PRICED OUT

EDGE - - BREAKING THE RULES -

Fiona Sperry (above) joined Cri­te­rion in 1997, when the stu­dio was build­ing its con­sole de­but, the Dream­cast hov­er­board racer Trick­Style. Af­ter launch, she be­came head of stu­dio, ap­point­ing Alex Ward as cre­ative di­rec­tor and restyling Cri­te­rion, which had spent its early years build­ing tech demos for In­tel, as a com­mit­ted maker of con­sole games. Lit­tle won­der, then, that af­ter set­ting up Three Fields Sperry and team opted against join­ing the in­dus­try-wide rush to mo­bile.

They tried, in fact, and had a pro­to­type of Danger­ousGolf up and run­ning on iPad pretty quickly. But hard­ware lim­i­ta­tions, and busi­ness con­sid­er­a­tions, put them off. “It’s a very dif­fer­ent au­di­ence, price point, busi­ness model,” Sperry says. “It’s very chal­leng­ing. And it just wasn’t as much fun as mak­ing a con­sole game.”

As for­mer head of stu­dio at Cri­te­rion, Sperry ap­pre­ci­ates the free­dom Three Fields of­fers more than most. In 2004 she be­came gen­eral man­ager of EA’s en­tire UK stu­dio op­er­a­tion – some 400 staff – and is clearly rel­ish­ing be­ing freed of all that cor­po­rate red tape, even though Cri­te­rion had a bet­ter time of it than oth­ers.

“We ac­tu­ally had a lot of in­de­pen­dence at EA,” she tells us, “as long as we made good games to the dates they wanted. But we know our­selves too well. We like to do a good job, so if there’s some­one else pay­ing us we’ll change our plans to fit what they need, rather than just do what we want to. It was largely about be­ing in­de­pen­dent; about free­dom, which was a word we used an aw­ful lot in our first year.”

That de­sire for lib­erty led to Three Fields’ found­ing group de­cid­ing to run the stu­dio with their life sav­ings, rather than seek ex­ter­nal fund­ing. “It’s a very Bri­tish thing to do. Cal­i­for­ni­ans think we’re crazy: ‘You’re do­ing it with your own money? Why on Earth would you do that?’” The stu­dio’s Bri­tish­ness is re­flected, too, in Dan­ger­ous Golf’s price point. In a ri­poste to years of US pub­lish­ers ig­nor­ing ex­change rates and swap­ping pound signs for dol­lar sym­bols, Dan­ger­ous Golf’s base price will be £12.99 in the UK, with the cost in for­eign mar­kets prop­erly cal­cu­lated from there.

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