2K: Strategy Games “Not Contemporary”

2K bossman Christoph Hartmann has been talking to MCV, and has been defending the decision to make XCOM into a manshoot:

“The ‘90s generation of gamers all love Xcom and we own the IP, so we thought OK, what do we do with it? Every studio we had wanted to do it and each one had its own spin on it. But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth. But this is not just a commercial thing – strategy games are just not contemporary.”

So that clears that up, eh? I am sure there will be a lively discussion of this. Can a game genre really get old enough to be abandoned? Should we consigned turn-based games to the past? If the 90s generation love it and that’s a reason to remake it, why try making it “contemporary”? Surely the challenge should bring to bring the game to a new generation, not the IP? Why do publishers think game and IP are somehow unrelated?


  1. frenz0rz says:

    “Not contemporary” meaning “we cant sell a strategy game on consoles”.

    • Rinox says:


      Also, on a more general gamer “type” scale, the RTS/RPG gamers aren’t exactly in the majority.

    • Meat Circus says:

      “Not contemporary” meaning “I am a fucking moron herp derp” you mean.

    • Pop says:

      I kinda figure Frozen Synapse will either break or make the Hitman’s point. If everyone buys Frozen Synapse, that’ll show ’em – people will shell out for a strategy game! However if no one buys a critically acclaimed strategy game, then the Hitman’s on the money. Consumer power, eh?

      I suspect what Brett’s actually saying is that strategy games generally don’t recoup enough money to justify their mahussive budgets. But that begs the question: why do you need to plough millions into huge games, when doing so just makes them all become more samey?

      What was the budget for Freespace 2 or Grim Fandango? Clearly, with tools like Unity or ShiVa or Torque, you can make great games with small teams, providing you’ve got the talent (particularly in the ol’ writing department)

      Does every game need to eat up Gears of War/Halo/Duke Nukem reserves of famine relief to get made? Can’t we have fun on a shoestring?

    • Fierce says:

      Pop, for mentioning Freespace 2, I instantly, automatically and forever, like you. Well done you.

    • Bremze says:

      Which is retarded, because Japan has been making tons of TBS games on consoles since the NES. Fire emblem? Disgaea? FF:T?

    • Rinox says:

      Yeah but Japan

      (half kidding ;-) )

    • ironman Tetsuo says:

      The first time i ever played X-Com was on the Playstation….

    • mouton says:


      I would love to try Frozen Synapse, but they can’t seem to get their head around that “demo” thing.

    • Frank says:

      @Meat: Agreed. This guy needs a PR rep between him and us.

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      @ mouton – An FS demo is in the pipeline, but I think the devs have been concentrating on actually getting the game working again for all the current crop of users after they had server meltdown from it being overly succesful at launch… which kind of suggests that contemporary straegy games are feasible – at least for smaller budgets.

    • Kdansky says:

      link to us.battle.net

      So outdated! And they only sold millions of copies. Too Real-Time for you? How about some Civ5, or any 4X-game?

    • Bhazor says:

      You are all expecting far too much knowledge from a publisher. I mean you can’t expect him to know about Civ just because he publishes it.

    • Veracity says:

      Has Frozen Synapse showed up on Steam stats, that anyone’s noticed? I know it doesn’t require Steam (but does register there if you want it to), so it might mean nothing if not, but fewer than ~500 people playing at once after a 50% sale doesn’t sound promising any way I can spin it. Not sure the weird BOGOF/required twin purchase (depending whom you ask) pricing has done it any favours. Meanwhile, Terraria…just…what?

      Frozen Synapse is only one game, though. Civ still does alright, doesn’t it? And Total War. Can I have Football Manager, or is that pushing it? The man’s a doofus.

    • PoLLeNSKi says:

      “but fewer than ~500 people playing at once after a 50% sale doesn’t sound promising any way I can spin it”

      Having just checked the Top 100 games of the moment on Steam over here I think an indie game like FS would be doing pretty well to have 500 concurrent players (placing it about position 90)

      Also consider that since your opponent doesn’t have to even be online at the same time as you for you to take your turns, you have the option of playing anyone of the playerbase across the world (although admittedly arranging the match requires a bit more work).

      During the launch week they were hitting over 1000 consecutive users at which point their server somewhere suffered a meltdown and so I think has made quite a few players (myself included) take a step back until they implement a better solution for hosting the game on multiple servers as it’s a botched solution for now.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Also, pop up there has a good point. Maybe we should learn something from the rockstar wives or team bondi. The last year or so, the best games i’ve been playing were made with a limited budget, and a lot of creative freedom. (With the valve exception for the budget part, of course). Minecraft. Terraria. Frozen Synapse. Dwarf Fortress. The Bit.Trip series. These haven’t sold little, too.

