2K defends XCOM's first-person shooter reboot

2K Game's decision to transform the classic turn-based strategy series XCOM into a first person shooter understandably left fans wondering what the studio was smoking when it sat down to plan the 2012 reboot. Some of the harsher critics have even gone so far as accusing the studio of bastardizing the popular PC series, but in his interview with MCV, 2K head Christoph Hartmann says there's good reason for genre switch.

“The ‘90s generation of gamers all love XCOM and we own the IP, so we thought OK, what do we do with it? Every studio we had wanted to do it and each one had its own spin on it. But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth. But this is not just a commercial thing – strategy games are just not contemporary,” he explained.

Hartmann likened Xcom's re-envisioning to the natural evolution of musical styles, explaining that if the legendary Ray Charles were to return now, his music would probably sound more akin to Kanye West than classic Charles, noting, “Bringing Ray Charles back is all fine and good, but it just needs to move on, although the core essence will still be the same.”

Uh...hmm...we'll leave that one alone. Questionable comparisons aside, Hartmann added XCOM's FPS make-over is a matter of renewing the franchise, not overwriting it, saying, “The team behind it is asking themselves every day: ‘Is it true to the values of the franchise?’ It’s not a case of cashing in on the name. We just need to renew it because times are changing.”

XCOM is scheduled to return for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on March 6th.

Jul 13, 2011

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  • YuGiOhisbetterthanMagic - July 15, 2011 2:56 a.m.

    I find it hilarious that this guy is saying turn based strategy inset profitable, when his company has made mad bank off of the Civilization series.
  • aliengmr - July 14, 2011 10:02 p.m.

    On the one hand bringing older games into the modern era sounds like a good idea for some titles. On the other hand, capture the core essence of older titles is near impossible. Unless you're Blizzard and release the same game with better visuals. But I digress. The reason the core essence of older games is hard to capture, I believe, is due to the original fans. Like playing atari games now isn't the same as when you played them when you were younger. Fact is if the devs can't recreate the "feeling" you got with the original then its doomed. I'm not saying this applies totally with XCOM, but I do think modernizing the original would have been very risky. Way I see it, turn-based gaming is past its prime but strategy isn't, on the PC that is. Words like "strategy" and "simulation" are not what console gamers in general like hearing these days. At least that's the publishers believe. True or not, its hard to deny with XCOM becoming an FPS. Truth be told, I'm not all that broken up about it. I no longer get excited at the prospect of any classic being remade. The reality is that very few would succeed anyway. Its kinda like Far Cry 2-when I gave up bitching that it wasn't, in fact, Far Cry 2 and instead and FPS with Far Cry 2 slapped on the box for name recognition-I started to enjoy it more. Whether that will be that case here, I don't know. Though this interview did help quell any excitement I may have started to have. More likely if this game is successful, it will be with a new generation and promptly forgotten and about by the older generation. I would like to add that music is timeless, video games aren't. At least not these days when most want the newest and best and the games themselves shorter and more forgettable. Just my opinion.
  • TheVoid - July 14, 2011 6:09 p.m.

