Saints Row 4 dev unconcerned with next-gen competition
Volition's Jim Boone isn't worried about current-gen effort being overshadowed by PS4 and Xbox One anticipation
All eyes in the console world are on the forthcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launches, but Volition senior producer Jim Boone isn't worried about launching Saints Row IV solely for last-gen systems right as the next-gen hype begins to crest. Speaking to GamesIndustry International last month, Boone said he was actually more worried in 2011, when Saints Row The Third launched the same month as Uncharted 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
"I was looking at that lineup wondering how [Saints Row] was going to do," Boone admitted. "There were a lot of big heavy hitters going out at the same time, so I wondered. And it went out and was the biggest Saints Row game we've done yet. I think the big thing that we have going for us is that our game is so unique and different from everything else that's out there, and because we have an audience that absolutely loves this game, that helps us cut through some of the other noise that's out there."
The unique nature of Saints Row was something the marketing team at Deep Silver had to pick up on short notice. The game is set to launch in August, but Deep Silver parent company Koch Media only acquired the developer from the ashes of THQ in January. Boone gave Deep Silver high marks for their work to date, but suggested there may be more upside on future projects.
"With THQ, we had so many years working with the same marketing team," Boone said. "They knew the game inside and out and knew what things to focus on. And it's been interesting to see Deep Silver come in and key in on slightly different things. Don't get me wrong, THQ always loved the over-the-top nature of it, but the Deep Silver guys really get the over-the-top nature of it and are keying in on that, which is great...I think they've done a great job considering [the time frame], but I also think everyone will feel better when they really have time to figure everything out and dig into it. And I think they're going to be that much better once they've had a chance to do that."
Shortly after the Volition acquisition, Deep Silver announced it was planning to move into the mobile market. Boone said Volition was ready to go along with mobiles and tablets as well, and even prototyped some second-screen functionality for Saints Row IV.
"Our feeling was if we couldn't do it right and really add something new, we didn't want to do it," Boone said. "To give you a crude example, we did what everyone else was doing. We had a map on the screen, and you could look at the map. Which is cool, don't get me wrong. But our thought was we really needed to do something more innovative than that. And for the time that we had, that was one area where we didn't have the time to do it justice."
Despite that, Boone said he feels mobile devices will open up a world of potential for game developers.
"To be able to take something that is a fundamental part of us, that we feel naked without, and to be able to weave that into your game experience is very powerful," Boone said. "It just requires us to be thinking of it in very creative ways as developers to make it really work."
Finally, we asked Boone if he ever felt left out when the intentionally outrageous Saints Row wasn't name-dropped alongside the likes of Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto when people attack gaming as a corrosive influence on youth.
"Almost! It's funny," Boone said. "We've obviously talked about it, because it seems like we never get mentioned. The only thing I can think of is because we're always so tongue-in-cheek and irreverent about it, that I think people get that--in our own twisted, warped way--it's all in good fun. People understand there's a certain levity to what we're doing. I think it's good that we debate such things, but not surprisingly, I tend not to think it's any worse for viewers than watching an R-rated movie. It's just entertainment."