Jim Ward, President of LucasArts and current chairman of the Entertainment Software Association, recently spoke in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, covering topics ranging from the console wars to the politicization of videogames, as well as his efforts to bring LucasArts back to prominence in the industry.
“George is always on us about this,” he said, referring to efforts to bring heightened depth and emotion to future game releases. “It’s like, ‘Guys, you’re showing me great technology, and then you go and try to wrap a story around it. And the story’s really thin, and then it’s not fun. Forget the tech for a second. I assume you’ll be able to figure out the tech. Come in with a great story.'”
He said he believes Microsoft has its “head in the right place” with its efforts to broaden the gaming audience, particularly through the Xbox Live service, which he sees as vital to the future of videogames. “Certainly their head is absolutely in the right place in terms of XBox Live and Xbox Live Arcade and all of those types of persistent online opportunities, because that in essence is going to give us the back-end revenue stream that we so sorely need,” he said.
He also claimed that Sony appears to have failed to recognize the need to widen the gamer demographic, saying that a combination of high-priced hardware and its in-house-developed games are failing to make the system adequately accessible. Nintendo’s Wii console has not “changed thinking” at LucasArts despite its runaway popularity, according to Ward, although the company did make it a platform for development once the breadth of its success became clear.
Asked about his role at the ESA, Ward implied that the industry’s current situation with regard to anti-videogame efforts is a delicate one, saying, “At any moment, if some kid in West Virginia goes and blows away 32 people, and they found out that he played a videogame, guess what, we’ve got a problem again.” Ultimately, he said, it becomes a question of protected speech in the U.S. “Most importantly – and this is a belief system you either buy into or not – you have to believe in the sanctity of First Amendment rights,” he said. “We believe you have to protect that, no matter what.”