Peter Molyneux The Journalist

The ex-Lionhead boss talks to us about being on the other side of the fence all this week for Spike TV

MTV Networks' Spike TV, in a major score for the network, landed former Lionhead Studios head Peter Molyneux to help out as an on-air commentator all this week for E3. Host Geoff Keighley invited us by their set near LA Live, and we took the opportunity to ask Peter Molyneux all about the experience of playing journalist for a week.

As it turns out, the creator of Fable and Black & White really does seem to have a newfound appreciation of the hard work that we in the media deal with on a daily basis.

"It's fascinating. I've been on the other side of the equation for 20 years. I've been at every E3 and CES and that puts you into one way of thinking and you think in 20-minute intervals - that's how long you've got with a journalist and it's all about getting a message across and being very, very focused. And then to sit on the other side, it's unbelievable how much stuff is whirling around you as a journalist," Molyneux acknowledged to GamesIndustry International.

"If I say something and it doesn't appear in the game or I say it in such as way that it seems more exciting than it is in the game, I have to take the blame for that, I have to"

Peter Molyneux

"In the middle of everything going on you've got to write the story as you're hearing at that point in time, because after the next 20 minutes you're going to have another story to write, and another."

Interestingly, Molyneux noted - perhaps partially in jest - that he would consider changing his approach to game design and demos now that he has a better understanding of how journalists must operate.

"I would give a 30-second demo to the journalist and give 19 and a half minutes to write it up," he said. "I'd get ten times the amount of space and it would probably be far more impactful. What's really interesting is I don't think the press has the time to take in these 15-20 minutes demos on-stage... by the time they're already halfway through that demo they're already thinking about or writing the next bit."

Molyneux has been roundly criticized by some of us in the media in the past for making grand promises for his unreleased games, and then when those titles finally shipped they didn't live up to expectations or include certain features. It would appear that Molyneux understands that journalists are just doing their job and he was more than willing to own up to his past mistakes.

"I piss myself off. Listening to myself talk in these interviews is bad enough - I feel like flaming myself!"

Peter Molyneux

"I still find it to be a big problem stopping myself when I'm excited during an interview. I'm the worst press person in the world actually, because I just go into this mode where I start talking about the game and I get really, really excited and that comes across especially when a lot of interviews are very PR driven, and of course I get in trouble. And if I say something and it doesn't appear in the game or I say it in such as way that it seems more exciting than it is in the game, I have to take the blame for that, I have to," he admitted.

"And what I'm trying to do with 22 Cans is I'm trying to stop that by having these little small experiments where I can say look, 'this is why I'm so excited because the results of this experiment have been used in this way.' But it is a big problem and I can understand it - you know, I piss myself off. Listening to myself talk in these interviews is bad enough - I feel like flaming myself!"

As for his own thoughts on E3, we questioned the designer about his opinion that E3 itself might be "outdated."

"No one can deny that this industry is changing radically. It's like a snake shedding its skin - we're not quite sure what's going to be underneath," he began. "And we've got lots of things on the periphery of this which we can choose to ignore and pretend they'll go away or we can choose to embrace - the change from retail to digital and the incredible amount of technology that's present, whether it be touch and mobile devices, whether it be social gameplay, whether it be cloud-based gameplay, whether it be this persistence people are talking about or the ability to play games on multiple devices... all this stuff is happening and I ask myself one simple question when I sit at E3 now, 'How often do I see those big issues being addressed in a show like this?' I think anybody you ask 'what's this industry going to be like in 5 years?' and I don't think anyone would turn around and say it's going to be retail-based where 85 percent of revenues are gotten in a 12-week period around Christmas."

"Even just looking at the two press conferences I've seen so far [Microsoft and EA] I don't really get a sense of the elephant in the room truly being addressed"

Peter Molyneux

"That's really what I'm looking for at E3 is how we're going to address the problems and opportunities that are going to come up in the next 2-3 years, because I think a show like this is most relevant when it actually looks at those things."

In the end, if E3 is going to change, then the publishers will need to change first, and that poses a potential problem.

"The sympathy I have for E3 is it only reflects what the publishers want to show but I think that in itself shows an awful lot about where those publishers are. I think they've got to change themselves from being one animal - they defined themselves for decades as being companies that specialize in sales and marketing and distribution and having relationships with retailers, and conquering and owning console platforms - and they've got to embrace an incredibly different model. So I think it's a fascinating time. Even just looking at the two press conferences I've seen so far [Microsoft and EA] I don't really get a sense of the elephant in the room truly being addressed," he concluded.

We'll have much more from our Molyneux conversation soon. Stay tuned.

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Latest comments (4)

Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
So, rather than consider the possibility of extending E3 for another day to give journalists and publishers more time, he'd rather limit the hands-on time journalists have with games. As if journalists don't already act as a mouthpiece for the industry... He'd have them spend less time critically appraising a demo, and more time writing. I suppose from his (developer) perspective that is an ideal situation.

Interestingly, one of the few companies that is both adapting to the changing times as well as pushing those changes forward - Valve - finds itself in a good enough position that it doesn't need the bluster of a pre-show press conference, and has settled for just a booth.
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I understand that he wants to try and fly his flag, to try and address the whole loss of credibility after falling out with MS and the whole 'Milo and Kate' project BS. But I am seriously concerned that we have a number of 'usual suspects' appearing on the scene as 'commentators' - all with vested interests to try and find a comfy position before the "music stops"!

Thanks for your comments Peter, but no thanks!
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 4 years ago
The problem with the iOS marketplace is visibility. How do you get your app noticed out of a million others?
Molyneux is leveraging his fame expertly to give 22 Cans visibility. Well done.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 4 years ago
The problem is, his fame is a double-edged sword. If you recognise him then you recognise his ability to oversell titles, and not deliver on wild promises. And, of course, if you don't recognise him then he's just some pretentious developer trying oh-so-hard to "understand" the hapless journos whilst mentioning his company a couple of times.
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