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Interview with Midway CEO David Zucker

Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 3:02AM EST

Personalities Sparkle for Midway's New IP

Midway's CEO David Zucker talks about the company's plans to introduce new IP through established media celebrities and creatives like John Woo, Vin Diesel, and the Rock.

Q: Tell us about your biggest games here at E3.

A: Stranglehold is one of our first next-generation titles and it is really coming together well. We actually have a separate theater for that at the show. It's our PlayStation 3 launch title as well as being for Xbox 360.

It has phenomenal destructibility, meaning that you can shoot up the place in style--it's an incredible experience. We also have the potential for stunt play--the sort of slow-motion jump and shoot that's never been done before in this way. This is one of the breakthrough games on the next-generation systems. You can really see what the new boxes are capable of--this much interaction with the environment has never been achieved before.

Of course we'll have Mortal Kombat Armageddon--the game to end all Mortal Kombats--you'll be able to create a fighter in that game as well as [play as] every single character ever from the Mortal Kombat series.

There's also Unreal Tournament 2007 for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Epic's latest is mind-blowing, and I believe one of the stars of the show.

We've also got Spy Hunter with the Rock. We're really moving this game franchise forward with on-foot gameplay--half the game will take place outside of the car. Spy Hunter was one of the first car combat games on arcade back in the early '80s and now we're trying to bring this into modern times. OK, Spyhunter 2 was a little disappointing for us when it shipped a couple of years ago, so one of things we felt we needed to do was to advance the series forward and incorporate on-foot play and motorcycles and other exciting new elements.

The Rock is involved heavily with us. He's done all the motion capture work, given us his physical signature style that really suits him. He does a lot of throws--I wouldn't say wrestling moves--more in context of an action movie based on a spy game. He's done all the voice work, we've got his likeness and [he] has been heavily involved with us by helping to flesh out the character.

He's been tapped to do movies with Universal and now we hope that the game helps get things going for the film. We really think of it as an American James Bond.

Q: How do these games represent Midway's strategy for the future?

A: We've looked to broaden our offering in the console transition. The demographic for the current generation is getting younger, so we've broadened our offerings out to the family. Examples include games such as The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy which is a Cartoon Network title. And we're entering the PC business in a major way in real-time strategy titles like Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War, with Unreal Tournament and Lord of the Rings Online for North America.

We are also working with Hollywood through projects like The Ant Bully and Wheelman, which will be an action-based Teen-rated game, really taking advantage of what we do well here at Midway. So we're broadening the current generation with family and PC titles and really going back to our core strength with ambitious titles like Stranglehold.

Q: You are working with some interesting celebrities.

A: Our aim is to take the action game to the next level. We look at working with major personalities like the Rock, Vin Diesel, and Jon Woo in ways that will help "event-ize" our games for publicity purposes. That opens up to lots of media opportunities such as talk shows on which we can hang our launch, which is good for our prospects of success.

We're very committed to new IP, but the success rate is low--so we're not committed to the same-old postapocalyptic sci-fi stuff--we want relevant new IP. One of the ways to do that is to bring these events-based elements to the project. New IP has a success rate of around 20 percent, but this plan acts as a buffer. If we can find new ways to increase our chances it's going to get us to a good place in the next few years.


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