2008 Reader's Choice Awards: Favorite MMO Studio
In the world of MMORPGs, a lot can be said about the studios developing the games that we play. Some have lost our trust or confidence entirely, while others have impressed us and gained our loyalty. This category has been created so that you can tell us which of the six editorial staff nominated studios you like best.
Have you ever bought a product simply because of the manufacturer’s name on the label? Ever bought a pair of Nike shoes, or maybe you’re a Toyota driver for life. Are you a Microsoft diehard, maybe you’re an Apple user. Whatever the product in question, people tend to become attached to particular companies and will tend to go back to those companies time and time again. This can be for any number of reasons, maybe you just like their product, maybe you like the way they handle customer support, maybe they always put the customer first or maybe you just like their logo.
In the world of MMORPGs, a lot can be said about the studios developing the games that we play. Some have lost our trust or confidence entirely, while others have impressed us and gained our loyalty.
When you look at this list of nominees, there are a number of things that you should consider before casting your vote. We don’t want you to simply look at the list, see who made your favourite game and click your vote (although that should play a role). In this category, we would like to see readers vote for the studio that they felt had the best combination of product, customer support, community accessibility and generally anything else that you feel an MMO company should be doing for its players.
When we chose our list of nominees, we looked at studios that a) Were in the spotlight this year for various reasons and b) have an active (and released) game currently on the market.
Known better to us MMO fans as Blizzard Entertainment, this merged company came together just this past year and are located in Santa Monica, California.
With their goliath MMORPG hit World of Warcraft as well as a number of other hit games, the Blizzard brand is pretty much a household name. Over the last year, the company has also launched a major expansion for the game, merged with Activision, and made a number of other major announcements concerning their non-MMO titles.
CCP / White Wolf
Crowd Control Productions, better known to the MMORPG universe as CCP, merged with White Wolf (the makers of RPGs like Vampire and Mage) back in 2006. The studio behind the sci-fi sandbox MMO EVE Online, has offices in Iceland, Atlanta and Shanghai.
CCP has been busy over the last year, kicking off its Council of Stellar Management program, launching two free expansions, Empyrean Age and Quantum Rise and announcing that not only would EVE Online be available next year in boxes (they have been download only for years), but that they have devoted a larger portion of their workforce to EVE Online, having pulled them at least temporarily from other projects.
Briefly known as EA Mythic after the indy studio was bought by the publishing giant, the company reclaimed its name shortly before the launch of its second MMORPG, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.
Located in Fairfax, Virginia, Mythic Entertainment has had a very busy year both maintaining existing titles Dark Age of Camelot and Ultima Online and launching and promoting the aforementioned Warhammer Online.
With a head office in Oslo, Norway, Funcom was founded in 1993 and is another example of a studio which, while best known for MMORPG work, has also put out a number of single player games as well. In the realm of MMORPGs, Funcom currently runs both Anarchy Online and the much more recently launched Age of Conan.
In 2008, Funcom launched their highly anticipated Age of Conan to high media praise and mixed player reviews. Since launch, the developers have been working to improve the game, having pushed out a number of major updates.
Perhaps the biggest news for Funcom this year was the departure of AoC Game Director Gaute Godager, who was replaced by AO’s from man Craig Morrison.
NCsoft was founded in 1997 and has grown to service the Asian, European and North American games markets. Currently (according to their corporate website), the company employs 2,619 full time employees.
With a North American development studio located in Austin, Texas, NCsoft is best known as a publisher, with titles like the popular Guild Wars franchise under its belt. 2008 has been a turbulent year for NCsoft, with a number of highly publicised layoffs and the announcement of the closure of Tabula Rasa, but there were also a number of high points for the company as well:
NCsoft continues to develop and innovate with the superhero game, City of Heroes, that the company obtained full control over from former partner Cryptic Studios in 2007. The company has also established NCWest, and continues work on their highly anticipated upcoming MMORPG, Aion.
On its corporate website, Turbine claims to be the largest privately-held online gaming studio in North America. The studio itself currently has three projects running concurrently with Asheron’s Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online.
2008 has been a busy year for the folks at Turbine as they continue to work on and improve Dungeons and Dragons Online (including a new player experience revamp) as well as the highly anticipated release of the first expansion for Lord of the Rings Online.
The Mines of Moria expansion aims to improve upon the gameplay experience and add to the story of the company’s flagship game.