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Bethesda's Pete Hines

On building buzz, the November crush and Bethesda's publishing philosophy

Bethesda Softworks has developed and published games since the middle of the 1980s, but it has really ramped up its business in recent years, self-publishing global blockbusters like Fallout 3, building up an MMO studio and acquiring the likes of id Software and Arkane Studios.

Pete Hines, vice president of PR and marketing, has been at the heart of this internal revolution. We caught up with him at QuakeCon in Dallas recently to discuss this year's product slate - including RAGE and Skyrim - and Bethesda's thoughts on Online Pass, social gaming, and its ongoing expansion.

GamesIndustry.biz The promotional campaign for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Rage kicked in really early this year, with promos in front of summer films like X-Men: First Class. What are the benefits of doing such a long campaign, and how do you avoid losing momentum?
Pete Hines

I think it's all in how it's done. If we were trying to build a constant level of noise that you might expect around launch and doing that six months early, that's really difficult to maintain. But if you can find different ways to engage the audience, to reach out to folks who may not have seen your trailer, to stick it before a movie and see it where you might not normally see it, I think that you do it at a level that's both easy to maintain as well as easy to build off of.

GamesIndustry.biz Rage was announced before you acquired developer id Software, four years ago at QuakeCon. Was that too early?
Pete Hines

In retrospect, yes. If you had to do it all over again, I don't think anyone would argue against the fact you wouldn't do it that way. You would wait and hold it and announce it a bit closer to launch. But at the time it was independent, and they were in the business of going out to third-party publishers and finding a home for their titles. So it's done in a slightly different way to when you're internal like they are now, in the way in which you talk about stuff, do stuff, time it. I think it's very different.

The way in which Rage got positioned initially was wrong. People got confused and didn't even know what it was

GamesIndustry.biz It must have created a unique challenge for you.
Pete Hines

It was unique in two ways. Not only was the timing not necessarily what you want, but I think the way in which it got positioned initially was wrong for the title. I think id agreed as well. Too much was focused on all the new stuff that wasn't the shooter, and people got confused and didn't even know what it was, so we came in and sort of shifted that to say, look, you guys are the creators of the first-person shooter genre, that's the game you're making.

GamesIndustry.biz Skyrim is coming out at the same time as several other massive games. Do you think it's healthy for the games industry to have that level of congestion and is it really sustainable?
Pete Hines

It's probably healthy for the industry, because the industry gets a lot of attention when there's all these things happening, just like the movie industry gets a lot of buzz when there's a bunch of really big things at the movies and everyone's talking about them all.

It's probably not healthy for everybody who has one of those titles though, because usually somebody gets the short end of the stick and somebody ends up falling short and not doing quite what they expected to do. Usually - I'm making generalities. Also, this is fairly unique - it's not like it happens every year. It's a bit cyclical. I think 2008 was the last time we had this massive concentration.

GamesIndustry.biz You recently released more DLC for Fallout: New Vegas. Do you feel you've got the DLC process figured out now? And what would you do differently as you look to Skyrim and other titles?
Pete Hines

I think we continue to look at the possible combinations of how many things we do and how big each of them are and how much they cost, and I don't think we've hit yet a formula where we do something for every game and we're not changing.

GamesIndustry.biz Is there even a formula or does it just need to fit the product?
Pete Hines

It's not necessarily a formula so much as a philosophy, and I don't think we've hit one thing where every DLC we make will be of this size at this level of cost, etc. We did one thing for Oblivion, we did something different for Fallout 3, we've done something fairly similar for Fallout: New Vegas, and then with Skyrim... TBD.

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Tom Bramwell


Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.