What has happened at Motive since we last met in December 2020?
It’s been three and a half years since I took over the general management of the studio. When we last spoke, we had just gone out Star Wars: Squadrons, we started designing the remake of dead space. Here we are in the polishing and debugging phase for the release at the end of January. An iconic game, 14 years after the original of which we are very proud. At the same time, we seized the opportunity of a partnership with Marvel, one of the most beautiful superhero licenses in my opinion — from a totally subjective point of view! We announced a game Iron Man two or three weeks ago, we started working on it a year ago.
It was announced for two reasons. The first is a concern for transparency. At the studio, it’s really one of our values, with our employees and with the players. This transparency then allows us to have a dialogue and create a relationship of trust with the players. Rather than having the old model where we say nothing for several years, then boom! Storm, marketing campaign, surprise, etc., we decide in a very intentional way to engage in a partnership with the players fairly quickly.
The culture of secrecy is famous in the gaming world. Do you make this transparency a commitment?
Yes. It will allow us in time and place to share things and to have feedback. We don’t have all the answers. It would be arrogant to think that one person or group at the studio has a single vision, that if we like it, 10 million people will like it. Especially as we get older… We are no longer necessarily the typical player. It takes this dialogue to make sure that what we do corresponds to the demand.
Is there a succession among young players for good AAA as we like them, with a good script and strong writing? We get the impression that they are very fond of online “multiplayer” games, persistent worlds with “seasons”, Fortnite being a very lucrative example…
That’s a very good question. It’s funny that you say that because in the last few weeks, we received reports that surprised us. We managed to get some data on the typical action-adventure player. We, our studio, that’s what we do, we can’t be the best everywhere, we’ll focus on that.
Imagine that there is a very large proportion of Gen Z gamers [nés entre 1997 et 2012] who play single-player action-adventure games. With a brand as world famous asIron Manwe’re going to have to be very good to make a game that’s going to be ultra-inclusive.
Is there a Motive “tone”, something distinctive in your games?
The studio is still young, seven years old. It’s very difficult to build a new studio, with new talents, strong established values, big ambitions and with a clear identity, all at the same time. It is a path. Today, we have really identified our raison d’être, our way of doing things. We know how we work together, that there is zero tolerance for any form of toxicity. We are part of a large American multinational, EA, but we are a Montreal studio, we are very proud of it, we have a high level of autonomy. It’s kind of the best of both worlds. Big box, financially solid, maturity on the way of working, but also our flavor, a little more indie.
How is the video game industry doing overall? The big studios are releasing fewer games, we are in a transition, some are looking for their way.
From a global numbers perspective, the industry continues to do well; it’s 200 billion US roughly in 2021, projections for 2022 continue to show an increase. Then you have to be careful. Behind creativity and innovation, it’s still a business, you want sustainability. If you remember, two years ago, and there again it’s transparency even if it’s a taboo subject when you stop a game: we abandoned our project codenamed Live Wire [une nouvelle franchise montréalaise alors en conception depuis six ans]. We made the difficult but necessary decision to stop. I fully accept it. The level of risk to make it a commercial success was too high for the studio.
It’s been four years since Motive founder Jade Raymond left the studio under controversial circumstances. Where are you today?
I don’t want to comment too much on Jade and her studio, but when I arrived it was definitely a time of transition. I arrived in a listening, humble, no magic wand mode, one step at a time. We will build something together.
For brevity and clarity, the content of this interview has been edited.
Patrick Klaus in brief
- April 2019 to present: Vice President and General Manager of Motive, a studio owned by Electronic Arts (EA)
- From 2012 to 2019: General Manager, Director of Development and Director of Operations at Ubisoft Quebec
- From 2002 to 2012: Manager of Quality Assurance, Development, Studio Operations and Global Director of Product Launch at EA