    To say I'm a HUGE fan of the original X-Com is an understatement; it has maintained my very own "best game of all time" honor pretty much since the day it was released (and this is coming from a wildly diverse and seasoned gamer, lest anyone assume I'm exclusively old-school turn-based strategy). I could certainly go on at length about why that seventeen year old game is so incredibly awesome even today for anyone willing to give it the time and attention it deserves, but I won't because the topic at hand is Christoph Hartmann's horribly misguided attempt to convince fans that the franchise is in good hands and on a good track. To be honest, PC Gamer did a much better job several months ago easing worried fans into the reboot's new direction (mainly because they share the same passion for the original as myself), enough to actually illicit a shred of excitement in regards to the reboot. That is an impressive feat, especially since I have previously (and repeatedly) stated that all 2K would need to do is update the graphics and user interface of the original while leaving the core mechanics alone (something the many X-com clones that have followed over the years have not been able to learn, to their collective failure). I would think that 2K should have the resources and imagination to successfully push the franchise into unfamilar territory (in the same manner as Fallout3 and Metroid Prime, two franchises whose "we are going 1st person" announcements scared the hell out of fans, only to have those fears completely alleviated upon release), so I have been and remain open-minded regarding this new approach. However, everything Christoph Hartmann said made the pit in my stomach grow deeper and deeper and deeper. Each line was worse than the last, to the extent where I now truly wonder whether 2K has a clue about the goldmine they are sitting on (let alone the potentail damage they could do to it). Go ahead, make an X-Com 1st person reboot. That does sound kind of neat. But does that also mean that the door is officially closed on any consideration towards an actual honest-to-God remake that fans have been clammoring for? Hartmann's comments would make one think so: "But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth. But this is not just a commercial thing – strategy games are just not contemporary". But it is pretty much just a commercial thing, isn't it? Sure, I will admit that the turn based strategy genre isn't making any studio millions of dollars these days, but who is to say it can't? A faithful remake of the original X-Com might do for turn-based strategy games what Final Fantasy 7 did for JRPGs. But 2K will never know until they try, yet based on Hartmann's comments it would appear the studio's notion of "playing it safe" is to join the ranks of the already over-saturated FPS crowd while the safest move of all would be to leverage what has made the original such a long-standing hit and a permanent fixture on fans' hard drives. Just the fact that the original has been retooled to remain playable on every OS released since 1994 should be indication enough of the original's staying power. I myself have played and beat the original three times - no smaller feat as the game is by no means short - and expect will do so many more times over the years. That is, of course, if the sad trend continues such that no one appears willing to pick up and run with the franchise's proverbial torch. Many have tried, all have failed, and it is regrettable to see 2K on a similar path. Even if this reboot works and wins over fans of the original, fans will continue to pour more time into the original as long as the likes of Steam and support it across modern day and future OSs. Meanwhile, this reboot will ultimately be considered more of a spin off (ala X-Com Enforcer or X-Com Interceptor) than the proper follow-up we've been waiting/hoping for, which is a bit of a shame. I suppose it is a good thing that the original is still going strong; at least we still have "old faithful" to lean on while studios continue to botch attempts to steal that thunder. it would be even better if PSN could release the old PS1 port to give console gamers what they've been missing (and likely increase the number of those who would appreciate a true-to-it's-roots remake). As for Hartmann's "Bringing Ray Charles back is all fine and good, but it just needs to move on, although the core essence will still be the same" comment, that is just plain asinine. Has this buffoon ever heard of the concept of "timeless"? If not, here are some examples: Beatles = timeless. Ray Charles = timeless. X-Com = timeless. Kayne West = the verdict is still out. 2K's XCom reboot = the verdict is WAY still out (if not slipping away) thanks in no small part to this very unfortunate PR fumble.
  • Ashermeister - July 14, 2011 1:26 p.m.

    Whatever happened, someone would have complained anyway. If it was a turn based game, people will say how strategy games don't work on the console. If they stayed the same people will say the series needs a change. To be fair, people complained about how fallout changed and look how that turned out? I mean I dislike fallout big time, but it ended up being one of the most critically acclaimed games of recent years right?
  • jmcgrotty - July 14, 2011 10:50 a.m.

    I'd be more impressed if they made this a second-person shooter. We've seen enough first- and third-person games.
  • Rhymenocerous - July 14, 2011 10:05 a.m.

    Why not keep all the base management stuff from the old game, but then replace the turn-based "Battlescape" scenes with squad-based fps, with one shot kills along the lines of Rainbow Six. Sounds like a decent enough compromise to me.
  • Rhymenocerous - July 14, 2011 10:04 a.m.

    Why not keep all the base management stuff from the old game, but then replace the turn-based "Battlescape" scenes with squad-based fps, with one shot kills along the lines of Rainbow Six. Sounds like a decent enough compromise to me.
  • Rhymenocerous - July 14, 2011 10:02 a.m.

    Why not keep all the base management stuff from the old game, but then replace the turn-based "Battlescape" scenes with squad-based fps, with one shot kills along the lines of Rainbow Six. Sounds like a decent enough compromise to me.
  • peaceful765 - July 14, 2011 9:43 a.m.

    BETRAYAL!!! XCOM is turn based. That what the IP is known for. Surely it woould have been more interesting to somehow make a turn based game with third/first person battle scenes which are optional, you know make it appeal a little bit to the masses? FPS are 2 a penny at the mo, this is gonna sink.
  • schiapu - July 14, 2011 5:37 a.m.

