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Interview With High Moon Studios CEO John Rowe

by Rainier on March 7, 2005 @ 7:31 p.m. PST

Earlier today we reported that Sammy Studios, Inc. has completed a management buyout from parent company Sammy Corporation of Tokyo, Japan. The private investment group led by John Rowe, president and chief operating officer of Sammy Studios, purchased all shares of the company as well as the rights to original video game properties being developed at the studio. With this turn of events, it was prime time to ask High Moon's CEO John Rowe a few quick questions ...

WP : After an optimistic departure three years ago, and the creation of a high tech development complex, how did things turn sour with the recent layoffs?

We don’t consider that things have turned sour. It’s always disappointing when you have to lay off people you have come to respect and enjoy working with. However our core competency is game development, and as such it is not realistic to think that we could maintain our publishing staff when our future business plan is strictly focused on development.

WP : What sparked the buyout and formation of High Moon Studios, instead of trying to resolve the issues under Sammy Studios Inc.?

Our decision to become independent is based on our desire for creative and technical autonomy.

WP : What other former Sammy Studios franchises did you “bring along” ? The Shield? Iron Phoenix? Can we expect any more Guilty Gear titles in North America?

Games that have come out of Japan, as well as titles produced by external developers, remain with Sammy. All of the original I.P., including technical and creative assets developed at Sammy Studios, become the I.P. of High Moon Studios and the basis for our growth in the future.

WP : Due to the buyout are any of the products, like Darkwatch, delayed?

We are currently weeks away from the completion of Darkwatch, and remain focused on the remaining tasks necessary to complete the game.

WP : Now that you are no longer under Sammy supervision, are there any planned shifts in policy under the new company? Any previously imposed restrictions that are now no longer valid?

Everything is being reevaluated, from our business model to our mission statement to the types of games we want to develop for the future. This is actually a very healthy and stimulating exercise, and one that every studio should conduct periodically. At the same time, our commitment to finishing Darkwatch and moving forward with sequels, as well as our work on one original next-generation project, remains unchanged.

WP : How many projects are current in development at high Moon Studios? How many current, next-gen? Any plans to start a PC, Nintendo DS or PSP lineup?

We are looking at all platforms right now and will not rule any out. We’d love to take Darkwatch to PSP, and PC has always interested us. Whether or not that would make sense for us remains to be determined. Historically, our competency has been in console games.

WP : Will any of the people who got laid off a few weeks back get re-hired under High Moon, or are you trying to keep it a small close knit group ? Any expansion/acquisition plans?

Those who were laid off were part of our publishing operations under Sammy. Since we no longer intend to publish games, those resources are eliminated. And we’re currently not small; we have over 100 development staff working in our studio today.

WP : How does the process change about acquiring/discovering new titles?

Our creative process will be free to focus on paths which suit our internal talent best. We feel a certain freedom in being unencumbered with political and cultural issues which are not relevant to the creative or video game development process.

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