Interview With THQ

   The following interview was conducted with THQ's vice president of 
product development, Michael Rubinelli.
Ivan Trembow: Is THQ going to stop supporting the Dreamcast in 2001 like 
most other third-party publishers, or will you continue to support the 
Dreamcast in 2001 and beyond?

Michael Rubinelli: We have no plans for Dreamcast releases for 2001 at this 

Ivan: Do you think that the Dreamcast, realistically, has a chance against 
the PlayStation 2?

Michael: Not realistically as a front-line platform.  It's sad, too.  It 
was very apparent to me at E3 that the software at Sega's booth was great.  
The problem was that it was all coming from first-party, like Virtua Tennis, 
Seaman, World Series Baseball, NFL 2K1, Samba de Amigo, and so on.  
   History has proven that only having strong first-party support spells 
doom for hardware platforms.  You can look back to the mid 80's and see how 
the Sega Master System was dominated by the NES because it only had first-
party titles for the longest time.  Nintendo flaunted their third-party-
driven library to their advantage, and the rest is video gaming history.

Ivan: Will THQ's first WWF game for the PlayStation 2 will be out before 
the end of 2001?

Michael: I certainly hope so!

Ivan: What are THQ's plans for the Xbox and Game Cube?

Michael: We have been meeting with Microsoft and Nintendo and at this 
point, we intend to publish for both the Game Cube and the Xbox.

Ivan: THQ's wrestling games currently use both Aki's game engine 
(Wrestlemania) and Yuke's (Smackdown, Royal Rumble).  Are you going to 
continue to use both engines in the future, or will you eventually choose 
one or the other?

Michael: Both developers will be utilized, and the engines are being 
completely revamped.

Ivan: What's next for Aki after WWF No Mercy is released?

Michael: We haven't made any formal announcements, but we do intend to work 
with Aki in the future.

Ivan: I get a lot of letters from readers who are disappointed that certain 
WWF newcomers aren't included in the newer wrestling games, so you could 
explain to these people the process that you have to go through in order to 
insert a wrestler into a game?

Michael: If they are disappointed, can you imagine what we go through?  
Everyone who works on th WWF games here at THQ is a huge fan, so it kills 
us when we can't get the latest story lines or the latest characters woven
into the game.  It's especially tricky with the long cartridge lead times 
on the N64.
   Take No Mercy, for example.  We say that there will be 60 guys and gals 
in No Mercy.  From that list, we will create a pretty comprehensive list of 
"desired superstars" and we will then present that list to the WWF for 
their approval.  At that time, they might advise us about certain wrestlers 
who are hurt and shouldn't be put into the game because they won't be part 
of any upcoming story lines.
   If a new superstar is signed by the WWF, we have to assess who they 
replace in the game and how long it would take to get photo content so we 
can build the models and animate all of the moves.  We would much rather 
leave a superstar out of a game than put them in at the last minute and 
have it look bad.  In addition to long lead times, we also have to consider 
our data capacity for each game.

Ivan: To bring up one specific example, Smackdown was released in March, 
Tazz made his WWF debut in January, and it was common knowledge that he was 
leaving ECW for the WWF last September.  I realize that it takes a long 
time to insert a wrestler into a game, but why wasn't Tazz in WWF 

Michael: WWF Smackdown went to Sony for code approval around January 13th.  
Citing the reasons I mentioned before, you can see why including him in 
Smackdown would have been a challenge.  Rest assured that he is in all of 
our upcoming WWF games.

Ivan: Dumping the WCW license for the WWF license has to be the smartest 
business move a wrestling game publisher has ever made.  Back when this 
decision was made, could anyone have known that WCW would go from being #1 
in the wrestling business to being on pace to lose $80 million this year?  
Likewise, could anyone have known that the WWF would go from a struggling 
company to one that's setting all-time records?

Michael: Very few people could have called it at the time it happened.  We 
feel very lucky.

Ivan: What do you think the biggest new trends in the video game industry 
are going to be over the next few years?

Michael: Everyone is looking for online gaming to become the next big thing, 
but I'm not so sure that its time has come for the masses yet.  With that 
said, I think games will become more immersive and almost like living 
applications.  Not so much in a Seaman sort of way, but more episodically.  
Imagine always being able to update story lines and characters and grabbing 
new missions, levels, and data off the net for a couple of dollars.  With 
this business model, companies would spend a lot less money in development 
and could do huge volumes at low overhead costs.

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