Personally I don't really play simulations all that much. I think it will be different people looking forward to this more arcade-like experience. All of the racing studios have been thinking really hard about what it is about these old style arcade racers that makes them not sell anymore. I can see that all of the guys like Black Rock, Bizarre and the Need for Speed studios have been wrestling with the same questions we have and they've all have come up with their own answer. I hope that we have the right recipe to find the buying audience.
Was the sales failure of Split Second a warning to you? Or do you think you're different enough?
We were certainly concerned with Blur and Split Second, which were both decent games. I don't think there was anything wrong with them, they just didn't find their audience despite strong reviews. I think that we have learned our lesson from those guys and think that we're doing something different from those guys. We have the Ridge Racer brand to help us generate interest and general talk about the title. We've been listening to what the arcade audience is looking for over the past few years and really tried to answer that. I'm really happy that Hot Pursuit has done well since I think that's the sort of audience that we're going after as well.
Why has it been so long since we've had a game from Bug Bear?
I can't really go into details. Our previous game was Flatout: Ultimate Carnage. We've worked on several concepts since but Ridge Racer Unbounded is the first title that we've announced. While I can't go into specifics I can say we're still employing and going strong.
We assume that's something to do with your former publisher Empire going bust?
Well, yeah Empire did go down after Flatout: Ultimate Carnage but I can't really comment on anything beyond that.
It didn't actually hurt us all that much, we have been able to work, there have been clients, we just haven't announced anything. We've done a couple of prototypes which were never public and got the chance to work with quite a few different people. I'm just happy that Namco Bandai saw fit to release a game with us.
Do you still have the Flatout license?
No, I'm actually not sure who owns it now. It changed hands a couple of times but it was never actually owned by us. It was owned by Empire Interactive and is probably with some holding company somewhere now. It could be fun to develop a new Flatout title at some point but for now we're completely focused on Ridge Racer.
Does it help to have a big license such as Ridge Racer?
Of course, I think it would be very difficult to break out with a new racing IP, as we've seen with Split Second and Blur...
Especially if they're released at the same time...
Yes (laughs). It seems really hard to debut a brand new franchise and we couldn't continue with Flatout anyway so we had a bunch of original concepts around but none of those really came to fruition until now. I'm really happy to working on Ridge Racer.
Why do you think the racing genre has gone from being huge in the 90s to how it is now?
I think a part of that is that games in general used to be a little simpler and maybe a little more demanding, I'm not sure if consumers actually want all this handholding that we're offering them as a standard now. Nobody expected Demon's Souls to do well and it did, not even the publisher expected that. So I'm really happy that Namco is publishing Dark Souls now.
I think that maybe there is a demand for a little more depth in gameplay experiences than what have been catered to lately. Maybe we've been doing a little too much automation. Our previous games were really difficult - I couldn't finish Flatout 2 - but fans still seemed to like it and we still get fan mail weekly. They want something like that and I think that the studios really have to find a balance between offering spectacle, maybe some higher production values but as an industry I think we might have gone a little bit too far in that direction - going just for all spectacle and too little gameplay. They become these very disposable experiences instead of games which you keep playing for years and years.