    • Dozer says:

      2K have a weak point – TBS were common in the 1990s because computers weren’t able to manage real-time games. Can you imagine playing a game with X-Com’s graphics and scope in real-time? At that resolution there’s no way you can see enough of the world at once to get enough information to direct your shooty dudes. TBS hasn’t got worse since then – it’s just that other game structures have become much better as the PC has advanced.

      Doesn’t mean I’m not bitter that New X-Com isn’t Xenonauts though.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      @ Dozer

      TBS were common in the 1990s because computers weren’t able to manage real-time games.


      Real Time Strategy games were around several years prior to Xcom, with proto-RTS games dating back to the 80’s.

    • d32 says:

      Oh DOZER, so you just say it’s as simple as “FPS are ‘much better’ than strategy games”? Narrow minded a bit?
      Why is chess still being played then, in this age of superpower computers?
      Also, you know, Pong was real-time. Same for Pacman, Space Invaders etc etc. “Computer power” argument is invalid on all accounts, stop repeating it, dummy.

  2. jti says:

    I knew I’d grow too old for gaming some day… This Hartmann seems to try to give me a hint.

    • Pop says:

      That’s why they call him the “hart breaker” – ha ha… oh

    • TheApologist says:

      Yep, that’s how this hit me too. Increasingly I realise that I have turned to games for two or three things:
      I enjoy strategy games and particularly turn based strategy, narrative and character development. Neither of which the gaming market apparently encourages development of.

      All that’s left that I enjoy are great arcadey games, like the PacMan Championship Edition series, Burnout or back in the day RockBand/Guitar Hero. But I play these in short bursts every once in a while, and I am not sure they are worth investing in the hardware for.

  3. Choca says:

    That’s the beauty of modern video game publishers, they’d rather fail in the most popular genre than succeed in a niche.

    • Brutal Deluxe says:

      Which is precisely why indie games are becoming so awesome

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Choca, how can you manage to say everything that needs to be said in just one simple sentence?

    • DarkNoghri says:

      Well, to be fair, I think he cheated. That looks like a run-on.

    • Rinox says:

      The problem is more that the failure somehow usually still makes a ton of cash.

      Maybe the fact that the gaming industry is moving from a ‘monolithic’ structure to a clearly defined mainstream – indie duality is a sign of maturity? Not that maturity is always a good thing.

    • Nalano says:

      He just needs a colon where the comma is.

    • jonfitt says:

      I see it like this. They buy the rights to a classic foie gras recipe, but decide that they’re going to spend $15m making something. Well obviously you can’t shift that much foie gras so they launch a new line of potato crisps. Now the potato crisp market is a big one but also well served, so there’s a good chance they’ll flop and end up making nothing or not much at all. However if they succeed they can churn out flavours of crisps forever more.

      However the foie gras fans are left with no foie gras to buy. You could just spend $1m and make a guaranteed return selling them good quality foie gras which they would love.

      Despite what the new Gordon Gekko says, greed still appears to be good.

  4. President Weasel says:

    It would take guts, vision and risk to make an Xcom style Xcom game these days. If they made it and it failed, shareholders would get grumpy.
    If they make a generic, just like everyone else is doing, shooteresque game with a couple of nods to the IP, they won’t get blamed if it fails to sell big. Sad, but true.

    • groovychainsaw says:

      I totally agree – it’s all about risk mitigation for these big companies. Which saddens me.

      A turn-based game could in theory have the widest potential audience of all, as it allows those without twitch reflexes (typically required of a shooter) to play. Admittedly it tends to require a bit more tactical thinking, which probably is what limits your audience back down again, but a real 90%+, knock it out of the park effort made with modern tech and using everything that has been learnt since XCOM could genuinely bring the genre to a whole new audience.

      I still play XCOM regularly even now, and its shocking how advanced it remains. I showed it to a friend the other day who had never heard of it before (!) and walked him through a mission. He was amazed by pretty much every choice you had. Throwing weapons, crouching, shooting holes in walls, smoke from grenades limiting line of sight. Its the complexity of choices in that game that made it so exciting (plus one shot deaths ramps up the tension like nothing else!).

    • jonfitt says:

      I think there’s less risk with a cheaper production of a guaranteed seller. Just look at Telltale with Sam and Max and that oh-so-dead-genre of point and click.
      They’re taking a huge risk, but aiming at the fat whale.

  5. Crimsoneer says:

    I kind of agree with him. I started gaming in the early mid-90s, and even I think the age of turn-based shooters as full, AAA budget titles is over, especially in this age of the huge investment and risk major titles go through.

    As far as I’m concerned, turn/squad based strategy, like JRPG, should pretty much be dead.

    That’s not to say we can’t see re-interpretations or indie titles, but I think it would be silly for a major studio to risk an AAA title on a bog standard X-com title.

