A word with Trip Hawkins.
Hello there loves. It's your roving reporter TT here, with yet another exclusive Rodent interview for your delectation, with none other than industry leg-end, Trip Hawkins! Trip kindly took 10 minutes out of his very busy schedule to talk to us all the way from California about his launch of the 3DO console, launching Electronic Arts and other stuff!
Hi Trip, Welcome to Way Of The Rodent! its good of you to take some time out to talk to us.
No problem, it’s a pleasure.
OK Trip, this is quick fire stuff – all we need is interesting quick answers, no War & Peace, OK?
Do you actually age? You look exactly the same as I remember you, like 10 years ago?
Photos don’t age, so the trick is to keep sending out the same one for years.
Trip would like us to use this image.
He was fourteen when it was taken.
I guess most of us know you as the founder of the 3DO platform. Those must have been pretty exciting times for a guy in his late 20’s, no?
Can’t I be remembered for the one before that?
We’ll be coming onto that…
OK, well when I founded EA I was 28, but by the beginning of 3DO I was 37. Older, but apparently not wiser.
Actually, I bought one of the first 3DOs in the UK for the princely sum of £400 -can I send it back to you and get a refund? It’s been in my loft for the last 10 years or so…
I think you might do better on eBay. I actually still use my 3DO, to play music and the 4-player game, Twisted!
Really? I’m mildly impressed! So what do you think now to the 3DO software line-up looking back? I mean let’s face it the only really good game on there was Need For Speed wasn’t it?
Yeah, unfortunately, most of the good games were late. I especially loved Return Fire and Road Rash.
“Watch those jaggies dude!”
Haha! I’ve just remembered that game “Trip’d” Haha. Ha..ah. Ah…..ahem.
Yes, there were some pretty strange games, especially out of Japan.
There were some other horrors on the 3DO of course, “Monster Manor”? Any other comments on the software quality with the benefit of hindsight?
We should have waited another year to launch, to give the software time. Or maybe we should have just waited until the end of time…
Gex was another - did you end up strangling the guy who did the voice for that game?
Good memory! That was another pretty good game, though.
Anyway, why do you think the 3DO failed? Anything you’d do differently launching a 3DO2 today?
The main thing now is don’t go up against Sony when they are spending 20 times more money. And yes, the initial hardware price was too high, because we made the software license fees too low to subsidize the hardware.
I see, well for what it’s worth Trip, I was hanging on to my 3DO for the M2 add on that was supposedly appearing. I remember that famous screenshot of the futuristic car printed in Edge magazine. I hung on to every word you said man. Come on Trip you can level with me now, man-to-man, was that picture completely photo shopped?
Seriously? The M2 was actually built, and ran an impressive racing game. The car in question was calculated and drawn according to a simulation of the system, because it was generated before we had the final hardware running.
The M2. Mocked up. Cause it wasn’t ready. Yet. Honest.
Riiight. So when you sold the M2 thing to Matsushita for a gazillion dollars you must have been laughing all the way to the bank surely? Putting it politely, there must have been a huge amount of turd polishing going on there. What exactly did they buy? Didn’t they end up using the technology in a toaster or something?
Mind your manners, impressionable children may read this! The fact is, Matsushita got intimidated by Sony and it was their decision to back out of the consumer market. They did use M2 for multimedia business applications. You’ll find many big companies having spent a lot more on R&D with a lot less to show for it.
And of course you founded Electronic Arts in the 80s. Do you feel that you created something of a monster given their size now?
My goal with EA was to be number 1 and it occasionally works out the way you planned, along with a decade or so of wanderings. My view? They’re a tough company today in a tough business.
What do you think can be done about EA’s dominance? Is it a good thing for the industry?
It would be nice to see the industry be more inventive, but production costs are insane. So EA’s evolution is understandable, though a bit unfortunate.
I bet you’re looking forward to Tiger Woods 2038 like the rest of us then?
Well, maybe your grandson will be? Personally, I had a great time working on the original few EA golf games. But today I’d rather play MLSN Sports Picks.
