Thatgamecompany founder Jenova Chen has vowed to prove that high-quality, emotion-driven games can be commercially successful, so that developers can think about art ahead of finances.
“What I see very consistently is that students come up after my talks asking if there’s any way they can work at our company. The reason they ask is because, no matter what company they find, everybody’s focusing on how to get people more addicted to their games, how to keep them coming back, how to create monetization points,” Chen told VentureBeat.
“That’s not what they think games should be about. I think I’m somewhat responsible, because we’ve showed them that games can help people. There’s just no place for them to work.”
Chen said that gamers and developers both know that games can inspire emotion, but “what’s missing is the guy with the money who wants to invest in them or publish them”. He believes emotion-driven games have not yet sufficiently demonstrated their commercial value.
“So my resolution this year is: I’m not a money guy, but I want to make our next product a commercial success, so that people will say, ‘Hey, there’s a huge market out there. If you make a high-quality games that can touch people, it’s going to do great business,’” he said.
Chen pointed to Pixar as an example of the kind of company that doesn’t exist in the games industry, and said he thinks its possible to go from niche to massive, just as Blizzard did, opening its hardcore strategy property to a much broader audience in World of Warcraft.
“For me, this is my business pitch. Our game is meant for average people to play, rather than just gamers,” he said.
“Our game doesn’t have language. It should reach a worldwide community. If our game can be delivered to that worldwide community, to everyone, why shouldn’t we make money? There has to be money there. When it comes to how we monetize it, there’s always a way.”
Journey picked up eight awards at DICE 2013, and became the PSN’s best-selling game, but Chen’s company went bankrupt producing it and won’t receive any revenues till later this year. Happily, Journey attracted the attention of investors.