    • Wilson says:

      I agree that they shouldn’t be making a AAA title based on turn-based strategy, but there’s no rule that developers have to be massive teams working on huge blockbuster titles, is there? I agree that turn-based games might be dead as AAA options, but there’s surely no reason a smaller team couldn’t be formed to produce a modern turn-based XCOM game?

      Failing that, how hard can it be to take a couple of aspects from the turn-based game and use those in a more traditional shooter (e.g. XCOM style research, maybe base customization, improving ally characters who aren’t all special individuals, stuff like that)

      I don’t care whether a game is AAA or not, I care whether I enjoy it.

    • Mman says:

      “it would be silly for a major studio to risk an AAA title on a bog standard X-com title.”

      As opposed throwing all that money at a bog-standard FPS? The idea that every title has to be indie with no budget or an “AAA” title that costs countless millions is one of the dumbest concepts many developers/publishers have slaved themselves to lately.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I sometimes wish [popular music artist] would die.

    • Minigrinch says:

      Maybe if they didnt spend millions of dollars for minor graphics upgrades and near pointless advertising (In the case of a turn based game) they could spend it on making a good game eh?

    • Hanban says:

      The fact remains, though, that these bog-standard games sell well, despite being bog-standard. Even if they don’t do superbly, they might break even. Which is why they might not be risking as much as compared to making a turn based strategy game.

      Which is perhaps why we simply should not expect these types of games from big developers, and rely on the type of genis that these days are found in for example the devs of Frozen Synapse.

      I personally do not have a problem with not expecting these types of games from triple A devs. But, perhaps one day they will become popular again, and then that’ll be well spiffy!

    • Nick says:

      “As far as I’m concerned, turn/squad based strategy, like JRPG, should pretty much be dead.”

      Good thing its/they are not and you are wrong then.

    • thesisko says:

      There were AAA turn-based games in the past????

    • Dozer says:

      @ThesisKO: yes. For instance, X-Com (1994).

    • Arathain says:

      Civilisation rather leaps to mind.

  6. CMaster says:

    I just love this, when you look at 2K’s catalogue and what one of their most successful games is.

    Or who’s the most up-and-coming publisher today? Paradox seem to be growing faster than anybody else, and what do they specialize in? Oh, wait…

    And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if they’d given XCOM to irrational, told them to take what they did with SWAT4 and apply a strategic layer to it, we’d have a likely classic on our hands that most of the old fans would be happy with. Instead, they started off making a Bioshock clone and have switched to a Mass Effect 2 clone…

    • mejoff says:

      Yep, I always wanted the next XCom game to be a SWAT/Rainbow6 type affair with the geoscape providing randomised levels.

      I’m excited by this game on its own merits, but it has nothing to do with XCom.

    • soldant says:

      This is exactly what should have happened (or at least something very similar). They should have kept the Geoscape strategic element and updated the tactical element, and kept the escalating conflict where humanity was almost always one step behind. I’m going to judge the new game on its own merits, but it could have been so much more. Then again nobody else has successfully released an XCOM clone that really captured the feeling of the original (though I admit some have come close).

    • IDtenT says:

      Amen. I’ve only recently acquainted myself with Paradox, but in a short span of time I’ve become to love them above all other publishers. They make exactly the type of games I like to play. They’ve given me hope in gaming I haven’t had for a decade. Yes, 1C had some gems, as did Stardock, but Paradox – Paradox gave me a new love. I can’t even remember the last time I enjoyed something from a big publisher.

    • Kablooie says:

      Can’t say I’m a huge fan of “historically accurate games”, but Sengoku looks interesting. I loved Clavell’s Shogun, and this looks very similar. Brings to mind Lords of the Rising Sun, an old turn-based game for the Amiga. Thanks for the tip, I’ll have to keep my eye on Paradox.

    • aircool says:

      I had no idea that Paradox published so many games that I own!!!

  7. Jajusha says:

    I wish them goodluck.

    Non contemporary gamers will look for other ways to spend their $.

    • enobayram says:

      And contemporary ones will just buy CoD:Whatever dumb thing is next 6 or BF3

  8. Hentzau says:

    …he said only 12 months after Starcraft 2 and Civ V each sold millions of copies.

    • TormDK says:

      Starcraft II is not turn based though.

      And Civ is a strong franchise.

      I’d love to see some mix of turn based and real time MULTIPLAYER X-Com game. That would r0xx0rz my b0xx0rz for sure.

      Relic needs to work on a Computer based Table top Warhammer 40K spin off also.

    • Reiver says:

      It is a strategy game and the quote is “strategy games are just not contemporary” so imo he makes a fair comparison. I’d also throw in S2TW which has sold well and is also a pretty decent game.

    • Cross says:

      The man has a point. As far as i know, both Civ V and the DLC which followed sold it’s bloody pants off.

    • Nick says:

      I love that.. “Civ is a strong franchise” yes, OF TURN BASED GAMES. You can’t just ignore that when you claim turn based game don’t sell.

