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Chris Kramer, Senior Director of Corporate Comm.

Interviews By Carolyn Koh on August 18, 2006

SOE's Senior Director of Corporate Communications drops in to answer our questions

SOE has come a long way since EverQuest and we chat with Chris Kramer, Senior Director, Corporate Communications, SOE, about the future and their acquisition of Worlds Apart Production.

MMORPG.com:SOE has come a long way since EverQuest. What is the direction of the company these days?
Chris Kramer:

The company’s mission statement sums it all up: To be the worldwide leader in online entertainment; and to expand our company through the development of high-quality, industry-leading entertainment, software and services, while fostering an environment of empowerment, creativity and commitment.

It’s become very obvious that, while MMOs have been and always will be a large part of our business, SOE is determined to branch out and embrace multiple forms of online entertainment. Over the past three years, we’ve released online games for the PlayStation 2, multiple titles on the PSP and have even begun publishing and co-publishing games developed outside of the company (such as Sigil’s Vanguard or Perpetual’s Gods and Heroes). We’ve got a PlayStation 3 launch game in the works, and the company is actively involved in the creation of the PlayStation 3 Network Platform, which will eventually connect millions of players together around the globe. We’ve even got a few top-secret online games in development. And now, with the acquisition of Worlds Apart Productions, we’re branching out into the online collectible card game business. We’re busy!

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MMORPG.com:We’ve been seeing press releases from SOE which have nothing to do with Online Entertainment – software releases for the PSP for example. Entertainment it still is, but not online. Tell us why.
Chris Kramer:

Actually, our last two PSP games have been online. Both Untold Legends: The Warrior’s Code and Field Commander have significant online play modes using the PSP’s ability to connect to WiFi networks. Our next PSP title, the recently announced Cash Money Chao$, and our PS3 launch title, Dark Kingdom, will also have a number of multiplayer modes. As I said, online entertainment for us means much, much more than MMOs.

MMORPG.com:Will Sony Online Entertainment soon become Sony Cross-Platform Entertainment? :)
Chris Kramer:

We already are! In the last three years, we have published games for the PC, Mac, PlayStation 2, PSP, cell phones, PocketPCs and we’re readying a game for the launch of the PlayStation 3. At this point, we’re producing games for just about every significant gaming platform (and then some).

MMORPG.com:How does your latest acquisition mesh with SOE’s expansion and development strategy?
Chris Kramer:

One of SOE’s missions is to diversify our business. The online CCG/TCG business is similar to the online games that we are known for, and it’s a natural fit. We are focused on maintaining our place as one of the premiere online games and entertainment companies in the world, and expanding our offerings is part of that continuing strategy.

MMORPG.com:What is different about this acquisition? Why the specific mention of the acquisition of the assets of Worlds Apart Production and not just acquiring the company?
Chris Kramer:

That’s fairly specific press release corporate language. Essentially, SOE has purchased the assets of Worlds Apart Productions, not the company. We picked up the people, technology and some of their license agreements, but not any of the company’s past history.

MMORPG.com:Do you plan on releasing Online Trading Card Games of the current SOE franchises – EverQuest, Planetside, etc.?
Chris Kramer:

That is one of the current blue-sky plans that we’re currently evaluating. Imagine being able to sit down with other players within EverQuest to play the EQ CCG. As you can imagine, we have tons of CCG fans here at SOE, and we’ve been mulling over producing our own game for the last few years.

MMORPG.com:Apart from the Platform Publishing that you are doing for Disney’s ToonTown and Perpetual’s Gods and Heroes to name a couple, SOE also handles the business end of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XI Online – billing, servers, customer service, etc. Something not many are aware of. Is offering those services a revenue division that SOE plans to grow?
Chris Kramer:

We have had discussions with a few other companies about hosting their games, but it’s not a huge part of our business strategy. We will be publishing or co-publishing more externally produced games in the future, however, that we will most likely host as well.

MMORPG.com:Station Exchange… tell us how that has come along and if this may be a service that will be available on other SOE games.
Chris Kramer:

Station Exchange is doing great. SOE is currently working on a white paper that will be released towards the end of this month that will highlight a lot of really interesting information about the service and how people are using it. We’re still examining how it might be implemented into other live games, but we’re also looking at designing with the service in mind for several new titles.

MMORPG.com:Tell us also about the agreement with Warner Brothers. You acquired not only Matrix Online but an agreement to develop a DC comics based game. How is that working out for SOE and what can you tell us about the DC comics based game?
Chris Kramer:

The game based on the DC Comics license is being developed by a new team, based at SOE-Austin. We’ve got some great people working on the game, with experience creating not only online games, but great single-player console games as well. Plus, we have Jim Lee, one of the top artistic talents in the comics industry, serving as Executive Creative Director on the project. Our relationship with DC and Warner Bros has been fantastic, the type of licensor collaboration that a developer usually could only wish for. The game is coming along very nicely right now – we’ll have more to show and talk about next year.

Personally, I’m incredibly excited about the project and what I’ve seen of the game so far. SOE is more than just doing a game right, we’re doing the entire DC Universe right.

MMORPG.com:Is the Unreal 3 Engine license indicative of future development away from home-grown, from the ground up game engines? What nudged SOE in that direction?
Chris Kramer:

The benefit of working with an existing, powerful technology like UE3 is that our developers are able to spend more time working on core gameplay mechanics and design, which is where we as a company excel. Our developers working with UE3 have been able to rapid-prototype their titles, which means that they can quickly bring up roughly playable milestones in a much shorter timeframe. Instead of having to re-invent the wheel, a few of our new projects have been able to actually test game concepts, look-and-feel and direction in the space of months, instead of years.

MMORPG.com:Whew… that’s quite an update in a few questions. New titles… fast development based on UE3… leave MMORPG readers with a hint of what’s to come in the MMORPG titles from SOE?
Chris Kramer:

Well, we do have a few other things in development here that we haven't spoken too much about. There are two other huge projects in the works for '07 and '08 that we haven't quite announced yet. If you carefully analyze some of Mr. Smedley's blog postings from the last few weeks, you might find a clue or two. We're looking at turning the world of "MMOs" on its head, and quite possibly throwing that phrase out the window altogether.

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