Q&A: Will Wright on the rules of Stupid Fun Club
Posted by ballightning on April 9, 2009
After todays shock announcement that Will Wright is leaving Maxis, Gamespot has interviewed Will Wright on why he left, what he is planning on doing, and a bit on Spore.
GS: Why choose now to leave EA and strike out on your own venture?
WW: It’s something that we’ve been in talks with EA for almost a year now, so for me it’s kind of a long-term plan and I was just in no hurry to do it. We’d been developing a lot of these concepts within the Stupid Fun Club and people would come by over the years and say, “That’s great, I would buy that.” It got to the point where venture capitalists were offering us real money to fund these projects.
With Maxis, I’d already been down the whole take VC money, do the IPO, do the acquisition thing.. I saw a lot of dysfunction in that model that was interesting to experience once but I didn’t want to go through it again.
As I started talking to EA about this, we started realizing they were very interested in the game properties coming out of this. We started exploring the idea of them funding the Stupid Fun Club as a VC would, but because their interest is in the game properties coming out, they have no interest in us becoming liquid and doing the IPO and all that. So we basically got EA to come in as our VC without committing to a path to liquidity. So we can keep the group very small and very focused and not deal with that whole business path.
GS: With your last big project for EA, Spore, there was discussion about whether or not it lived up to years and years of expectations. Did it live up to your expectations?
WW: My own expectations were always more on the toy side of Spore and getting fans involved. And we’re still learning about Spore from what the fans are doing with it. In terms of the content, what the fans have done with it vastly exceeded our expectations.
It’s kind of like The Sims 1.0. When it first came out, we learned a huge amount over the first few months about what players wanted and the directions they wanted it to go and The Sims incrementally improved with each expansion pack. We were adding in features the fans were requesting the most, and we’ll be doing the same with Spore as well. So in some sense, this is the point the fans get to come in and vote on the direction of the franchise.
Actually, Spore’s done very well with EA internally, based on their forecasts within a very tight economy. They seem quite pleased with its performance.
GS: Do you think the years and years of people looking forward to it helped or hurt the game ultimately?
WW: I think it was probably over-hyped, like a lot of games end up being, primarily because the development time was so long. From every project you learn and apply those learnings to the next project. I think there were certain things from Spore that were great, like releasing the Creature Creator early was a big win. But the people who are playing Spore, it’s a very different demographic than we were expecting right off the bat, almost like Sim Ant.
We have a lot of young kids playing Spore, as young as 3-years-old sitting on their parent’s lap describing the creature they want made. This is the type of stuff we learn when we release something. Certain levels weren’t deep enough for the hardcore gamers and we’re going back with the expansion pack and addressing that. But then other markets we didn’t expect at all to be picking it up. We never expected a 3-year-old to be playing with their parents.