Here’s a little story. Back when I was working at Interplay, my then boss Bob Picunko (who’s now a big muckity-muck over at MTV) came into my office to talk about a game that he had heard that Disney was working on with Square Enix. It was called Kingdom Hearts and it combined Disney characters with Final Fantasy characters which on the surface sounds like most ridiculous combination around. Both of us dismissed the idea as something that would never work. Well, we were wrong. Kingdom Hearts turned out to be a smash hit and easily one of my all-time favorite PS2 games. Sometimes the strangest combinations come out of left field to knock your socks off (if I may mix my metaphors there).
Now of course, Kingdom Hearts is a mega-successful franchise that’s treasured and no doubt championed by many inside Disney and Square. Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan and all that. On the release of the latest iteration of the franchise though, it’s worthwhile to remember that this was not an idea that most people would have initially championed. I have enormous respect for my former boss — Bob’s the kind of smart, savvy guy I’d follow off a cliff and nobody knows games better, but he totally missed this one. Without blowing my own horn, I know gaming pretty well too and I dismissed Kingdom Hearts at first. Everyone in this industry has that kind of story — the one they totally missed.
Conversely, there are opposite stories as well. Ray Kassar, the head of Atari who presided over the original company’s destruction in the late ’70s was also the guy who essentially invented the home console port with the Atari 2600 Space Invaders. It behooves us all then to show a little humility sometimes, realizing that nobody really knows anything. We can make our best guesses, apply our facts and figures and bring all our experience to bear and still miss the forest for the trees. And sometimes we just get lucky because there’s a person or a team out there that everyone laughs at with a vision. In the mean time, if you’ve never played Kingdom Hearts — go do so and thank me later. If you have, enjoy the new game. I know I will!