      As for turn based on consoles.. well, how about Advance Wars.. that seemed to do rather well didn’t it? And thats ignoring the Final Fantasy Tactics, the Disgaeas, the Fire Emblems, Tactics Ogres, the multitude of turn based RPGs like the Personas, Dragon Quests, Final Fantasys etc. All of which sell well enough to have sequels made.

    • groovychainsaw says:

      @Nick – Thats very true – the spiritual home for turn-based games does now appear to be consoles, when you list the more recent successes (civ aside). Which you think might give them more reason to take a chance.

    • angramainyu says:

      Which is funny, because Civ5 and SC2 are the only triple-A titles I’ve bought in the past 2 years, and I’ve dropped a crapton of money on Steam purchases in that time.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Yeah, but we’ve got read between the lines here. He didn’t really mean strategy games don’t sell well, he meant “Uh, we wanted to make another FPS cuz they’re a sure bet, and we had this X-Com IP thing laying around, so…”

      The “not contemporary” excuse is just typical fluffy publisher babble.

  9. Slimu says:

    Woohoo, jump on the Blops train! I’m not against making a game “contemporary”, but the way they want to change it is a bit extreme. Turning it into FPS, instead of, let’s say, a RTS (JA2 remake) is a bit too much. I understand they want to make lots of money so that the can buy monkey with hats on them. I’m starting to think that it’s just plain old laziness. Or maybe I’m just daydreaming and people just don’t have too much time to play other games than FPS, which makes me wonder about the shitload of MMO’s and multiplayer FPS coming out. Hey, good thing there’s still some SC2 still going on and it didn’t become a Wii Fit game.

  10. Mike says:

    The contemporary line is obviously fluff. He just means it’s not as strictly commercial. You can’t sell TBS to a console market as a £30 title.

    • enobayram says:

      Is that really so? I feel that the FPS era is approaching an end, not to say it will be completely abandoned.

    • Nick says:

      there have been more big budget TBS games on handhelds and consoles in recent times than on the PC.

  11. Teddy Leach says:

    Let’s call it what it is: cowardice. They can’t market X-Com for consoles, especially as the majority of console gamers never played X-Com. They’re not confident in the power of the PC as a platform. They feel it’d be too much of a risk. Instead, they just want to try and milk the name as a Cod-esque manshooter.

    Fuck ’em. I’ve got Xenonauts.

  12. Klydefrog says:

    Surely the fact that people still buy and play XCOM on steam (not to mention hundreds of other strategy games) shows that strategy is still popular enough to sell?

    • Bhazor says:

      You are giving *far* too much credit to your average publisher to assume he has any idea about whats going on outside his own company. One good example was Brad Wardell from Stardock talking about how he’d love to do a party based RPG but there was no audience for it.

      He had never heard of Dragon Age: Origins. Which btw outsold the far more expensive and much more heavily marketed Mass Effect 2. No audience? No balls to try something that isn’t the current in thing is what that means.

  13. BunnyPuncher says:

    If strategy games arent contemporary then they probably shouldnt be buying up strategy IP….

  14. Maxheadroom says:

    I think he’s confusing “Contemporary” with “Generic”

    Lets see if he stands by those words when this gets reviewed as the run of the mill mindless FPS it so painfully looks like

    • elvis says:

      Amen, brother!
      I truly hope that this will turn out in one of two options. Either a massive marketing error (which, I, reaallyy do hope for), or at least a decent shooter (although, I don’t really believe this one).
      “Surely the fact that people still buy and play XCOM on steam (not to mention hundreds of other strategy games) shows that strategy is still popular enough to sell?”
      Nope, forget it. Let’s turrn them all into Civilizations, C’n’C, Total Annihililation e.t.c. FPS’s.
      This shit makes me sick. These outright lies from major devs. It’s sickening. Where’s Anon for gamer’s? They even get on the fuckin’ bandwagon for environmentalists, so why not gamers?
      I’m a bit drunk, so, please, forgive me all the wrong things I’be said and g’night!

    • enobayram says:

      I don’t think someone stupid enough to develop an XCOM FPS will be able to make money among the giants

    • groovychainsaw says:

      A civilization FPS through eras would possibly be awesome…. but pretty much all other strategy->FPS conversions have been failures, as far as I know (even blizzard couldn’t achieve it)

  15. Handsome Dead says:

    Civilization 6 will be Dynasty Warriors clone because seriously fuck strategy games they just aint contemporary aw yeah

  16. sdtipps says:

    The problem here is mostly tunnel vision. They could have probably made the game at a lower overhead cost if they’d made it turn based. Or, they could have thrown some decent resources into the project and marketed it as a breakthrough in the genre. As it is, this game will probably not stick out from the crowd enough to get the sales they want, and the IP will be dead in the water again. The industry is not learning the lessons indy developers are providing for them: you don’t have to make a AAA title to make AAA profit. They are just now coming to the realization that micro-transactions can be more profitable than the usual pricing scheme, but I’m afraid they think that means every game needs them to maximize profits. If they realized they could just throw some new textures on the old game and make the down time between missions more colorful, they would. Too bad business school never taught them to use the imagination they could have developed playing the original XCom

  17. Moni says:

    I’m not sure what they’re trying to do with this bit of PR. Are they trying to convince the turn-based strategy purists that their favourite genre is, in fact, a bit rubbish?

