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Q&A: Throwback CEO On Resurrecting Acclaim's Legacy

Gamasutra had a chance to quiz Throwback CEO Thomas Maduri about his company's acquisition of the Acclaim game assets, including titles such as Re-Volt and Extreme G, and he clued us in on the company's plans, including which classic Acclaim
Following the 2004 bankruptcy of video game developer and publisher Acclaim, the company's various intellectual and physical assets were sold off. These included the company’s name and logo, which is now being used by former Activision executive Howard Marks to publish Korean online titles in the West. However, Canadian game publisher Throwback Entertainment recently announced that it has secured ownership of the remaining assets during a final auction, including Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance, Vexx, Extreme-G Racing, Legends of Wrestling, Re-Volt and Summer Heat Volleyball. Although none of the titles proved a major hit in their original forms, Extreme-G Racing and Re-Volt at least received positive press coverage, and could certainly be construed as suitable for further sequels. Recently Gamasutra spoke with Thomas Maduri, CEO of Throwback Entertainment to get more information concerning this recent transaction, as well as his take on what this means for his company going forward. Hello, and thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. I guess the first question that needs to be asked is just what is Throwback Entertainment? What is its history? Your company seems to have appeared overnight with the announcement that it had acquired the remaining Acclaim licenses. No problem, it’s a pleasure to speak to you. Throwback Entertainment was formed with the immediate goal of becoming the largest video game publisher in Canada. Our initial plan was to simply purchase Acclaim Entertainment as it stood when the forthcoming bankruptcy announcement was made. Upon further investigation and diligence into the matter, we decided to go in a different direction and Throwback was formed. We began the planning stage, and set out to create a five-year business plan with strategic timelines, an aggressive growth schedule and sought out vital partners that could help along the way. While pursuing those goals, and building up different conceptual projects, we kept an eye on the Acclaim liquidation and saw it through its completion. We’re thrilled with the end-goal set out only a couple of years ago. Instead of trying to focus our efforts into rebuilding Acclaim Entertainment we were able to form a new company, with many new amazing projects while adding the back catalog of such a magnitude like the one recently purchased. It has resulted in a win-win situation all the way around. So why Acclaim? The company was not looked upon especially fondly by both gamers and the media, so why associate yourself with a company that left such a sour taste in the mouths of so many? Acclaim Entertainment made some great games that are liked by many gamers, and media. We targeted many of the titles not for the way they were created, but for the potential they possess. Many titles in the video game industry, especially original intellectual property, did not find a proper market and reach critical mass until its third or fourth iteration. We believe some of the titles we purchased are capable of reaching that point and enjoying great success. So, Is there concern at Throwback that, rather than starting from a clean slate, your company will begin its life in a negative light, and releases will be judged not on their own merit, but rather initially on the shortcomings of their predecessors released by Acclaim? Honestly, we had discussions about this matter internally. I think it would have been a much larger issue if we had purchased Acclaim and began to make games as it stood. With the different Throwback brand we feel that we can take the best titles and create new versions building upon what we think is the best game-play elements and utilizing that. Have development teams already begun work on any of the acquired franchises? Due to the length and complexity of the Acclaim acquisition we could not proceed with any production until the deal was finalized. With that being said, planning has begun on a few titles, but they have not reached the production phase. We expect production to begin sooner rather than later on those titles. Do you expect to develop for all three next-gen consoles, or will your efforts be more focused on just one or two platforms instead? Throwback expects to develop for all three consoles, both handhelds, and even some alternative devices. However, that does not mean we will be launching a single title on all systems, but rather we’ll determine on a game-by-game basis what console suits which title. If that results in a recommendation to make that title exclusive, we will do so. Of the franchises acquired, which do you think holds the most potential for your company? When we began the process we knew there were six titles stronger than others. Re-Volt was always at the top of everyone’s list during internal discussions. Other titles like Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls, and the Extreme G series were highly rated as being perfect for an online and handheld version. Vexx and Gladiator would require a great studio to do the job required to take those titles to the next-level. Lastly, Fur Fighters on the Dreamcast was a fantastic game that we hope can find the market it rightly deserved. Is Throwback currently looking for additional franchises to acquire as well, or was and is its primary goal to simply build upon these former Acclaim releases exclusively? We’re never content here at Throwback… We’re going to aggressively pursue titles, franchises, and original IP that we feel has potential in the future. So is Throwback currently working on any original IPs? Yes, but the problem with original IP is that you simply cannot launch a new concept without extensive research, planning, and development. A couple of our top projects being worked on have been in the planning stage since our formation in 2004. Those titles will not enter full production for another year at least. We want those games to be flagship titles, and will wait for the appropriate time before full production begins. As your company is entering the video game market on the precipice of a new console generation, does this make it more or less difficult for Throwback, in your opinion? If you look at the history of the video game industry, it’s been shown that a new company can be launched and seemingly appears overnight as each new generation begins. In that regard, I think it’s easier for us to establish ourselves because it’s as even a playing field as it will get. Many publishers and development studios are in the midst of re-organizations to prepare for this generation. We don’t have to make a transition to the new hardware; our task is to build out and build up through the acquisition of talent best suited for this generation and beyond. What about the next-generation console race excites you and your company the most? I think the hardware manufacturers are working on some fantastic systems that will only increase the reach of games. The PS3 and Wii have yet to come out but we feel both companies will do an admirable job on their online capabilities and network services. Microsoft has done a fantastic job improving on the original Xbox Live and bringing it to the 360, especially Xbox Live Arcade. Plus we can’t wait to see what game developers everywhere are capable of doing with the increased processing power and new interface mechanics. By contrast, as a new company, what worries you about it? Bottom line is consumer acceptance and whether they’ll embrace the new control schemes, and price points. If any of the first-party makers struggle with their new systems, it obviously has a negative impact on all the publishers and developers. Lastly, thank you again for your time today. Is there anything you would like to add? We’re expecting some further announcements to be released in the coming weeks, and we hope the readers enjoy them. Thanks for the opportunity, and it’s been a pleasure.

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