Article: May 2003 Archives

by Kyle Ackerman


Formerly a high-energy physicist, Seamus Blackley turned his innovative spirit and fascination with technology toward gaming, becoming one of the industry's prime movers. He has worked with Looking Glass Technologies on titles such as Ultima Underworld and System Shock, and brought Microsoft's console, the Xbox, from conception to market. After leaving Microsoft, Blackley was one of four founders of Capital Entertainment Group (CEG), a production company for games. According to CEG's mission statement, "By marrying direct financing with a highly predictable, professionally creative production model, CEG is able to invest in the innovative games that many publishers cannot, while still managing financial risk."

I was fortunate to sit down with Blackley for a few minutes at the D.I.C.E. Summit (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) held by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences on February 27 and 28, 2003 in Las Vegas. There, he gave a talk tactfully called "No, You're Wrong," in which he argued that the gaming industry has "evolved into a broken state that's holding us all down." The problem as he sees it is that communications have broken down between developers and publishers. Publishers are mostly publicly traded companies, beholden to investors. Publishing games entails a lot of money and risk, but investors demand that publishers produce predictable revenue with low risk. Revenue targets, retailers' expectations, risk management and investor expectations all complicate publishers' relationship with developers. At the same time, developers often game the process of making games, designing products geared at their publishers rather than their audiences. Developers may even resort to manipulating milestones and delivery dates to ensure that funds for a game project continue to flow. Such institutional dishonesty can only hurt the games.

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