  18. jon_hill987 says:

    I still play TBS games. Magic the Gathering Online is my most played game of the past two weeks (partly due to the Commander releases getting me into that format) and prior to that was Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition.
    And when it comes to money (which is what they are really talking about when they say strategy is dead) I have probably spent as much on MTGO this last year as I have on all my other games combined and I am not a huge spender where MTG is concerned.

  19. DeCi says:

    Panzer Corps Says Hello, Basically a remake of Panzer General 1 and 2.

    Massively popular Atm and is has very good reviews: link to slitherine.com

    And there are many more examples of 90’s games remakes.

  20. Milky1985 says:

    So advance wars series, fire emblem games, civilzation games, worms games etc do not sell now because they are turn based games!

    Oh Wait, you couldn’t be talking out of your buttcrack as a way of saying “pandering to the shooter crowd is the way of making lots of easy money now, so thats what we are donig”.

    I would actually respect a company who is honest like that, much like i would respect EA if they would just come out and say “BF3 is not on steam becuse we want you to use orgin” instead of the BS they are saying

  21. Vayl says:

    Strategy games are not contemporary (big wtf there really) so let’s buy a strategy IP!

    The 90s generation love Xcom, so let’s make a game that has nothing to do with it besides the name.

    Great thinking minds they have.

  22. Tei says:

    Well.. obviusly Plants versus Zombies is soo a failure. No one wants to play a strategy game.

  23. JonathanStrange says:

    I would rather have seen X-Com as a low budget project true to its source than as an AAA shooter devoid of links to its past. King’s Bounty, Sins of a Solar Empire, Frozen Synapse, all relatively low budget games which nevertheless have been extremely successful and prove there’s a market to be tapped for these sorts of games. Hell, I’d bet that if they made the controls intuitive enough it’d even sell well as a downloadable title on consoles.

    But no. Rather than investing small towards a niche title and hoping for a good turnover it seems all major developers are stuck in an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Every game *must* be AAA, must cost millions to make, and must sell even more just to hope to turn some tiny profit. And in order to get that profit and to appeal to as large an audience as possible they turn a clever idea into the equivalent of gaming porridge. Nourishing, but bland and nothing you’ll remember the second you’ve finished eating.

    At this point the best I can hope is that it’s decent porridge.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      I like porridge.

      ( I don’t like gaming porridge though, just the breakfast)

    • JackShandy says:

      As in, “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”?

    • JonathanStrange says:


      Porridge is alright, especially when generously sprinkled with brown sugar. But I’d rather have pancakes, bacon & eggs lightly dribbles with powered sugar and maple syrup. Mmmmm.


      Naturally, is there any other? Poor Mr. Norrell hasn’t much caught onto this electronic machine idea yet, but I find the idea rather charming.

  24. Marar Patrunjica says:

    From that same article:

    “I use the example of music artists. Look at someone old school like Ray Charles, if he would make music today it would still be Ray Charles but he would probably do it more in the style of Kanye West. Bringing Ray Charles back is all fine and good, but it just needs to move on, although the core essence will still be the same.

    “That’s what we are trying to do. To renew Xcom but in line with what this generation of gamers want. The team behind it is asking themselves every day: ‘Is it true to the values of the franchise?’ It’s not a case of cashing in on the name. We just need to renew it because times are changing.”

    • Mman says:

      This interview is everything wrong with the industry right now condensed into one article.

      Even if the new X-Com does miraculously turn out to be great I’m compelled to ignore just because of how loathsome the attitudes expressed in this interview are.

    • Ovno says:

      Ray Charles in the style of Kanye!?!

      /loses all hope for humanity…

    • Brutal Deluxe says:

      Clearly Kanye West is superior. Look at what he does with taking other contemporary hits and then talking over them! It’s like a director’s commentary! GENIUS!

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      The new XCOM is like Kanye’s song Gold Digger. Ominous.

    • oceanclub says:

      “Look at someone old school like Ray Charles, if he would make music today it would still be Ray Charles but he would probably do it more in the style of Kanye West. ”

      I can’t decide if this is parody, or there really are people who get employed to talk such utter bollix.


    • John P says:

      Kanye West has made more money than Ray Charles did, therefore he is superior.

