imagine, the attach ratio would be pretty solid as a result. I can't say what it is, but I can say that we're really happy. Have you ever had to move into a multi-team situation? RS: There's multi-team elements, but we've staggered our production schedules. We've really built out our project management team over the past couple of years, so we're able to work on things on a more staggered basis. That opens up a lot of flexibility, and we're a 160-person studio, so we're able to do a lot more than we could have a couple of years ago. You're working on the new Ratchet & Clank now, but still working on map content. Is that a way to keep people working, too? I know a lot of the time it can be troublesome if you're all working toward one goal. When that's over, you've got to figure out what everyone's going to do. RS: I think that's the key to a successful development studio: being able to maximize peoples' productivity as they're ramping down from a project and getting them to ramp up to another project, so you're hitting the crests at the right time. We're definitely trying to do that between the map packs and Ratchet Future, and it's how we had it set up coming off of Resistance: Fall of Man. That's a big emphasis in our studio, and now we've got at least five people on our project management team, so it's something that we really take very seriously. Have you guys considered PSN downloadable stuff? RS: We're definitely looking at it. We want to make sure we do the right thing, and maybe you'll be hearing from us soon. Who knows?

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