We started thinking about doing an upgraded version of "Pirates!" in 1996, the day Firaxis was born. I've always been very fond of the original game, released by Microprose in 1987 - it had sold quite well and garnered a gratifyingly large number of awards - and fans have been clamoring for a new version for over fifteen years. Everybody in the company wanted to do it: it was just a matter of acquiring the license to the title and putting the game into the first available production slot.
Then we had to decide on what platforms to release the new "Sid Meier's Pirates!" The PC platform was obvious - all of Firaxis' previous games have come out on the PC and that's where our core audience has been - but what about also releasing it on a video game console like the Microsoft Xbox? It was tempting: Firaxis had always planned to take our games to Xbox, but was "Pirates!" the right project?
On the negative side, I had yet to do an Xbox game. I have done games on different platforms before - the original "Pirates!" and its first upgrade, "Pirates! Gold," have been ported to PC, Macintosh, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Sega Genesis, and Amiga (and probably others that I've forgotten) - but recreating and programming a game for an entirely new system takes time and energy, and the potential sales have got to warrant that extra effort. Was "Sid Meier's Pirates!" worth this extra effort?
The potential audience looked good. The Microsoft Xbox is a great system, and it's growing in popularity; clearly there is a large enough fanbase. Further, no pirate game like ours had yet been released for Xbox, so the field was wide open. With Atari and Microsoft marketing might behind us, there was great potential for the game's success - but only if the game itself was right for the Xbox platform.
Here too the auspices looked good. Of all of my most popular games, "Sid Meier's Pirates!" is the most action-oriented. The game has sword duels, ship to ship battles, land combat, dance sequences, and a sneak through town mini-game - enough action and excitement for any console game. And there's plenty of upgrades available for the player's pirate and ships, allowing for customization and improvement over time - a must for any Xbox title!
Further, the action is tied together with cool open-ended role-playing and adventure sequences, allowing the player to fully shape his pirate's career as he sails the Caribbean attacking enemy ships and towns, discovering buried treasure, romancing the governor's daughter, fighting evil villains and battling his way up the "Top Ten Pirates" list. Since the game is different each time you play, it offers Xbox gamers infinite replayability…so the fun never ends ? And, the game looks and sounds great too!
In a nut shell, "Sid Meier's Pirates!" seemed like a perfect fit for the Xbox, so we went for it.
We’ve had a Firaxis Xbox development team working on the game for nearly two years and it’s coming along just fine. Right now we're working on adding multiplayer ship battles for up to four players on a single machine. We’ll also offer scoreboards, rankings and cool customizable content through Xbox Live. We have every confidence that "Sid Meier's Pirates!" will kick some serious Xbox booty. We hope you'll agree.
All the best,