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The Replay Interviews: Bob Jacob
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The Replay Interviews: Bob Jacob

December 15, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

So what happened when Cinemaware ran out of money? I read in one contemporary article that Mirrorsoft bought the company.

BJ: No. Mirrorsoft was our distributor in the UK, and we had a really good relationship with them. When it was obvious the company was going down, I was faced with the unlucky task of trying to sell off its assets. So Mirrorsoft may have bought an asset or two, but so did Electronic Arts, so did NEC, so did a bunch of people.

What did you do after Cinemaware?

BJ: Oh, I faced a real problem because I was living a certain lifestyle and heavily in debt to a bank. So the first thing I had to do was pay off all these creditors, including the bank. I was able to do that by licensing off all the assets of the company, but then I had to have a job so I started a console development company called Acme Interactive.

I actually went over to the UK. Back then -- this was like '90/'91 -- there was a weekly game newspaper published in the UK called Computer Trade Weekly and I ran a couple of ads in there saying "I'm coming over", and based on that I had like 10, 15 programmers out of the UK. Far more than in the U.S.

Acme probably became the most hated company in British software. I took a bunch of people from Ocean and some people out of Derby [home of Core Design] and did something that I should have done earlier -- I turned into a Genesis developer.

What games did Acme make?

BJ: Well, let's see. We did Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing and the follow up. That was a million U.S. seller. We did Batman Returns, Joe Montana Football. We did a version of BattleTech on the Genesis, which was a very, very good game. The development guys went on and became the founding team of Neversoft. I took Acme and merged it with a comic book publisher called Malibu Comics in, I think, '92. Then in '94 the company was sold to Marvel Comics.

So how did you end up going back into work as an agent?

BJ: I got a phone call one day! In 1996 I got a call from a former employee of mine, a Scotsman named Ian Morrison who was working for Sony in Santa Monica. They wanted to move, he didn't want to go. So he had put together a concept for a game and actually knocked on the doors of some publishers trying to sell it. He seemed to get some interest, but couldn't get a deal closed and he asked me if I'd be willing to help him.

So he came over to my place and I looked at what he had. It was very much like Robotron, only in 3D. So I said, "Here's an idea, look through to Midway and try and sell them on the idea of bringing back Robotron in 3D." And they bought it. So now he had a developer studio called Player One and I became his agent.

Following that I got a call from another former employee -- David Todd -- who had kept on a number of the Cinemaware guys at a studio. We got together and -- this is probably the single greatest sales job I ever did -- I persuaded Nintendo of America to give him StarCraft on the N64. So now I had a company called Mass Media and I was an agent.

Clyde Grossman, who had run Sega of America and had been head of development, had also become sort of an agent. So we decided to join forces in '97. And so Interactive Studio Management was formed and here we are almost 15 years later representing some pretty major developers.

Which developers are you representing at the moment?

BJ: We represent Digital Extremes, the co-creators of Unreal, Silicon Knights -- we got their creators. We represent Asobo of France, who did Fuel for Codemasters. Darkworks in Paris. I think we have 11 developers. We've done like over $400 million of sales in the last 10 years. It's been an interesting run and being an agent has been good -- it's really probably the job I was born to do.

Given that you're still involved in the industry today, looking back at what you did with Cinemaware do you see the things you pioneered there that are now common practice?

BJ: Oh absolutely. If you look at Call of Duty, for example, or even Assassin's Creed -- people are trying to do games that are very movie-like experiences. Obviously they've been able to achieve much more than I was, but they have better technology and more money to work with. But clearly I think the vision of what I wanted to do 20-plus years ago, is now being seen.

I think, in a way, the success of franchises like Call of Duty really do vindicate what I had. I mean, I've had a great career and I have no complaints -- I've had my ups and I've had my downs, but overall it's been a fantastic chance for me.

But I will say that on one level I suffered the fate of many pioneers: I was too early. I knew what I wanted to do. The technology wasn't there then and was not going to be there for a while, but if you look at the games today and what we were trying to do there is a pretty sophisticate opportunity. At the time if people asked if Cinemaware was a genre, I would say "No, Cinemaware was the future." Cinemaware is where games are going to be and ultimately I was right.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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