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Interviews

THQ's Danny Bilson pt. 1

We catch up with the publisher's core games boss...

Every publisher should have a Danny Bilson.

Sure, when you sit down and talk to THQ's core software boss, the pristine suit and 'old boys' handshake scream 'Boardroom bulldog'.

Zoom

His immaculate hair, LA teeth and business-smart drawl don't exactly do much to deter this first impression; portraying a man consistently in full control of the words that escape his lips.

But there's one subject that can make Bilson's cool slip slightly; one subject that gets his hands slapping the table and his eyes full of fire - and that's video games.

Not the sales forecasts, not the distribution chain, not the development budgets - all of which he has a typically slick command of - but the games.

FPS, action, sports, MMO; Bilson has personal experience - and an opinion - on them all.

A veteran of Medal Of Honor, The Sims and a host of Hollywood TV and movie productions, Bilson is the sort of money man that can quickly earn the respect of his consumers. He could probably whup most of them on Xbox Live.

He's a gamer in a position of great power - and because he's a gamer, he knows what he likes. And that's damn refreshing.

Get him on one of THQ's major core titles, and he speaks a mile a minute; jettisoning killer phrases like "ghee whiz!" and "James Bondian" as he goes.

Listen into THQ's next earnings calls if you get a chance. No, really, do.

In amongst the drab fiscal analysis and the blunt investor enquires, there's Bilson, spilling over with bone fide enthusiasm for the products he personally caresses from abstract idea to shelf-filler.

It's like hearing one of your own fighting the good fight in the P&L-dominated, passion-adverse lion's den of corporate enterprise. Perhaps sadly, it's something of a thrill.

As you might have guessed, we like him very much. We think you will too...

What's the difference between THQ of today - where you seem to have really strong quality in the hardcore space - and the THQ of a few years ago, where that wasn't the case?
The difference is the people running the core group are those hardcore consumers. That's exactly what it is. Our whole team are those guys you're talking about, including myself. I'm a hardcore gamer - that's all I do, play video games. Our whole team is built on those same people.

We're building games that we want to play the most. And it's working. We're our own test market I've been in the entertainment business for 30 years, and someone I very much look up to, John Milius - who happens to be writing Homefront - told me back in 1980: 'Write the movie you want to see the most.' That's' what we're doing at THQ - making the games we want to play the most. It's almost that simple and that pure. We just have a lot of smart game makers who are very dedicated. We're working really, really hard to make up for some of the sins of the past and to grow our business.

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The other thing is, there's a lot of creative talent now in the business - but that creative talent is integrated. Our marketing and our PD is absolutely joined at the hip - so they're sharing that creativity. Our marketers are the hardcore gamers, the PD guys are hardcore gamers. They're coming up with really creative ideas.

Our team is unique in the entire entertainment industry. We have about ten people who all sit together - half of them are marketers, half of them are product development people. Everyone of our marketers is a passionate, hardcore gamer also. And we spend much more time on creative campaigns than we do market research.

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