How does a surprise Game Awards announcement come together? Host Geoff Keighley joins this week’s Kotaku Splitscreen to discuss.

First up, we’ve got a very special surprise announcement for fans of the show. Then we talk about the games we’ve been playing, including Celeste, Obra Dinn, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (33:28). Then Keighley joins the show (48:34) to talk about the success of last week’s awards ceremony, how he puts together his exclusive reveals, and why he chose to support the streamer Ninja. Finally, off-topic talk and Kirk’s music pick of the week (1:15:25).

Get the MP3 here, or read an excerpt:

Jason: I’ve always been curious about how one of your big world premiere exclusive reveals comes together. You love your exclusives, your world premieres. So I had asked you before we started recording and you mentioned that Hades had an interesting story, so I’m curious. Can you walk me through how that came to fruition?

Keighley: Yeah, every game is different in the show. One thing people might not realize is that I’m pretty heavily involved in the creative around a lot of these trailers, and it’s a collaboration, not just ‘Hey we’re gonna drop this on a Dropbox and you’ll get it on this day.’

Jason: So you’re actually sitting there and watching cuts and giving feedback on this stuff.

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Keighley: Yeah, most of the time. I’m visiting studios, and we’re working with them on the run time and the length. And there’s a theatricality for how we can do things in our show, like the Smash-Persona reveal, that was a really awesome moment because it wasn’t inside a Nintendo Direct so when we started that, it was like, ‘Is this a new Persona game?’ It wasn’t even tied to Nintendo until you saw the envelope, and that’s the kind of cool stuff that we can only do at The Game Awards.

Jason: That was a cool secret. You guys successfully prevented that from leaking.

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Keighley: Yeah, and we’re very careful about leaks and whatnot. So with Hades, Greg and Amir from Supergiant met with me at DICE in Vegas in February.

Jason: Almost a year ago.

Keighley: Yeah, I think they even emailed me right after the show last year, or January, and said ‘Hey we want to meet with you at DICE, tell you what we’re doing.’ And they explained their next game, code-named Hades, I didn’t see any of it at the time but they said, ‘Our goal is to launch it at Game Awards, not only ship it but put it in Early Access.’ They set that as their marker for the year, and then invited me to come see the game—early summer, I met with the team, saw the game, did an early playthrough, talked a bit about their vision and then sort of built off that in terms of what they were going to do. Ultimately they ended up doing this deal with the Epic store, which I think was not even on the road map when we first talked in February.

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But yeah it’s definitely a long process that involves me meeting with the team, talking about the best way for them to show up. And that was a case of someone actively coming to us a year out, saying ‘Hey our goal for our team all year is to sprint to be there at the Game Awards, be a part of it.’ That’s an example of something that takes a long time to come to fruition, but we made an agreement very early in the year that that was the goal to get there. Sometimes we have those meetings early in the year and then things don’t pan out or there are twists and turns.

Jason: The game’s delayed, things don’t come together.

Keighley: Exactly. Even this year we were talking to the guys at The Last Night about doing something to bring that back, but there was a bunch of stuff going around with their publisher, and they sent me an email a month or two before the show saying, ‘Hey we don’t think we can get this done right now.’ So the game wasn’t there. There are always twists and turns. Hades was a pretty clear example of that, and some of the other ones—

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Jason: I’m curious about Far Cry, how that came together.

Keighley: Yeah, I was waiting for the Kotaku leak. Since you get every Ubisoft game.

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Jason: To tell you the truth, someone actually told me about that game before Far Cry 5 even came out. I heard it was going to be at The Game Awards a while back, and I was surprised when Ubisoft teased it by tweeting about it. I thought it’d be a cool surprise, I didn’t want to spoil the announcement or anything—

Keighley: What a guy!

Jason: *laughs* So yeah, I’m curious about that, and also curious about the logic behind teasing it in advance as opposed to coming out of nowhere and having that sort of surprise the way Persona did.

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Keighley: Yeah, that’s a collaboration between the studio and us. I like to have some total surprises in the show—Persona was out of nowhere, Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Nintendo likes to surprise people, not even confirm they’ll be at the awards.

Jason: Yeah, where the hell was Metroid Prime 4, and the trilogy?

Keighley: I dunno. It’s funny, cause I read all those rumor articles, and half the stuff is just based on what people think they know. Like oh Nintendo’s announced Metroid Prime 4, well what about all the other things like Marvel Ultimate Alliance which nobody would’ve guessed. And then there’s things like Mortal Kombat, which was heavily rumored, I don’t think really based on any inside knowledge, it was just ‘Hey, there’s probably going to be another Mortal Kombat next spring and Game Awards seems like a good place to announce it.’ So it was there at the show, and we’d been planning that with Ed [Boon] and the team at Warner Bros. for close to a year.

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Jason: So that one was also a year in advance you knew it was coming?

Keighley: Yeah, I think so, we first started talking about it early in the year as a potential idea. And that was a little more amorphous—they were like well when are they gonna announce it? Is Game Awards the right place to do it? And they’re doing this other event in January. So again, it’s a collaborative discussion.

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