Editor’s note: Andrew presents his next boardroom conversation between the Smarmy Exec and the Devious Exec. This time, this shamless duo schemes to get around the holiday gaming glut. -Jason
Deep in the bowels of a third party publisher, Smarmy Exec enters Devious Exec’s Office.
Smarmy Exec: Did you get my memo on the holiday release schedule?
Devious Exec: Ah, yes, I have it right here. I have to tell you — I’m impressed. We have over, what, 150 games scheduled for release in a three-week period? Most excellent.
Smarmy Exec: Yeah, I’ve been having misgivings about our fourth quarter.
Devious Exec: What could be wrong? Biggest spending season of the year, and with more things to sell, we will make more money.
Smarmy Exec: Consumer behavior doesn’t work like that, sir. Especially during a recession.
Devious Exec: [Covers ears] Don’t say that word! Economic slowdown! Say economic slowdown!
Smarmy Exec: Sorry, sir, forgive me. Anyway, families only have a limited amount of spending money in any given year, and this year will be less than most. Less money with more choices…we stand the risk of losing out, even if your assertion that video games are recession proof is true.
Devious Exec: Video games are economic-slowdown proof. We have nothing to worry about.
Smarmy Exec: Then why did we close down three studios and lay off 500 employees?
Devious Exec: [Slight pause] Corporate restructuring, fiscal prudence, and Metacritic scores.
Smarmy Exec: Either way, we’re up against some stiff competition. Beatles: Rock Band will soon be out, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is coming out this year.
Devious Exec: Beatles in a video game? How much did they pay for that??
Smarmy Exec: Reports say one million trillion dollars.
Devious Exec: A deal at twice the price…. Why didn’t we get it?
Smarmy Exec: All of our resources are tied up in securing the rights to a Styx music game and a Hall & Oates music game.
Devious Exec: [Stroking chin] Sometimes I’m so clever that I surprise myself…. OK, so what do you suggest?
Smarmy Exec: I figure we can delay a couple of our triple-A titles to first quarter 2010.
Devious Exec: No one buys video games in January!
Smarmy Exec: Ah, but hear me out. Trends show that parents are absolutely useless when it comes to picking out gifts.
Devious Exec: I’m well aware of this. Most of our business strategy relies on ill-informed parents picking up the wrong games for their children.
Smarmy Exec: But these days, parents are clued into the phenomenon, since they are the first generation of parents to play video games as children, and thus were disappointed by their own parents’ Christmas gifts. Gift cards are on the rise, because Christmas is no longer about giving and receiving. It’s about kids getting exactly what they want. So if we release a game after Christmas, we’ll avoid the bloated release schedule while still being able to cash in on Christmas dollars.
Devious Exec: [Stunned] Jesus Christ in a chicken basket, that’s a great idea. Let me call the studio immediately.
Devious Exec picks up phone.
In a cramp cubicle filled with knickknacks, Developer answers phone.
Devious Exec: Stop the presses!
Developer: We don’t have presses.
Devious Exec: Stop the magic DVD machine! I need to know what you are working on!
Developer: Well, we have a fantasy-RPG that features moral decisions, and we have an action-platformer that uses antiquated religious beliefs that have been bastardized as source material.
Devious Exec: [Covers phone and turns to Smarmy Exec] I don’t know what the fuck this guy’s talking about, but it sounds amazing. [Into phone] Are they triple-A titles?
Developer: Depends. Do you want to tell people they’re triple-A?
Devious Exec: What if we did?
Developer: Then they would be triple-A.
Devious Exec: Do I have to spend more money?
Developer: Nah, Triple-A and normal-A games are pretty much the same thing. Sometimes even subnormal-B and C games.
Devious Exec: Then triple-A they are! Where are we in development?
Developer: They’ve been sitting around for a few months now. We finished them for second quarter, but we delayed them for Christmas. And yes, we’ve kept those bugs in that you requested so not to raise anyone’s expectations for future titles.
Devious Exec: Well, we’re going to delay them further. Until first quarter 2010.
Devious Exec: So we can capitalize on Christmas sales.
Devious Exec: Oh, so now I have to explain myself to you, do I? Well, I don’t think so! What happened between me and your daughter while she was babysitting is between me and her!
Developer: I thought we were talking about delaying the games.
Devious Exec: Oh, right. Anyway, the game’s delayed. End of story.
Developer: What’s this about my daughter?
Devious Exec: What’s this about an audit of your studio?
Developer: Oh, come on, you can’t–
Devious Exec: I said “Good day, sir.” [Hangs up phone]
Developer hangs up phone, stands up and calls out over cubicles
Developer: We got a delay! Doritos and Mountain Dew Party! Woot!
Eccentric Design Girl: I’m going to do some coke in the bathroom.
Developer: You idiot. I said Mountain Dew!
Three months later. Smarmy Exec enters Devious Exec’s office.
Smarmy Exec: Did you see the November NPDs?
Devious Exec: Yes, and I am quite happy with it. I feel we made the right choice by delaying our games. I mean, look how many copies of The Beatles: Rock Band were sold! The PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii don’t even have a combined install base that high! I didn’t even know that that many people knew what video games were!
Smarmy Exec: Yes, troubling.
Devious Exec: What? This is fantastic! All those baby boomers who don’t give a lick about their kid’s inheritance are figuring out they need more hardware for this. And then they’ll buy our games!
Smarmy Exec: There is a different theory on why it did so well. Turns out everyone else delayed their games. First quarter is now the new fourth quarter.
Devious Exec: So what do we do?
Smarmy Exec: I think we should delay until Christmas, so we can capitalize on holiday sales.
Devious Exec: Fantastic! This may be the best sales strategy yet.
Epilogue: Sometime later. Devious Exec alone in office on phone with Developer
Devious Exec: So seriously, we need to respond to Beatles: Rock Band.
Developer: We could do Music Game: Wings. And our ugly polygons will bridge the uncanny valley with Linda McCartney.
Devious Exec: Can that be a unique selling point?
Developer: Might be too soon. Although, maybe we can’t fit Heather Mills in. With her one leg, we can play fast and loose with collision detection.
Devious Exec: What else you got?
Developer: We could do Music Game: Plastic Ono Band.
Devious Exec: Oh, good — I just shit my pants. Do you realize what the licensing fees would be? There was like a million guest stars. Next!
Developer: Well, we have a working prototype of Music Game: Yoko Ono.
Devious Exec: If Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles, her music game will do the same to their music game! Genius. How far out are we?
Developer: Well, really it’s just the code from Bubsy 3D, but the game is so awful that it illicits groans, moans, screams…. We had a tester go note for note with her song “Why?”
Devious Exec: Truly amazing. I’ll greenlight that. Can we put in a nude character model of Yoko…like on the cover of Two Virgins.
Developer hangs up phone.
Devious Exec: I guess, on second thought, Bubsy is a pretty good approximation.