Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Shame of Trip Hawkins

A black moment in gaming history was today revealed for the first time. At, a letter written by 3DO's Trip Hawkins to Gamepro's John Rousseau in September of 2001 was published in its entirety. Hawkins, 3DO's President/Architect of Ruin, was angry about Gamepro's review of Portal Runner, which the magazine gave a 2.3 on a scale of 1 to 5. Rousseau was Gamepro's President at the time.

Here are some excerpts from the letter (full text available at, and it is an unbelievable read):

We at 3DO were very discouraged by the slam-job...on Portal Runner. I would hope you can recognize that I do not love all my children equally and can be objective about both good and bad features in a game as well as games that are of quality and those that are not. I do not send messages like this to you after every review. But this happens to be a game that I have played all the way through and beaten on all difficulty levels and I know the game intimately.

This sort of thing is really tragic because your online review excerpt was the first public review of Portal Runner, and it set the tone by telling the hardcore what to think. It closed minds that it could have opened...In any case, your reviewer blew it on this one. And we are re-evaluating our relationship with GamePro as a result.

The audience for games no longer consists of one iconic block of angry young men who cannot get a date on Saturday night...We wanted to include boys, girls, women, and casual gaming men...Meanwhile, I personally think we made a game that hard-core adult male gamers would enjoy. But I can understand that some of them would reject it the same way some adults reject Shrek or Beethoven. But personally, I think that really means there is something wrong with a man like that, not with Portal Runner.

If you disagree with me, you do so at your own peril...As you know, most game publishers are losing money and have cut back on advertising. Many magazines and webzines have perished. What seems needless to me is the often overly negative tone that gaming editorial takes.

And do not patronize me by telling me the reader is the customer--your real customer is the one that pays you your revenue. And it is game industry advertisers.

I should mention in passing that 3DO has been one of your largest advertisers. Effective immediately, we are going to have to cut that back...In conclusion, I think you owe us one because you took us by surprise and threw our review to a wolf. And you accepted his word as God without even checking in with a major advertiser...

I've enjoyed gaming for almost twenty years, even though it makes me feel very old to say that. And in two decades, I have never read anything that shocked me more deeply. I was actually nauseous as I read Trip Hawkin's letter.

Dude, you FINISHED Portal Runner?

Not only finished it, but "beat" it on ALL difficulty levels? How did this happen? Did your Mom and Dad take all your games because you didn't get up in time to run your paper route? Did some older kid promise to buy you Final Fantasy X if you finished Portal Runner first?

Listen, Trip, finishing Portal Runner is not something that you brag about. It's like the night you got really, really drunk at a frat party and woke up in the morning with...Well, no one else would finish that sentence, because if they did it would be like saying they finished Portal Runner. I know this happened in 2001, but you need to get yourself some help, and right away. Who knows what else you've played in the last three years? Were there any Easter Eggs in Mucha Lucha! Mascaritas of the Lost Code? How was Swamp Buggy Racing, or Drake of the 99 Dragons?

Not to mention that if Beethoven were alive, he'd kick your ass.

I know you expected to buy a better review, but you had the idea that would have saved your company, and you absolutely missed it. Why didn't you start your own gaming magazine? You already had a title: Boys, Girls, Women, and Casual Gaming Men. That bad boy would have FLOWN off the shelves. Sure, the iconic block of angry young men probably wouldn't have read it, but you could have started a magazine just for them called Angry Young Man Gaming. Your visionary understanding of what gamers really wanted needed its own voice.

Portal Runner. That's just sad, man. To paraphrase Forest Gump, suck is as suck does.

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