Interview: BioShock's Ken Levine

Ken talks games and gadgetry

Wow. Is there a favourite gadget?

KL: The thing I always have with me is my iPhone because it's your life valet. It handles games, it handles books. I read Kindle on it. I've got my email, I've got Twitter. And I'm about to try this Zombie Run app...

SimCity has been hitting the headlines this week for its pretty disastrous launch. What are your feelings about it?

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KL: There's a bunch of issues in here. Whether it's Diablo 3 or some other mass multiplayer game, almost any game is going to have a tough launch because you can't test for a million simultaneous users. So whenever you do something for the first time in software, generally it's going to fail.

It's the same problem with latency - the speed of light is your limitation. In terms of always-on DRM, the key question is, 'does the audience perceive that they're getting value?'. No one cares about the publisher's problems. They care about their own problems. So Steam is a really good example of where people think they're getting value. Remember when you had to change computers and you had to reinstall your games? Now it's just like 'Oh I'm going to buy a Surface and I'm going to put Steam on it and have all my games right away.'

However, there is DRM attached to it and you cant resell those games. There are a lot of perceived negatives. And I know there are people who will disagree with me on forums, but I think in general the perceived positives outweigh the perceived negatives.

So you're in favour of the idea of DRM?

KL: I'm sure [SimCity] is frustrating for people, and I was on press tour so I didn't get to experience that. I would have played it first day, I would have been one of those people, and I was one of those people on Diablo 3. I understand the frustration, but I also understand the economics of the business. Diablo 3 sold a lot of copies, so I'm guessing strictly from an accounting standpoint that for Blizzard the pros outweigh the cons. There are other costs. There are reputational costs. There are fan loyalty cost. But then, the consumer is always going to vote with their wallet. And you can't convince them of something they don't believe.