For years, Will Wright has been just about the biggest name in video game development. It's hardly necessary to recite his resume, but just in case you haven't been paying attention, he's the creator of SimCity and its many direct spinoffs, The Sims franchise--which long ago surpassed 100 million units sold--and most, recently, Spore.
But last spring, not long after Spore's much-anticipated release, Wright announced he was leaving Electronic Arts, the game's publisher, for the greener pastures of a start-up called Stupid Fun Club. Though the new venture is backed by EA, it is independent. And Wright, for the first time since he sold Maxis (the developer of Spore, The Sims, and SimCity) to EA, is out on his own.
For months, Stupid Fun Club's mission as a company has been all but a mystery. And only now are details emerging about what the small company, most of whose employees have worked with Wright for years, is up to.
However, as Wright told CNET News' sister site GameSpot in April, "This started many years ago actually, with friends I met doing Robot Wars together. That's when we originally coined the name, because it's kind of ridiculous to invest hundreds of hours building these things and then destroy them. But it's great fun, and it's really stupid."
On its Web site, the 12-person company is still cryptic, saying only that, "The Stupid Fun Club is an entertainment development studio. The ideas developed here can be manifested in video games, online environments, storytelling media, and fine home care products."
But it is becoming clear that Wright is looking to branch out beyond games. For example, in a press release that went out Wednesday morning, it was announced that Wright will be in New York keynoting next February at the online games-oriented conference, the Engage Expo, which will run concurrently with the world famous Toy Fair. Indeed, Wright's presentation will be titled, "The Evolution of Entertainment, A Toy's Place," and is expected to examine "toys, play, and the product development process from a new perspective."
On Tuesday, over at VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi caught up with Wright for a Q&A, and got the master designer to spill some of the beans about the company's projects, at least two of which Wright said will be games.
VentureBeat: How do you like getting out on your own?
Will Wright: It's fun. I'm able to work on projects that are much broader than I could at Electronic Arts.
VB: What have you said about them so far. Are they toy related?
WW: One of them is toy related. The others aren't. We are looking at a lot of different industries. There's the web. Toys. We're not restricted to one type of entertainment. We're kind of looking for ideas that cross a lot of different boundaries.
VB: Are you thinking of products like Webkinz, where there's a plush toy and then a code to go to a Web site?
WW: Every product that we are working on has a web component. The web is like the connective tissue in entertainment today....
...VB: What are some examples of things you like now that point in this direction of a new kind of entertainment? I've mentioned Webkinz. What appeals to you?
WW: It's interesting to look at media. I have my Tivo at home. I have my Amazon account. I download video on demand. At the same time, there are all of these huge interesting web communities forming around traditional properties. I am interested in the online communities around popular TV shows. The stuff the participants are doing are very extraordinary. The community around The Lost show on TV is one of my favorites. It's awe inspiring.