It’s a very strange time to be the type of gamer that keeps up with the industry happenings – especially, those happening in the field of game development. Earlier this week Cliff Bleszinski announced he is leaving Epic Games. Thought to be one of the biggest names in the industry, Bleszinski has been a staple of Epic Games. In this week’s edition of the Sanchez Soapbox, I wanted to discuss the importance of development companies using a figurehead to represent the company, and the possible impact made in case of their absence.
Let’s look back earlier this year, before Bleszinski left Epic, Bioware founders Greg Zeschuk and Dr. Ray Muzyka left the company. Recently, one of Bioware’s lead designers, Daniel Erickson, announced he was parting ways with the company. Also, earlier in the year Peter Molyneux left Lionhead Studios to start his own company. Another figurehead in that mix is Twisted Metal creator, David Jaffe who announced his departure from Eat Sleep Play.
Some people in the business would speculate these companies would be just fine without some of these guys, as long as they produce quality products. This is true, but the importance of a figurehead is also important to promote the upcoming release of a game as well. Often times on video game related programming, the audience would see David Jaffe promoting the upcoming Twisted Metal game. Bleszinski would promote the next Gears of War, and even showed off Fortnite.
This kind of promotion builds a trust and a following with the audience. It gives the mentality of “this game will be good because this guy has a reputation of making games that we’ve grown accustomed to playing.” We know their style; we know they have something good in store for this game, right down to the easter eggs. That trust goes a long way into the gamers’ decision into buying this game – sometimes even on day one.
This trust isn’t just built with the gamer either. Late last year, Shigeru Miyamoto stated in an interview, he may be retiring to make way for Nintendo’s younger developers. Once news of the retirement broke, not only did gamers have something to say about this, but Nintendo’s stock dropped significantly. The company was forced to do some damage control. Miyamoto, himself had to clarify that he wasn’t “retiring” in the literal sense of the word, but rather transitioning himself into a mentor role for the younger developers for the day when he finally does step down.
Can you imagine that day when Miyamoto isn’t out on stage representing Nintendo anymore? Seeing one of the industry’s biggest icons during a Nintendo press conference was something I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Imagine that day when he’s not there anymore – not showing off the latest Mario or Zelda game. In Nintendo’s case however, they have Reggie Fils-Aime or Satoru Iwata handling a vast majority of the speaking duties at press conferences and shows. They have that luxury because they’re a much larger company with a lot more money at stake. Development companies build off reputations of the games they make, therefore have their figurehead, or at least someone who knows all about the game that speaks well, to talk about the game’s story, the new weapons, additions, etc.
When a figurehead leaves, it forces the company to think about which member of the company can best represent them and take the company into the right direction moving forward. For an audience, it leaves a few questions to be asked; What’s next for that company, and what’s next for the person that just left? I would be hard pressed to say it’s over for the company because of a big name in the company, considering they are full of people that are willing to step up and become the face that company. In an ideal situation, that company should have the setup for a successful future minus one person – one person that did a lot of good things for the company, but one person nonetheless.
So what say you gamers? How valuable is a figurehead to you as a gamer? Do you think companies can rebound from a key loss of their staff? Keep the conversation in the comment section below.