      So goes the logic of the management.

    • JFS says:

      I would go to a Ray Charles concert. I wouldn’t show up at a Kanye West show, though. Argument debunked. Hartmann 0, JFS 1, where can I apply for his job?

    • LordCiego says:

      “Yo Civilization IV, I’m really happy for you. Imma let you finish that turn. But Call of Duty: Black Ops is one of the best sellers of all time.Of all time!”

    • Nalano says:

      So I guess the question is, why are we allowing the Marketing Department to dictate creative design, art direction and gameplay decisions?

    • Pointless Puppies says:


      Indeed. This is why mainstream gaming is so shit. Entire studios, like this one here, are run entirely by marketing departments rather than people who actually know what the hell is going on.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      Contemporary games need less strategy and more auto-tune.

  25. Ovno says:

    So Dawn of War and Starcraft arn’t contemporary either then, oh wait….

  26. sinister agent says:

    I can understand why they don’t want to make strategy games, but to make out that an entire market “isn’t contemporary” is just silly.

    I’m also not convinced that they gained much by using the XCOM name for this instead of just calling it something else, but that’s a lot less clear cut.

    I do wonder sometimes whether publishers actually PLAY games. The idea that there’s more to a game series than just a rubber stamp with its name on and maybe a few gimmicks seems alien to some of them. It is a curious thing.

    • Raidhaennor says:

      “I can understand why they don’t want to make strategy games, but to make out that an entire market “isn’t contemporary” is just silly.”

      This is what annoys me the most about this new XCOM, and the industry in general. It’s not enough that they don’t make the kinds of games I would like to play ; they also have to publicly insist that those games aren’t worth making at all, by anyone. And not just from a commercial standpoint (see the earlier comment, about turn-based games “wanting” to be real-time).

      Don’t make turn-based games if you don’t want to, that’s fine, but you don’t have to rub it in, do you ? :/

    • Nalano says:

      “Trains aren’t contemporary. Air travel is best.”

      Until delays due to commuter jets clogging up all the runways is the norm and China ends up with all the high speed rail.

  27. Armand Van Flicknife says:

    When I hear things like this, I feel extremely guilty for all the games I pirated.

    Publishers are so incredibly terrified of releasing something that might not appeal to 100% of the gaming demographic, they instead release and endless stream of titles universally regarded as ‘alright, I guess’.

    • Nalano says:

      Don’t blame yourself for their short-sightedness. When gaming turns out to be nothing but “CoD12” and “BF7” and ends up dying due to lack of interest, we’ll have the marketing department to blame, not you.

  28. Brutal Deluxe says:

    I get it, this whole interview is actually an ARG-style coded message.

    Fortunately for you lucky folks, I have decoded it to the best of my ability:


    • Teddy Leach says:

      Indeed. I’m boycotting it. I’m sick of shit like this.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I’m not boycotting the game. I’m just not buying it. It might be the best game ever made, but I just will not reward stuff like this.

      It makes me furious, sad and lethargic at the same time. It’s quite a feat, really.

      That said, if I ever decide to change that stance and get a look at the game myself so I can froth at my mouth and know what I’m talking about, I’ll pick up a used copy for one of my consoles so they see no money from me.

  29. Carra says:

    It gives indie developers free reign to create fun turn based games.

    Now I want to play Silent Storm again…

    • Teddy Leach says:

      I’ve said it a lot recently, but take a look at Xenonauts if you haven’t already. Tapio, the sound designer for Amnesia, is part of the team working on it. And yes, Silent Storm was fantastic.

    • Azradesh says:

      Is Xenonauts is a playable state yet?

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Sort of. It’s still technically an alpha/early-beta. A lot of features aren’t implemented yet and it’s still pretty buggy. But from what I’ve played, they’re right on track.

  30. Tuco says:

    What a bunch of clueless idiots.

  31. Jorum says:

    My god this man is an idiot.
    Paradox are running a business entirely off of strategy games, as are others.
    Sure they aren’t making EA money but there is a demonstrably valuable market out there.

    Actually he’s probably not an idiot – just disingenuous.
    What they really mean is they are not interested in anything that can’t be developed cross-platform.

    • RyuRanX says:

      Xenonauts, Panzer Corps, Skulls of the Shogun, Team Assault, Heroes of Might and Magic VI, UFO 2: Extraterrestrials, Pride of Nations, to name a few…

      Turn-Based Strategy games are making a comeback.

      ps.: It wasn’t my intention to quote you. Sorry for my mistake.

  32. Avish says:

    ” Why do publishers think game and IP are somehow unrelated?”

    Because it seems that they think that IP is much more important than the game itself.
    They believe people will buy this game, just because it’s called “XCOM”. But it seems like they get a lot of negative press because of improper use of the IP in their hand, instead of excitement over the new Xcom title..

