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What's Next for EA Mythic?

Editorial By Dana Massey on October 09, 2006

What's Up Next for EA Mythic?

Editorial by MMORPG.com Senior Editor Dana Massey

No one will deny that Electronic Arts has a less than stellar reputation in MMO circles. Two of their games - Earth and Beyond and Motor City Online - have died after launch. The Sims Online, an idea that could have broken new ground in the MMO-space is at best a niche product and Ultima Online was changed in many ways, not all for the better, after they purchased Origin. Thus, when they scooped up Mythic Entertainment earlier this year, the deal was met with some understandable skepticism.

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To date, it seems like EA may have understood their mistakes. They've set the newly dubbed EA Mythic up as the head of their MMO operations. Both their surviving MMOGs, along with the current and upcoming Mythic games report through a single structure overseen by people who have had great success in this industry. The earliest indications seem to show that perhaps Electronic Arts has learned a lesson.

EA is not, however, a small company with finite ambitions. It is only logical to assume that while Warhammer Online may look like it has the makings of being a big hit, they are not going to rest all their MMO hopes on one potential star and two aging veterans. One has to ask then, what else might they be working on?

Given they have been working to bring The Sims Online and Ultima Online more closely into the EA Mythic hierarchy, it seems illogical to guess that they'd start a game outside that structure. It follows then that EA Mythic will be the studio that creates the next big MMORPG for the Electronic Arts empire. Like them or hate them, EA provides Mythic with a wealth of new options in the MMO space. They own a lot of IPs and have the muscle to secure new ones. So, let us engage in some speculation about what else they could be working on.

To be clear, this article is based entirely on my own chain of logic and ideas. There is no guarantee that EA Mythic will start a second project, let alone one of the games on this list.


Ultima Online II
This has been tried several times, but never has the much rumored and anticipated sequel to one of the most beloved MMOs ever made become a reality. The original title has survived the test of time and despite its 2D isometric view and the dozens of games that followed in its footsteps, it still ranks among the largest MMORPGs - in terms of subscribers - on the market.

Unlike most other MMO sequels, there is a real chance to differentiate the two products. A fully 3D game, using cutting edge technology, but set in the world of Ultima could provide a radically different experience than the original product. Given its age, UO cannot possibly hope to compete with the new games. The best case scenario is that UO retains as many of its subscribers for as long as possible. By now, all that is left is the hardcore. Yet, when you consider that a good chunk of MMO players today probably tried UO at some point, the potential for UO2 seems huge.

The downside is that Ultima is an IP familiar only to MMO players and gaming veterans. Nothing has been done in that space for years and it is not a brand likely to draw new gamers into pay-to-play online gaming. Ask the average person on the street what Ultima is and you'll receive a blank look. That said, the same probably could have been said about WarCraft a few years ago.

With the muscle of EA, the talent of Mythic and the need for a top flight, skill-based MMORPG, there is no denying that Ultima Online II may be the top candidate for a new EA Mythic project.

Harry Potter Online
Electronic Arts already has the licenses sewn up for the single-player games, so it does not seem impossible that they'd travel down that road for their next online project. The books have done a masterful job of aging with their audience and now a good number of the original Harry Potter fans are old enough to wield credit cards. It may be time to put them to good use.

There have even been images floating around the web for art from something marked as a Harry Potter MMOG. Does that prove anything? Hardly, but it is definitely interesting.

The big question would be, how would it work and how do you make a game that is accessible to both the younger and older fans of the series without alienating either one? Those are some tall design tasks, but I would hardly call having a game that people of all ages want to play a problem.

Like most singular story IP products, there is still the flaw that everyone wants to be Harry. This is a challenge no one has quite fully cleared yet, but there is no way that with an IP this big someone won't eventually give it a try. Unlike UO2, a Hogwarts or Harry Potter MMOG has the potential to create new gamers and expand the market far beyond what Blizzard has done. It's a risky scenario, EA showed with The Sims Online that single-player or non-gamer sales do not equal MMORPG-subscriptions, but it may well be a risk that they have to take.

An Original IP
The beauty of an original IP is that you can tailor it to whatever market you want and find whatever hole within the MMO tapestry to situate that product. For game designers, this is a great way to do something. You don't have to deal with licensing boards and if the story doesn't fit… change it!

The downside is, you need to build an IP out of whatever you're doing and that's harder to sell to the average kid in EB.

In the interests of breadth, it may make sense to follow a big licensed game (Warhammer) with an original product. I'd rank this as the third most likely scenario after Harry Potter and Ultima Online II.

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