Righto, so you’re no longer involved directly with console video games Trip and can I say we kind of miss you. Back in the day there were real characters such as yourself, Dave Perry from Shiny, Sam and Jack Tramiel, Howard Lincoln, the guy with the hair who did Daikatana. What’s happened to the character and Original Spirit of the industry? All we’re left with is the likes of Jay “mid life crisis” Allard for god’s sake.
As Hunter Thompson said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”
I’ll do that. Did you ever meet the heavy mob from Atari back then? Was it literally like dealing with the Sopranos? Looking at the pictures now it seems that way.
Oh yeah, of course! Jack Tramiel was fond of showing us his serial number from the concentration camp. These were very intense and aggressive people.
Er…really? Hmmm…anyway, moving on! We just mentioned Jay Allard what did you think of the launch of the 360?
Smart of them to get out before Sony, but I really don’t know if anyone wins these battles.
I was tempted to sell my son and two cows to get one on Ebay but resisted at the last minute. Any tips where we can get one?
Try doing an interview like this with Jay Allard in 10 years... He may have one he wants to get rid of.
Haha! So Trip you’ve recently set up your new outfit, “Digital Chocolate” with a view to stir up the mobile gaming market. I read that in America, something like $96 billion is spent on voice calls and just $4 billion is spent on multimedia. That’s quite a gap but it says to me that consumers want to use a telephone as a telephone! Presumably you see an opportunity there?
We’re in the era of social computing, and the mobile phone will be the winning platform. The first hint is the success of messaging and personalization. We’re building social games like MLSN Sports Picks, and a game called “Ava Flirting” where your avatar goes on dates with other avatars and you can send messages about it. These games let you create mobile gaming clubs with a lot of personalization and communication. They’re a great way to stay in touch with friends and meet new people.
I notice you're based in California, do you ever see Arnie riding past in his Juggernaut? Isn't he stamping all over videogames right now with censorship and the like?
I recently saw the Governor’s Mansion, but he doesn’t live there. His ironic attempt at censorship probably won’t get anywhere.
“Achtung! Ich bin das einen Stevie Wonder. Unt!”
What do you think we’ll be playing in 10 years time?
Twisted! On my 3DO (Laughs). In general, I hope to see gaming be more about social contact and play, and less about the graphics. But it will all keep getting better.
I’m sure you’re a man who likes to look forward, but do you reminisce about the early days at all Trip?
Oh yeah, all the time. It was fun to be young and foolish and to take on impossible challenges and sometimes meet them.
So you don’t wait for the wife and kids to go to bed and pull out your old 3DO and settle down for a nice game of P.O’d then?
Who goes to bed? In my family, we love to play and often stay up late doing it. We have a ton of platforms and also play a lot of board games.
Trip I'll be lynched if I don't ask you this. I have two words: “Army Men”. Why?
I will leave it to you to explain to your readers how consumers could possibly hate Army Men and yet buy 7,000,000 copies. Personally, I liked and played many of the games. Look, maybe they were not complicated enough for some of the hardcore guys. But they sold well.
Finally Trip, we’d like to give away this original copy of Road Rash on the 3DO signed by your own fair hands - can you give us a question to ask our readers?
Okay! Since you asked me similar questions:
"What games or platforms do you imagine that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs play with in their spare time?"** (send your answers to tripping@NOSPAMretailkings.com)
Thanks Trip! We’ll get you to select the best answer!
Cheers for talking to us fella – get back to work!
It’s been an experience! Cheerio!
Thanks and what's he up to now then?
The team here would like to thank Trip for being such a good sport under the barrage of TT's questioning. In fact we'd like to give the man Hawkins massive credit for responding at all to Tony's original request for an interview - given that the request was worded such that it would have looked more appropriate having been made out of cut-up newspaper letters glued onto a bit of A4.
Trip's current venture is Digital Chocolate - whose products will be familiar to many of our readers in the US. Personally we'd love a UK version of the complete genius that is MLSN Sports Picks: basically, you and your mates set up a league and predict outcomes for, and answer questions relating to, various real sporting events each week. It's a simple idea beautifully realised - you 'merkins can get it on Sprint, Cingular and Verizon apparently. Oh and one of Trip's fellow directors appears to be that bloke out of ABBA - so that's good too.