  33. Nameless1 says:

    Let’s show this clown how much his junk sells and how much indie game Xenonauts do.

  34. tomnullpointer says:

    “But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth” – I am the markets bitch….

  35. Chris D says:

    It seems like a curious marketing strategy to systematically alienate anyone who actually cared about your franchise.

    Previously I was prepared to go with “Ok, it won’t be X-COM but maybe it’ll be an interesting game in its own right.” After a statement as bone-headed as this I’m increasingly doubtful they’ll even manage that.

    • Spectre-7 says:

      “It seems like a curious marketing strategy to systematically alienate anyone who actually cared about your franchise.”

      It’s not really all that curious, is it? Every time they make another statement like this, the old fans of the series (a fairly small population compared to the current market) become incredibly noisy, filling forums with their anger and disenchantment. Passersby who are unfamiliar with the series will just see controversy, and some proportion of them will be intrigued enough to look into the new game to figure out what’s going on. Meanwhile, few of them are likely to be moved by the old fans’ complaints, which are motivated by a nostalgia they simply don’t share.

    • Chris D says:

      So essentially they never intended to appeal to old fans, they just wanted someone to troll for free publicity? If that’s true I guess I completely underestimated the degree of ruthless cynicism in the industry. That scares me.

  36. oddshrub says:

    Wonder if they would have considered games like minecraft and terraria contemporary. I kind of doubt that they would and yet there were millions to be earned on those games.

    Maybe publishers and big developers should stop making games they think will sell well and start making games they’d actually like to play.

  37. JuJuCam says:

    Tell it to the developers making TBS games for the Nintendo DS (Mr Gollop included).

    It’s pretty easy to deconstruct what’s being said here, and a few people already have so I won’t, but if this philosophy is how they’ve chosen to direct the project, then clearly we have cause to worry. I admire Hartmann’s candor, but I think he’s revealed a bit too much about his attitude and the general attitude that the large studios and publishers seem to take nowadays. X-COM was not a “AAA” title when it was first released – such a thing simply didn’t exist. In a way, trying to make it into one is already violating the spirit in which the original title was made.

    His Ray Charles example doesn’t hold water. Kanye is an artist with Charles in his musical DNA – heck, he samples a Ray Charles song in his breakout hit (as sung by Jamie Foxx but still)! The correct analogy would be if Ray Charles’ music was produced today in the style of the Foo Fighters or Lady GaGa – an entirely different and only vaguely related genre.

    I don’t know. I want this to be as good a game as they’re trying to make because I think there are some risks and some interesting angles, or at least there were in the initial previews. But at the same time it wouldn’t shock me to see this fail, and I think big failures like this need to happen before we see a change in the gaming landscape at the top studios.

  38. Maykael says:

    This Hartmann fool knows he publishes fucking Civilization right? Well, indies to the rescue! :)

    LE: Also the Ray Charles thing.. I don’t even… Words escape me….

  39. Cinnamon says:

    Strategy games are more contemporary than Art Deco. Unless by contemporary what he means is massively popular on the xbox.

  40. derella says:


    While the new Xcom game seems more interesting to me now than it did when I first found out it was going to be a FPS… it’s still stupid that they are calling it Xcom.

    The setting of the game(which they aren’t really using) wasn’t what made me play it non stop for months… It was the gameplay.

  41. zeroskill says:

    Not contemporary. NOT CONTEMPORARY? Ok 2k, go tell that to Blizzard and Valve who obviously have no Idea about how to make games, UNLIKE THE GLORIOUS 2K! Good we have 2K around to tell us how Starcraft and Dota games are not contemporary. What a bunch of retards.

  42. tomnullpointer says:


  43. Namos says:

    Methinks RPS needs some sort of tag for these kinds of posts, like say “the cowardly forces of industry”.

  44. Rii says:

    It’s not as easy for 2K to become Paradox as you might imagine. Clearly the AAA industry needs to change and it will (why do you think EA just bought PopCap?) but that doesn’t happen overnight. Having 2K Marin go from Bioshock 2 to Europa Universalis would make about as much sense as handing Paradox the Call of Duty license. They wouldn’t know what to do with it.

    • Duckpoop says:

      If Activision handed Paradox the Call of Duty license, I might actually end up playing it for once.

  45. Colthor says:

    Aren’t a lot of Facebook games – the ones that have tens of millions of players and make Zynga more money than god – strategy games?

    ‘Cos you can’t get much more contemporary than that.

  46. thebigJ_A says:

    Strategy games aren’t contemporary?

    Well then, I’d better delete all the Paradox games off my comp. And cancel my Crusader Kings 2 pre-order.

    Thanks, guy, you really saved me from having a good time, there.

  47. Marijn says:

    I can’t imagine 2K’s PR department is happy with this interview. More proof that you should never ever let your company’s CEO talk to the press (see also Bobby Kotick).

