Panel: Future of MMOs

Feb 21, 2008 • 6 minutes to read

**Speakers: **

  • MC of event, Jon Wood - Managing Editor * Jack Emmert - Founder, Cryptic Studios, Champions Online, City of Heroes/Villans * One other person, Mark Jacobs or “Matt” from Cryptic * Ray Muzyka - General Manager of Bioware, haven’t released one yet * Min Kim - Free-to-play, Cart Rider, * Rob Pardo - SVP of Game Design at Blizzard, Lead designer of WoW

Format: Panel and audience questions

MMO: Can an MMO be successful without 3rd party IP

  • JE - Publisher/investors love IP as it has a guaranteed market, high cost needs a guaranteed return * RM - Invest enough into marketing and it will cost the same amount, need to understand what license enables and what fans want * Bioware does both * MK - Generally don’t use, like a racing MMO doesn’t need * RP - Pros/cons of approach - benefit, but challenge of working with license holder, for them, already using well-known IP and no license issues as they owned the IP. Working with an IP will help, no need to ask who an Orc is really if it already exists

MMO: Console development?

  • JE - Champions online will be a MMO for consoles, ridiculous, discourage everyone from doing it, especially Blizzard. Has Blizzard bought “Africa” yet? * RM - Pick and choose your battles, who are you selling it to? It can be successful on any platform * MK - Mass market, PC is the way to go, experimenting with Xbox 360 game, can you distribute client for free? * RP - Of course there will be, first decision is the game we want to make, then decide platform.

Payment mechanism: Subscription/Microtransactions

  • JE - Micropayments are crap, I like paying one fee and not worrying about it, if i hear one more time, it’s not item-based with micro-transactions, it’s not the wave of the future, I like it as a player and as a developer. * Matt - investors like subscription-based games, revenue and churn is more predictable, microtransactions are less predictable * RM - I’d like to ask Jack how he “really” feels. I think it comes down to the design of your game, understand what you’re making, what drives it, why are people going to tell friends about it, not a push it’s a pull from fans, dominant form in Asia. Individual game and the design. Some games you don’t want, or make them vanity-based. Start with something briliant, then go from there * MK - Bigger than NCSoft, if you’re going to go for core market that would pay subscription, targeting the mass market user, that is the main point, kids these days can’t afford, undercharge some ($0), overcharge others ($100). * RP - In asia, biz model is successful, getting Wow successful in Asia was more challenging and didn’t want to change. Microtransactions are not a magic bullet. Make a great game, then decide what is the right model. Charge people for server transfers and name changes, can merge or do hybrid models, experiment in different places. Pay for time version. * JE - Wow shows that it is mass market and it’s not an east/west thing * MK - Maple story, Target loves us because on a monthly basis they buy cards * JE - Microtransactions are not the magic bullet, Target loves Wow more * RM - both models are possible * Matt - buy costumes, custom emotes, can differentiate, if I’m enjoying the game, I’m happy to give them more money * MK - Sell social experiences that are sticky, average player plays 40 hours/month

Cost is increasing for MMO

  • JE - Will have high budget and low budgets, measuring themselves against Wow. If we can’t have Wow, we’re not going to even try, more than a few companies thinking they can get 1/2 of Wow’s numbers. $20MM is small in a MMO. * Matt - Need to do 1MM subscribers/month, but small MMOs can survive with just 50K subscribers * RM - Look at it in different ways. Barrier to entry, $100M is normal, * MK - large budget MMO, won’t be a sustainable business for everyone, no teams over 100 people, kart rider has <20 people * RP - Wow set the bar to high, great to hear as a publisher, but want to see what people will do and how they push it. * Everquest was previous 800lb gorilla, factoring in EQ expansions (3), so calculate things like land mass, creatures, etc * I think Spore could have been redesigned to be a MMO, could be very successful and big budget but wouldn’t need a content-team army


  • Can Sci-fi succeed as a MMO genre? Significant hurdles, specifically licensed IP doesn’t work (a ding against SWG?) * What am I going to do in a Sci-fi game? * Matt - Single player games that could be expanded into MMO like Mass Effect * Ray - No comment on Mass Effect as the MMO, commented that multiple types are * MK - I love Starcraft, if I had a Starcraft MMO i’d play that over Wow * RP - question is silly, movies is the same way (scifi for 70’s movie Star Wars), fantasy movies won’t work, LOTR shows it can * Future of User generated content/addons * Matt - UGC - Players can make good stuff, will be in the future * Ray - Will Wright giving a talk, pyramid of needs, creators, players, etc. Neverwinter Nights - enable people to play will never work, wasn’t an addon, it was the product. If you launch with it and is part of the essence, then there’s great potential. Tacking it on is a challenge * What does the future of MMOs have to do with everything else? * Answer: 42 * Players will never want to play an MMO, * TV: Another season of your favorite show, * Movie: Regular box games * 2007 had lots of - delays, disasters, is industry healthy? * JE - Industry isn’t healthy, lots of companies have gone busts, publisher fear against Wow * LOTR is only game for MMO that broke 100K * What do you do to make it healthy? * Build a really good game? * underestimate the effort * RM - Ambition and humility, strive to make something brilliant * MK - Hard to pull Rob’s base customers, Maplestory is successful because it hits others * Wow - High level of competition is great: * Are unofficial vendors problematic? * Gold selling market * RP - Very aggressive stance against this, you come into Wow and you’re even, that’s a choice/promise we made. Persue it as much as possible, depends on games. * JE - tells, invites, for spammers in game, so players aren’t annoyed

Session Notes: Life on the Bungie Farm: Fun Things to do with 180 servers and 350 processors

Keynote: The Next 20 Years of Gaming