In the second part of our sit-down conversation with THQ Core Game Executive Vice President Danny Bilson, we dig deep to find out how much stock THQ is putting into the Homefront intellectual property — a lot! — and what they are doing to merchandise the potential franchise.
Dakota Grabowski: Earlier you spoke about the transition in Hollywood with Jaws and Star Wars. A lot of that came with merchandising. What are you guys doing with Homefront with merchandising outside of the book?
Danny Bilson: Well it’s a tricky one. It’s what’s appropriate for the property. I don’t think action figures are necessarily appropriate for the property, although you never know. It depends how popular it becomes. We look at every property in terms of what makes the most sense for it and what ideas does it generate just by looking at it. I would love to see a mini-series set in the Homefront universe. I think it would be really great to see a film based in this world. It would be really interesting.
DG: Homefront, as many people have said, comparing THQ three years ago to now, is a big difference in terms of where you guys are heading with the movement of the properties. What’s the focus of THQ beyond this?
DB: Building original IP is the focus for THQ. To build great, original, innovative experiences that are among the best in the industry. That’s what this mission is all about. With that high quality and that kind of innovation will come revenue and the ability to make more, and make cooler stuff. In great success you can take more risks creatively and get back to your first question of more bold, innovative games. Although I think we’ve got some in the pipeline that are pretty bold and innovative, they are commercial also.
DG: In the last two or three years or even before that, THQ has relied on the licensing (Disney, WWE, now UFC). Is it safe to say these titles actually allow you to build titles such as Homefront based on the money they have earned?
DB: Well I don’t think they make more money than I expect Homefront to make.
DG: You expect Homefront to sell as much as WWE?
DB: Oh yeah, absolutely. I expect it to sell more than WWE or UFC.
DG: A few studios are closing down in the US and moving to Canada, and making extra studios in Canada. What’s Canada’s importance to gaming and the gaming industry?
DB: Well I hope that we’re not going to be closing any studios. I hope that this [Ubisoft Montreal] is just additional. In the states it’s all based on the quality of what the studios are making and the success. However, this province in particular is giving us a tremendous financial advantage here. It gives us the ability to put more on the screen and make a bigger and better game for the gamers. That’s really what it’s about because if we can do that, they will buy more and see the value in their $60. $60 is a lot to ask from somebody for an entertainment experience, so it’s our responsibility to give them the most value for their money. With the province supporting these games financially, it enables our money to go a lot farther and to make bigger and better games.
DG: Speaking to some Montréal residents that live here, they say that many of the studios that are based in Montréal employ a lot of French Canadians in the studio. Is that your goal, to employ more residents or to import more talent from outside?
DB: We are going to have 400 people here, so I think there’s going to be room for everybody. All we want are the best game makers, the best veteran game makers, and then the best novice game makers to be trained by the veteran game makers. Obviously by locale a lot of them are going to come from Montréal and a lot of them are going to come from overseas. It just depends on what’s going to give us the best games. As you know, one of our teams is going to be led by a Montréal native, Patrice Desilets, and he’s got a lot of friends that may want to work with him. So there will be a lot of French Canadians here as well as Americans and people from the UK and from all over the world.
DG: With Patrice leading the one team, how important is it to have the second team led by a veteran?
DB: Extremely important.
DG: Have you guys already eyed somebody?
DB: I have a good plan but we haven’t announced it yet.
DG: Thank you for your time Danny.