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First we track down the man who built the grail, and now we take an even better trip into the industry. Game Rave is proud to present our exclusive interview with the legendary man himself, Trip Hawkins. From his days at Apple, to founding Electronic Arts, to building his own game system in the 3DO, and now hosting award winning cell phone games, the man has literally done it all.

 

Follow us along on an extraordinary special "5 Minutes With" Game-Rave interview.

 

Personal Data Track

First off, congratulations on your induction into The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame! Glad to those in my hobby are finally getting their recognition. That said, let’s start with the overall basics!

 

GR: Full Name?

Trip Hawkins

 

GR: How old are you?

52

 

GR: How long have you been involved in digital entertainment, both video and cell phone game based?

34 years

 

GR: What is your current job description?

CEO of Digital Chocolate

 

GR: Out of your three major outings (EA, 3DO, and now DC), about how many projects, be it game, system, or otherwise have you been involved with overall? What was your favorite from each of the three?

Hundreds and hundreds. MLSN Sports Picks from DChoc is a current addiction, along with Tower Bloxx.  High Heat Baseball for PS2 was my favorite from 3DO.  EA favorite would be Doctor J and Larry Bird Go One on One, which was the birth of EA Sports.  Or Madden, since I designed, directed, and produced it and it was so late that the rest of the company called it, "Trip's Folly."

 

GR: The one video game you couldn’t live without? (Any company, platform, era)

MLSN Sports Picks!!!

 

GR: You wrote the strategy guide to the PlayStation title Sammy Sosa High Heat Baseball. Huge baseball fan or just like to write strategy guides?

Both - I also wrote the manual for M.U.L.E. back in 1983, and designed the economic strategies in that game, which won many awards.

 

Revisiting and Currently Writing History

GR: When 3DO became a software developer for the PlayStation were you nervous going up against EA, your own former company?

 

No, but I should have been. ;)

 

GR: After leaving Apple to form Electronic Arts, you left Electronic Arts in 1991 to found the 3DO Company. Now you’ve got Digital Chocolate. What was it like starting out on a new journey for a third time?

 

I'm having fun with Digital Chocolate because mobile is a fascinating new medium. I've always been on the leading edge, so I enjoy the pioneer's journey and it is fun doing it again and again.

 

GR: How do you feel about this recent rash of exclusive licensing rights? For example, EA owns practically every major sport license, yet they’ve posted severe losses and even cut new game prices. Considering your experience with 3DO, would you say this was a bad sign for them? Do you feel this ‘rival-less’ stance hurts the quality of games?

 

Anything that reduces competition will reduce quality.

 

GR: Speaking of the 3DO, there seems to be an eerie connection between the defunct deck and the upcoming PS3. Both were ahead of their time in terms of hardware specs, both contain multi-media aspects outside of gaming, but most disturbing is the looming price of the PS3. Most pundits blamed the 3DO’s $700 price tag as being a major factor in its demise. Considering the brand name and hype, do you think Sony would suffer a similar fate if the deck is nowhere near Xbox 360’s price points?

 

Perhaps, but then again the Sony brand is very strong and consumers today have a far better understanding of the variety of uses and their value.

 

GR: As a developer/publisher what was it like working with Sony.  How controlled were their restrictions on the games? Did they tell you what you could and couldn't make?

 

Sony is a very innovative and professional operation, but like any large company they could be less flexible in some areas than would be ideal.  They provided a lot of useful input about what they thought their customers would like.  Sometimes they would judge things prematurely or just incorrectly, but nobody's perfect.  For example, they hated Army Men but later admitted they were wrong once they found out their customers really liked it.

 

GR: I’m sure most people are curious about 3DO’s unofficial mascot team, the Army Men. They are the most saturated series on the original PlayStation with a whopping 10 titles, most of which scored much lower than the original entry. Why were so many new releases focused on them?

 

We think there was a disconnect between the games the critics wanted to write about and play, and the games that a large segment of the mass market owners of the PlayStation wanted to play.  With an audience that large, you are going to have market segments that like "rap" while others like "jazz."  Also, it is absurd to think the games were the same.  They were like 10 albums from the same band, or 10 different EA Sports games.

