I caught up with Insomniac Games president Ted Price in Las Vegas last month at the DICE gaming summit. We chatted for 20 minutes about the PS3 debut of "Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction," plans for "Resistance 2" and even, briefly, about Surfer Girl.
I'm rolling this out in parts. The next one's coming later, today or tomorrow. I'm not sure because I'm also busy moving desks in the MTV newsroom (exciting!).
Let's start this Price DICE thing with some talk about "Ratchet"'s supposedly soft PS3 sales, why Insomniac doesn't make handheld games and... is he talking about new IPs already?
Multiplayer: So now that it's out, what did you make of the experience of putting "Ratchet and Clank" on the PS3?
Ted Price, President of Insomniac Games: "Ratchet" was actually the best production experience we've had in our history. And the reason for that is that we went through hell on "Resistance" one: transitioning to a new platform and going back to a genre we hadn't had any experience with in over 10 years was tough. But through that hell we developed production techniques that we hadn't used before, and that made "Ratchet" a lot better in terms of overall production cycle.
Multiplayer: But didn't you guys miss the deadline by a week though? Wasn't that the first time you missed a deadline ever? That's the story I heard.
Price: Well, actually it came out on time. It actually did. Sony announced that it was going to come out a week later but it actually came out on time.
Multiplayer: Was that a scary moment?
Price: Yes, it was.
Multiplayer: Sony fans got panicked when they saw NPD numbers and saw it only sold several thousand in the U.S., whatever it was. [Under 75,000 in the U.S. in its first calendar month on sale.]
Price: It's sold over a million worldwide now, so…It's actually on par with the PlayStation 2 games now. It sold as many as the other games have at this point in its lifecycle.
We were also panicked because we thought, "Wow, there aren't that many games on PlayStation 3 this Christmas and "Ratchet" should really be one of those big ones. But then we realized that PlayStation 3 still is in the hands of consumers who tend not to be 'Ratchet' fans. They're the older consumers who are more interested in M-rated games. It hasn't made its way necessarily to family play. And that's the kind of game "Ratchet" is. So what we expect and what we've seen in the past is that it will have a long tail. … What's cool for us is there aren't that many family-friendly games out there [on the PS3] that provide competition for "Ratchet."
Multiplayer: On the PS2 you guys were basically doing a "Ratchet" every year. Now, the indication is that "Resistance" is trading off with "Ratchet" every year. Is that a pattern people should be expecting from you guys?
Price: Well, we'll continue to produce new IP, there's no question about that. So that means that pattern won't necessarily continue as you stated. You do see "Resistance 2" coming out this year. One thing that has been nice for us is that instead of the one-year cycles that we had on PlayStation one, we now have two-year cycles, which gives us a chance to do really thorough pre-production and gives the team the chance to take a bit of a break -- and gives consumers a break, too. We were experiencing consumer fatigue with "Ratchet" on the PlayStation 2.
Multiplayer: That must be pretty dramatic, to go from a one-year cycle to a two-year cycle. Does that feel like there's so much extra time now?
Price: It's funny. You always fill up the amount of time that you have. No question. What we do, though, is make it clear that that final deadline is a final deadline and we do everything we can to make the quality high. We don't try to make an unrealistic scope for the design.
Multiplayer: Why have you guys not made any of the handheld "Ratchet" games?
Price: That's a good question. We considered that at one time. And we realized that to develop an additional engine for the PSP would not be the most efficient use of our technological expertise. Plus, we're good at making big games. PSP games are really cool, but we wanted to look further than that. We're tech geeks, man; we love new hardware.
Multiplayer: I think people would be excited about what you could pull out of the PSP.
Price: Well I think High Impact is doing a fantastic job. They've done us all proud with the 'Ratchet' games on the PSP.
Multiplayer: What do you think about the idea that you guys were sort of counterparts with Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch last generation, and we have seen both Sucker Punch and Naughty Dog both go in very different directions [by making less cartoony, more mature titles]. You guys have kept one foot still in what you were doing before. Did it surprise you to see them not doing the same, to be left sort of as the Last Mascot Standing?
Price: We've always been very passionate about "Ratchet" and "Ratchet" did well enough on the last platform to justify it going to PlayStation 3. And I think we also have the benefit of having a slightly larger team, where we can devote multiple teams to different games. So it allowed us to focus on "Resistance" and "Ratchet" at the same time.
Multiplayer: Maybe you can get Sly Cooper and Jak and Daxter in your "Ratchet" games to keep them around.
Price: You know, we do joke about that. We joked about having other Sony types in our games, and we just haven't gotten around to talking.
Multiplayer: You have two years. Now you have time to do these things.
So, people read the Game Informer story [about "Resistance 2"]. People don't believe the Game Informer story. Because that's an insane amount of content to put into one game...
[This interview with continue on Multiplayer soon.]