    "strategy games are just not contemporary.” Starcraft 2 begs to differ. 3+ million sales. If X-com sells more than a thousand with this shit, I'll be surprised.
  • HankVenture - July 14, 2011 2:48 a.m.

    Never played/heard of the ones before this, but I gotta say I have been excited about it since I first saw it awhile back and will probably get it as long as i hear decent things about it. And even though his comparisons are shitty, I completely understand what he meant, times change and things evolve, though he is just basically saying FPS are the shit right now not the turn based strategy. and that is because turned based strategy blows.. It's like would you rather sell a game were you push a hoop with a stick or would you like to make a board game..
  • festafreak - July 14, 2011 2:06 a.m.

    My entire opinion on this subject can be summed up very well by one word: Blah
  • onetimebuster - July 14, 2011 1:16 a.m.

    Wow that was lame
  • GamerTagsSuck - July 14, 2011 12:10 a.m.

    This has actually looked very good to me so far. A good game is a good game is a good game, and if it turns out a good game than the proper gamers won't let it die. If it sucks, it might kill the company.
  • crumbdunky - July 14, 2011 12:06 a.m.

    Clueless ad offensive comparisons aside the damn shame is that they're scaring off the original PC gamers who love proper Xcom and not making an immediate enough FPS for the newer console crowd who have no clue what the first game was about,what it played like or, in actual fact, ever existed. Selling ANOTHER shooter in this market is tough even when, as with THQ and Homefront, you make a shedload of noise about it-yet 2K think the Xcom name is gong to carry this one despite the old fans hating it's genre change and the "new" gamers not even knowing it's got a history let alone one they'd even care about or care for? They're going to lose whatever they put into this game, imho, as ifail to see a hook apart from THAT name and, as a lot of us have already noted, nobody who played the original WANTED a FPS sequel and they are neither making a game to appeal to the COD masses nor are they marketing it to them so where and why do they see this game selling? What reason is there for Joe /blow who buys a couple of shooters per year, maybe a Fifa or Madden title, to get on board with new Xcom considering 90% of those who know the game won't be buying this one? What does it offer that other games don't and, then, is it SIMILAR enough to Halo or COD to even break even? All questions we can answer and not with dodgy musical comparisons which show a lack of understanding across entertainment and all with answers 2K seemingly are in total denial over! Honestly, does anyone see(or can they tell me)how or why this game might, even possibly, sell enough copies to break even? I just see a totally misguided idea that they'd be well off closing down before spunking any more on development, marketing or production/haulage and storage costs. What the HELL will they do when it reviews like crap too? It's got "money sink" written all over it-even if it's a pretty good game it's sinking without trace and would possibly have to totally reinvent the FS wheel to have any chance of being relevant let alone a sleeper or cult hit-and there's simply no chance of true success even now. Besides, what's with trying to say that turn based gaming and strategy no longer have any appeal or worth? Are they really just making statements, and the game, purely to annoy us old fans? More questions neither we nor 2K want to know the answers to i'm guessing.
  • Plan10FromOuterSpace - July 13, 2011 11:35 p.m.

    @rabidpotatochip, thanks a hell of a lot dude, I was just thinking I'd like to play the original and find out whats all the fuss is about, cheers
  • Plan10FromOuterSpace - July 13, 2011 11:32 p.m.

    I remember reading a preview of this ages ago and being MAJORLY excited about it, I completely forgot about it since then and this is the first ive heard about it in ages. I have to say the concepts laid out in the preview really excited me, i've never played the originals so I have no reservations about the change in style and am just looking forward to what sounds a really unique shooter.
  • MySistersMenstruationTastesFunny - July 13, 2011 11:16 p.m.

  • RedOutlive10 - July 13, 2011 11:11 p.m.

    Because there aren't enough first person shooters around... I like the genre but this is just sad.
  • Rhaen - July 13, 2011 9:59 p.m.

    Games can transpose genres and still be successful. See: Fallout 3. However, this seems a little bit too radical of a change. The setting is very different as is the fundamental gameplay. I have yet to see a tactical element to this new iteration. FPS games sell well so they are making one, and that appears to be the crux of his statement. it's just a shame there are not more developers who wish to make the other genres more exciting and invigorating to build a following for them.

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