E3 Interview: Denis Dyack

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

May 19, 2005

N-Sider met up with Denis Dyack, president of Silicon Knights and former Nintendo second-party studio. We felt it was a matter of providing some closure and also a chance to find out what the company has planned for the future.

Q: During the development of Eternal Darkness, you were very popular among the Nintendo community. We think one of the reasons of this was because you were able to identify and capture the voice of Nintendo Fans. How successful do you think Reggie has been with continuing this connection with fans?

Denis Dyack: Oh geez, I think certainly hes pretty popular, he has this whole Reggielution thing going on. Ive been following the boards and he seems to be popular. Its hard for me to tell how successful hes been. You know, when I would speak on the boards, or talk to the fans, Id just talk about what I was enthusiastic about and what I liked; his job is very different than mine. Im a developer and I make videogames, whereas hes in the marketing group -- I really have no answer for that, but hes getting a lot of attention so he must be doing something right.

Q: As a small Canadian developer having now grown and worked with Miyamoto from Nintendo and Kojima from Konami, and now with Sega and Microsoft, do you have any advice for small developers trying to make a name for themselves?

Dyack: Sure, really, next gen stuff is going to focus on content. So really focus on content. Where youre going, dont let anyone tell you cant do anything, but be prepared for big teams and working really hard and doing the best you can. Theres always a chance that something you create will catch peoples attention, and really follow your dreams -- thats all I can say.

Q: What do you think about the DS? Do you have any current development plans?

Dyack: No, we have no plans to develop on the DS; I think its interesting; it seems to be very popular. I mean, Nintendogs, selling a lot of hardware [in Japan]. And I think itll do well here as well. I dont have much of an impression of the DS other than that. Im not a big handheld guy, Ill play it once in a while, but Ive got a PSP and SP, so you know, I have not picked up a DS yet, and probably for Nintendogs I will, but jury is out on that for me.

Q: And likewise, what are your thoughts on the Nintendo Revolution?

Dyack: On the Revolution...the box looks nice, but theyve shown no specs, so the jury is still out on that one till next year. I really cant even guess, with the Sony PS3, and Microsoft Xbox 360, the specs are very comparable; my guess is the average consumer wont be able to tell the difference between those two systems. I think theyre virtually identical. With the Revolution, depending on what the specs are, if they come out with similar specs, itll probably be the same with them. I really hoped to see the controller, next year though. I really liked the design though, it was pretty sleek.

Q: Do you think theres enough room for the three console manufacturers with their unique philosophies?

Dyack: Well, its a big industry, and its growing all the time, and certainly there is room for multiple pieces of hardware. Though, my general theory is were evolving to one platform. And the value of hardware is significantly decreasing. I dont know if Ive ever talked to you guys about this, but my sort of thought process on videogames is that hardware is becoming more and more irrelevant. And consumers are reaching a perceptual threshold, where the average consumer cannot tell the difference between the hardwares. So even last generation, you take someone who doesnt take games, ask them if this is a PS2, a GameCube, or Xbox; Id be able to tell thats GameCube, Xbox, or Playstation 2 right away; the average consumer, or mothers buying games for their son, they cant tell. This generation, with the technology ramping up even more, and faster, the difference between, you know, more and more processor power or how many polygons you can do, are becoming much faster, but the differences are also much smaller. So I think at the end of the day, were moving towards a point where hardware doesnt mater, and its more about the games, its all about the content. I really think thats the future of the industry.

Q: To have a single console, do you think the current console manufacturers would let go of the various licensing fees?

Dyack: You know, predicting where the hardware vendors are going to go, its very difficult. But Id say, in the end, have you ever heard the theory of the modernization of technology? Well, for example, lets take the Toaster Oven, when it was first invented, they were extremely expensive, no one had them; but after a while when manufacturing got better and better, you can now buy them for like $15 and theres no value to them. The actual value of the hardware is going to diminish to the point where its all about the toast that comes out, or the videogames that comes out. If you look at the movie industry back in the 1930s, the same thing happened. There were tons of different cameras and everyone had their own technologies. There are all these little studios, and basically the film makers that could film the best, do the best wire tricks, were the most successful in the industry. Then, what happened, is the camera became standardized, and there was an amalgamation; and were starting to see it now, were starting to see this big paradigm change, all these developers are being bought by these big publishers, and fewer and fewer independents are around. What it basically means for our industry, is the same thing is going to happen, and well get to a standardization of technologies, or a point where the technology is completely irrelevant. Like, do we have three multi cores, or do we have the "cell", you know, its just kind of, the value of that is getting lower and lower. And the hardware doesnt mean that much anymore. And I think even by your impressions of the show, which are largely the same as mine, I didnt get blown away by anything that much this year. And its because, lets wait till we see the content, lets wait till we see something that comes out where the players get awed and moved emotionally, and I think thats where the industry has to go.

Q: The official PR line of why your company and Nintendo discontinued your relationship was "business is business", is that all there really is to it?

Dyack: You know, I spoke with Matt from IGN about it, but at the end of the day, Nintendo is going down a strategic path where we believe they want to make smaller, simpler games. But Silicon Knights is not built for smaller, simpler games. We love those guys but as much as we tried to come to a half-way point to make a Silicon Knights game that fits within a strategy that Nintendo wants, we just really couldnt do it. So its really strategic differences. The industry is massive, so we both could be right, but at the end of the day, we have to take the company in directions that we think will be successful for us, and that is the bottom line. So its pretty straight forward.

Q: Do you think Nintendos relationship with Kojimas team will continue?

Dyack: I dont see why not. Our relationship with Kojima-san and his team is continuing as well, so, no reason why that couldnt happen. And I know Miyamoto-san and Kojima-san are really good friends, and I think theres no reason to think anything is really going to change. And who knows, maybe well have another game where Miyamoto-san, myself, and Kojima-san work together and make another game. All that stuff is possible in the future, just not on the immediate agenda.

Q: Can you tell us about your Too Human plans?

Dyack: Ahh, Too Human, that was kind of an under the radar teaser announcement. Really dont want to say anything more about it until the future, but when we do well be saying a lot. And youve probably heard a lot about it, you know, whats been released is that its a trilogy, its exclusive to 360 with Microsoft, and were extremely excited about it; we cant wait to tell you more but its not the right time.

Q: How long do you think the next generation of consoles will last?

Dyack: Probably about the same, five years is my guess. Its going to get to the point where I think the generations will be more and more irrelevant, and itll be upgraded versions of the hardware. Some things are going to get better, but its all going to come down to the content. And I think these big shows where all these hardware platforms are being announced, I think are going to become less and less important. Every five years or so its a hardware year, and this is one of them and after that its a software year -- and I think were going to see more consistent software years. I think the most about this year, is this is probably going to be, in my opinion, the last significant hardware announcement E3. Because after this, it won't make that much of a difference anymore. Say five years from now, people are going to go "New hardware? Lets look at the new games!" I think thats whats going to happen to the has to happen.

Q: So then, is it possible to say that Too Human will arrive in yearly installments?

Dyack: We have a definite plan, but were just not ready to talk about it yet. Sorry, I wish I could, the timings not right, but when it is, Ill make sure you guys are in the loop. And we have some big plans but I think you guys will be very excited.

Q: We can totally see how excited you are...

Dyack: Oh really? Im sorry, its hard to sort of, wow, you have no idea, actually.

Our conversation continued. We chatted about some of the games that interested us on the show floor and also shared our thoughts on the new Star Wars movie. N-Sider would like to wish Denis and all the folks at Silicon Knights the best of the luck in the future. Be sure to keep an eye on the company's website for future developments.