Last year's DJ Hero was the most invigorating new entry into the music genre for quite some time, and developer FreeStyleGames is hoping this year's sequel will pick up where the first left off. We sat down with Jamie Jackson, the game's Creative Director, to discuss the games industry, nurturing new IP and his dislike of people on forums.
Q: What do you think is the state of the game industry in the UK?
Jamie Jackson: From a development side first, it's obviously tough at the minute with independent [studios] struggling and, sadly, kind of going under. Which is tough. At the moment I'm thankful to be part of a publishing group and to be part of Activision – it certainly helps take the pressure off, you know? We were an independent for a good eight years before we were acquired.
It's tough times. It's really tough times because consumers aren't taking risks on products they buy so much anymore. Even though [DJ Hero] sold pretty well last year for a new product at quite an expensive price, which we were asking people to take a chance with, there was so many other new IPs that no one took a chance on. I think that's a shame, really – that consumers aren't taking the chances and are sticking to what they know.
Q: We've seen in recent weeks, both HMV and Toys R Us blaming poor sales specifically on games.
JJ: Yeah, I read that today. Um, interesting... I don't know enough about it to make huge comments but it's interesting. We all know music sales have been in decline forever, so I assume from a HMV perspective that games were holding them up. From a Toys R Us perspective, you know, the question I'd say is - did you have a slump the year previous when the recession hit and games were keeping people afloat?
The first year of the recession, DVD movie sales and game sales were the only things that were selling because people were spending money on products that had, kind of, multiple use instead of going out and buying throwaway products. I'd almost go, what happened the year before? Is it just that the recession has finally caught up with us?
Which is my opinion, but who knows.
Q: With DJ Hero specifically - you priced yourself out of the market with the first game. Did you get a spike in sales when retailers started reducing the cost?
JJ: Yeah, we definitely had spikes around when there were price drops. My own personal opinion is that it was too expensive when it was first released, and we're addressing that this year – it's going to be cheaper when it comes out this year. The slightly unfortunate recession was kind of, not necessarily out of the blue, but for a lot of people it was out of the blue. So, you know, people were suddenly watching their pennies and then the game came out and 1) it was new and 2) it was expensive.
So we definitely saw spikes around that but we did good numbers anyway – we're at over 1.6 [million], pushing towards 2 [million] now, which is cool. If anyone had said me to me when I was starting my career in the industry that you'd work on a game that sells that many copies and it would be considered a failure I'd have said 'are you f**king mad?' And I still probably stand by that now.