    • Rii says:

      The funny thing is that he actually goes on to say some interesting stuff. But it’s easier just to get all butthurt.

    • zeroskill says:

      like what? How he would turn Starcraft into a FPS if he had the chance, to make it more “contemporary”? Im not interested in anything somebody has to say who only cares about shareholders, not gaming.

    • Rii says:

      “Our studios don’t want to do the same things all the time,” he says. “I have seen so many franchises die because of poor quality or creativity running out. Not everything is meant to go on forever. You have to push yourself and build new things, there’s no way around it.

      “My vision for 2K is to be the Miramax of the early days, when you had all these great movies that won Oscars but were also commercially really successful. That’s what we want to do.

      Hartmann stresses the importance of building games that studios want to create, and not just assigning projects based on corporate planning.

      “I am not of the belief that you need to strategically move into genres because they are growing,” he explains. “You have to have the right studio that is passionate about that genre and believe in it. And you need to add a unique twist to it, like Gearbox Software did with Borderlands.

      “It’s not about having our matrix and saying ‘oh we don’t have a game in this genre,’ and then saying ‘well, who can create one for us? How about 2K whoever because they have just came off a project.’ “That doesn’t sound like a good formula for success. Someone needs to drive it and the team needs to have a great idea.”

      P.S. You know that Blizzard tried to turn Starcraft into a third-person shooter, yes?

    • Azradesh says:

      @ Rii

      “P.S. You know that Blizzard tried to turn Starcraft into a third-person shooter, yes?”

      Yes, but it was to be a spin off, not a sequel.

    • zeroskill says:

      Not only was it a spin-off, it was a failure and rightfully never seen the light of day because it was a retarded idea. Therefore, they put it down and went on making Starcraft 2. 2K just doesnt have what it takes to make great franchises like Starcraft, Diablo or Team Fortress. They buyout a franchise and make a generic shooter for consoles for a quick cash in. Its the sign of a mediocre and low talented games developer.

      And its sad one of the greatest titles ever on the PC has to land in the hands of those people. What a shame. Xcom deserves better.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      “My vision for 2K is to be the Miramax of the early days, when you had all these great movies that won Oscars but were also commercially really successful. That’s what we want to do.

      Astounding. His goal is to make games that are commercially AND critically successful. What a revelation. You can almost hear the accumulated thumps of palms hitting foreheads, as developers and publishers the world around breathe a collective, “ohhhhhh! Why didn’t I…”

    • Brutal Deluxe says:

      Yes, because the Weinsteins are such great role models.

  48. Dread says:

    I can’t believe this statement. 2k Games publsihes Civ, why isn’t this now a shooter where you get a technology between missions? In a few months Heroes 6 will be released, another big budget TBS.
    Let alone the success of the total war series or pure RTS games like starcraft and he argues strategy games are outdated?

    Oh, not to mention the plethora of low budget games trying to be a successor for X-COM. Altar interactive released three games between 2003 and 2007, Chaos Concept released another one in 2007. That’s 4 commercial x-com style games in the 2000s. None of them was able to capture the atmosphere however. In addition to this is the open source Alien Invasion and the Indie-title Xenonauts, both in development (albeit slow development). On top of that I hear the classic X-COM games are fairly popular on Steam. All of this clearly indicates nobody is interested in a true successor to X-COM, doesn’t it?

    The new XCOM is in the words of Spoony “BETRAYAL!” It has nothing to do with the original except for the name and they can’t seriously believe people will buy or like a game based on that. For a gamer it’s important that the gameplay has that familiar feeling to it, they just need to take a look at Dungeon Siege 3, another game which has nothing to do with it’s predecessors except for the name and the massive outcry by fans because of that. There is a lesson to be learned from that, but still they defend this abomination of a game. Well, if Hartmanns target is to alienate XCOM-fans completely he has achieved his objective.

  49. Deekyfun says:

    It’s not really a justification for anything; more an appeasement thinly disguised as opinion. Ask him what he thinks of turn-based strategy the next time 2K are about to release a new Civ and watch that ‘belief’ wash away in the rain.

    The big publishers won’t unshackle themselves from the skeletal framework of CoD clones until someone smaller takes a risk which pays off big time. Then they’ll talk about how they love Strategy games, and play Risk together every night, and reread Sun Tzu’s The Art of War every Sunday morning. They won’t mean it then, either. That man is not a person, with a personal viewpoint, in this context. When he speaks it is the voice of a thousand grey suits in unison clamoring for your money, not your love. Your money AND your love, maybe, but firstly the money.

  50. Bullfrog says:

    Do they think that all gamers from the 90’s were hoovered up and sent to the Gulags? We’re still here you know! And we’re still looking for engaging strategy games to pour our evenings into.

    Don’t make me play Aftermath again! I’ll do it you know!!