The past, no regrets
In the gaming business, you've been one of the pioneers. What are the biggest changes you've seen?
Silicon Valley is a different place now. The industry has gotten bigger. The stakes are higher. In some ways, everything's harder. People have changed. When I started 20 years ago, it was easier to get people to do
what they were told. [Smiles.]. Nowadays, that's not so easy.
Did any of them surprise you?
You know, I always enjoy working with young people. They always
have lots of new ideas. It's a young marketplace. I think there's a lot of
clever ideas now about how to use new technologies, and in particular, the
Internet. We have this new game called Meridian 59, and players in that
game, even though they don't get points for it, do things like marry each
other, form police squads to keep the peace, or get into gang warfare, reinventing all the segments of society.
What were some of the mistakes you made?
There were technologies in the '80s that a lot of people tried
to use. You have Philips with CD-i. You have John Malone with TCI, who tried
to make 500-channel television. You have what the gaming industry tried to
do with CD-ROM. A lot of these technologies just weren't quite ready. This
is true in many cases with inventions. They just don't work the first time,
and you have to just sort of appreciate that the industry right now is just
going through that. I think that in the next ten years, you'll see DVD
(digital video disc), the Internet, and gaming. Those three will be really
strong sources of demand for computing. They will create new markets and
those new markets will feel a lot like what we were trying to do.
Is there anything you've learned from this business that you can
boil down into a law or a bromide?
One of the surprising things about this business is that in some
ways, it's really simple. If you want to survive, your revenues have to be
bigger than your expenses. You have to be realistic about what it takes to
generate revenue. In terms of what I do, I think my mantra is, "to do is to
be." That's what we're really here for. If I
can make really great products that allow you to transport yourself in time
and space, to be someone else, to use fantasy and role-playing as a way of
finding out who you are, I am accomplishing something.
What do you say to the people who bought your stock for $46 a share?
I'm one of the people who buys the stock. Bud Colligan (of Macromedia) buys the stock. I'm interested in seeing the stock go up. The
technology category has just been pounded the last few years. A lot of
companies have seen their stocks go down. You can't take it all too
personally. I try to take a long-term view that anything that happens
overnight probably isn't a very good thing. You've got to look at any
company as a five-year proposition.
How do you plan five years in this market?
Sometimes when you think you're prepared, you are totally
unprepared. You're quite better off if you step back and are willing to
believe things that are unbelievable.
I think that at the beginning of 3DO we thought that consumers
would be ready to pay more if they could do more. It turns out that there's
such a mind-set that says, "a game system is only worth $100." It's pretty
hard for the industry to move to new technologies that drive up costs. One of
the things that I believe is that where the game industry will really grow
in the next ten years is DVD movies, which will be a huge mass market on the
Internet. Those machines will expand the number of machines out there.
It wasn't that long ago that you were getting the press attention of a
rock star. Since then, the fickle finger of the press has moved on. Has
Silicon Valley become too glamorized?
I've never really been into what I do or interested in what I do in
terms of the celebrity or the attention I get. I enjoy talking about it
because I think we are trying to do something important and of potential
social value and interest. The media has a job to do and they're going
to go where they're going to go. I'm not particularly concerned about it.
3DO recently reinvented itself; tell us about that.
3DO started as a technology company and tried to orchestrate an
industry of companies to use that technology. We realized that's not the
role we should be trying to play, so we decided to take our technology and
use it in different markets: 3D capabilities in the chips of
personal computers, as well as designing our technology for DVD and the
Internet, for example. We also decided to expand our software business, and so now we do
alternative games, like Meridian 59.
Was that a blow to your ego?