Interviews// Sports Interactive's Miles Jacobson, Part 2

Posted 29 Oct 2010 14:32 by
Miles Jacobson: We've got a very tight-knit team who tend to be a bit media-shy, but suffice to say if one of our games is good, it's because we've got a great team. But if one of our games is crap, then it's my fault for not turning round and saying a project's not good enough.

So we have expanded, but we've all grown up together. I think the first time we worked with Mark Duffy he was 14 years old. Oliver and Paul (Collier, Sports Interactive founders) were brothers, they grew up together and I met them when we were all in our early 20s.

I'm nearly 40 now. We've been working together for a very long time, as have most of the core part of the team and the newer guys who joined recently are going to be that core part of the team moving forward as well. We've been very fortunate.

SPOnG: Sounds like a really unique kind of working relationship. Like a big family.

Miles Jacobson: Yeah, it is a bit like that, which means there are often arguments as well. The arguments are sorted out generally in the same way that families sort them.

And we certainly look after our own. In that case, it's very much like a family... Yeah. It is a bit like an East End family. If someone takes on one person at SI, they're taking on the whole of SI (laughs).

SPOnG: Your position is quite unique on the grand scale of things, because Sports Interactive's a very British studio, in the middle of a big Japanese corporation.

Miles Jacobson: We're their strange English cousin (laughs).

SPOnG: You're the strange English cousin! You're also helping out with Asian MMOs and all sorts, so you've got a bit of a perspective on global matters I reckon. What's your take on Japanese developers casting doom and gloom on their industry and looking more to the West?

Miles Jacobson: I think that the Japanese create different experiences in games, much in the same as they do in cinema. The difference between the Hollywood version of The Ring compared to the original Japanese version... if you can handle subtitles, the Japanese film is so much scarier. And better!

I'm very lucky in working in a Japanese organisation like SEGA. If I want to get involved in Japanese culture, I can do. If I want someone to send me over a pack of Hi-Chews, they're in the post the next day. Although there's a shop down the road that sells them now, so I don't even have to get them shipped anymore.

If developers there are feeling inadequate, then I find that really sad because I think there was a time when there weren't many Western console developers, and maybe they had the whole of the market to themselves.

But hopefully one of the things that you'll see is the quality of the stuff from Japanese talent right now although I've not played them yet, the things I hear about the new Virtua Tennis game, the new Sonic game, obviously Yakuza as well. There's Valkyria Chronicles 2 out now and I can't stop playing it.

The stuff that's coming out from Japan at the moment is absolutely phenomenal. Square Enix are releasing really good games. The whole music genre would not have happened if it were not for the Japanese games industry, but it was Westernised by people over here and that does happen from time to time.

Even with something like Fable, that was an attempt to Westernise RPGs and I think Fable's a really good game. I personally don't believe that Western developers will ever concentrate on the story of a game as much as Japanese developers, as well as the character-driven side of things. You need a mix of all of it, but... no-one should ever feel inadequate. There's great games coming out from everywhere.

I know that there's a big desire for a lot of studios in the East to really break through to the Western market, and to sell a lot of games here. We had a similar phase at SI where we wanted to break into America so we did a hockey game and a baseball game. Now, I worked in the music industry for a long time, both before and during my time at SI, and I worked with a lot of bands who were desperate to crack America, and none of them ever did.

I don't know why I ever wanted to bother, myself. We have a great fanbase of people who want to play our games let them play them. If people in America want to play our games, let them. But don't do things specifically to try and break into those markets. We learnt quite a harsh lesson of time, when we were trying to do those things.

Both of the games that we worked on for the American markets were phenomenal games. Out of the Park Baseball is still SI's highest-rated game on Metacritic, and those guys are still continuing with the game and it's still great. With Eastside Hockey Manager the guys who worked on that all still work at SI.

You know, it's a big global marketplace now, and I really hope that a game like Valkyria Chronicles or Yakuza can break through in Europe. Not because it's Eastern developers breaking into the West, purely because they're really great games that people deserve to play and get entertainment out of. Everyone in the games industry, we're all entertainers. That's all we are.

SPOnG: Miles Jacobson, thank you very much for your time!

Miles Jacobson: Cheers! No problem.
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