Although an independent developer for over 15 years, Insomniac has up until now worked exclusively on Sony's home consoles, creating recognisable brands and characters including Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance. But today, the team announced a new deal with EA Partners, to release a brand new title across the two rival home formats the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.
Here, in a brief interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Insomniac founder Ted Price and EA Partners' David DeMartini shed some more light on the deal, why it's the right time to move onto the Xbox 360 format, and how Sony feels about its valued partner trying out new console hardware.
Q: So how long have EA Partners and Insomniac been in talks to work together, and what was the thinking behind the partnership?
Ted Price: We've been talking for a while. Here at Insomniac we talk to just about every publisher who has global publishing capabilities and expertise across multiple platforms and we really enjoyed out talks with EA Partners because we felt that creatively and from a process perspective we're a great match. We think the same way in terms of quality over quantity.
David DeMartini: For the last fifteen years Insomniac has been delighting game players with a variety of products and great gaming experiences that they've delivered and we've been keeping an eye on Insomniac for a long, long time. We were thrilled to finally get an interview to even have conversations with them, and then when those conversations came to fruition we were thrilled to do whatever small part we can do in helping a game like this reach a much broader audience.
Q: Why is Insomniac going multiplatform now was it purely to reach a wider audience or did you feel restricted limiting yourselves to just one console?
Ted Price: For us the timing turned out to be right to go multiplatform. Our goal with this new universe is to reach as many players as possible and by working with EA Partners not only can we bring the game to PS3 players but Xbox 360 players. It was just a fantastic opportunity for us.
Q: Insomniac doesn't have any experience working on the Xbox 360 to date, so does that require a different discipline now that you're working with both home consoles?
Ted Price: No, because we still embrace the same production philosophies that have allowed us to release games just about every year since our inception. We're obviously developing new technology to support the Xbox 360 now.
Q: How long have you been working on that technology?
Ted Price: We're not talking about time lines right now.
Q: I'm just trying to get an idea of how long you've had your hands in the Xbox 360 hardware and software architecture?
Ted Price: Like I said, we're not talking about development specifics at this point.
Q: Obviously you've been very close Sony partners in the past, and your gaming brands are associated with the PlayStation consoles. What's Sony's reaction been to Insomniac going multiplatform, has that generated any friction in the relationship?
Ted Price: Sony is well aware of what we've been doing and we talked to them early about our goals to go multiplatform. For us it's an important business decision we had to make. Sony has been incredibly supportive and it's important to note we continue to work with Sony and our relationship with them is more important than ever.
David DeMartini: It's also important to note that the game that EA Partners is working on with Insomniac will be also be released on the PlayStation 3 and hopefully be hugely successful just like everything else they've done on the Sony system. Sony is a valued partner of EA and a valued partner of Insomniac and the studio isn't stopping its work on their other incredible franchises which happen to be released on the Sony platforms. It's a win-win for everybody in this relationship.
Q: There's a definite trend towards independent developers retaining the rights to their own intellectual property do you feel that's finally an levelling out of the publisher/developer relationship in the current generation?
David DeMartini: It's critically important for an independent developer to own their own intellectual property and to be able to chart their own course. IP ownership and delivery on multiple platforms are two of the largest value drivers for any business enterprise. The EA Partners programme completely facilitates both of those goals and that would be my advice and is my advice to every independent developer in the business. Now of course, depending on your negotiating position or the strength and quality, and the history of your independent game development company, you may or may not achieve those negotiations in a deal with any publisher. But that should certainly be the attempted goal.
Ted Price: That's true and I would reiterate what David has said. It's an important aspect of being an independent developer to do your best to retain your intellectual property, and working with EA Partners allows us to do that, which is very exciting for us.
Q: The new project is under way at Insomniac's Burbank studio, but is there any opportunity there to use any of EA's wider development capabilities?
David DeMartini: Certainly the opportunity is there, but the need is absolutely not there. I don't think that Insomniac needs any help from us, however, if they do, that's one of the big value drivers from the partners programme. Internal resources both at EA Partners in North America and Europe and EA in general is there for any kind of assistance that's required as the project goes through the various phases of the lifecycle. I don't anticipate that is what Insomniac needs but we're there for them for anything they need.
Q: You've said you're not discussing specifics about the game and franchise other than it's a "brand new universe." Are we likely to be seeing anything from it at E3 next month?
Ted Price: We won't be announcing any details until we're ready, so we're not making any announcements along those lines just yet.
Ted Price is CEO of Insomniac Games. David DeMartini is general manager of EA Partners. Interview by Matt Martin.