 

GR: With the huge rash of games being made into movies, did 3DO ever get hit up by Hollywood for a movie of any of its properties?

 

Yes, we got close a few times with Army Men and with The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  But we couldn't get past pilot production to a network green light.

 

GR: The 3DO system offered some very unique aspects, like the built-in controller ports on the controllers (eliminating multi-taps). Considering the Nintendo Revolution’s ‘virtual’ controller, and the upcoming Eye Toy 2, do you feel we’re on our way to true virtual reality, or are these just fads? 

I've always felt "virtual reality" was over-rated, just look at how 3D glasses for film and TV have been around for 50 years and even today are only a gimmick in a few theme park attractions.  But some innovations in controls are wonderful and rapidly become standards.  This happened with analog joysticks once the component parts went low enough in cost.

 

GR: Would you ever go back to the console gaming industry if the chance arose?

Never say never! ;)

 

GR: The past few years have seen a lot of established companies fold or get swallowed up by other massive companies and mergers, including 3DO, Working Designs, Sega, Square, Enix, and more. Do you feel this is a bad omen of things to come, or are we destined to one day have just a few select game companies?

 

It is a reflection on the constantly rising cost of console game production, in combination with console games having the highest unit manufacturing costs of any mass entertainment software medium.  The risks are very high and companies are regularly, "hitting the wall."  This is also the reason so many publishers won't take risks on new ideas and what mainly comes to market is "SpiderBoy 7."

 

Cell Processing

GR: Why leave consoles for Cell Phones?  The US market for Cell games is almost non-existent when compared to the one in Japan and other regions.

Cell phone games are the new frontier, and I like the frontier.  The global market is now more than $1 billion per year, and the US is in fact a good slice of that. 

 

GR: Looking over the dates, almost every new venture milestone falls into 10 year increments. Taking this into consideration, where do you see the video game and cell phone industry in 2013 (ten years from when 3DO was closed)?

Right now we are in the era of Social Computing.  This is a big battle between the PC/Internet and the mobile phone.  It has layers that include WiFi, processors, operating systems, APIs, networks, applications, boxes.  By 2013 this battle will be over, much as the desktop battle raged and then ended with the domination of "Wintel," or Microsoft Windows and Intel.  The video game industry is already mature, so mainly what you will see by 2013 is the emergence of social games on Internet and mobile, while the console becomes more of a network device and we're on to PS5 or PS6...

 

GR: I was looking over Chocolate’s game library and saw some interesting titles. Seeing how I don’t own a cell phone, which games would you say would be the best reason to own one?

Tower Bloxx is considered by some to be the finest game ever made for mobile.  I agree with this assessment.  We also have won multiple awards for MLSN Sports Picks.  The first is about as good as it gets for a standalone game and the second is a revolutionary new model for social gaming.

 

Reader Questions:

Why was the 3DO upgrade, the M2 never released?

Daniel S.

Matsushita chose not to release it beyond industrial applications.  I believe they did not want to challenge Sony in the consumer market.

 

Do you think 20 years from now people will have fond memories of games like some of us have from 20 years ago today? It seems like since so many games are similar these days most people don't bond with them.

Rob O.

Yes, absolutely.  Classic game design will remain classic.

 

Why do you think that the 3DO was a commercial failure, why you thought it would be a success when he started it, and what you would have done differently knowing what you know now?

Chris A.

That one would take a book!  The main reasons are that a new game console needs a prominent, leading manufacturer to commit more than $2 billion in capital.  This convinces the industry that an installed base will truly exist, and that makes the industry willing to support the platform.  3DO never had that; it was intended to be a looser federation like Dolby Labs, but that doesn't seem to work with new consoles because you need entirely new games to motivate the consumer to purchase.

Game Rave would like to thank Trip Hawkins and Digital Chocolate for allowing us this interview. I think I may just have to get a cell phone...
 


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