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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

Corporate Asshattery: If you can't beat them, buy them

Posted by Daedren Monday March 10 2008 at 3:42AM
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An article over at TheGreenskin that I wandered across recently is quite possibly the biggest example of MMO corporate asshatery that I've ever read.

Buying a company up isn't anything new, but the reason for them buying is almost mind blowing. From the article:

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick: "We don't think that even if we made the USD 500 million or billion-dollar investment to get a product out [to compete with WOW] that we would even be successful doing it," he said.

Perhaps if you spent a little less time and money worrying about your new horribly optimized homepage (here's a hint: use flash sparingly) -- you might be able to actually contribute to the gaming industry rather than just buying the Microsoft Windows equivalent of a MMO game.

I find it disheartening that the head of an entertainment/gaming company would go far as to just give up like that. He's basically saying: we suck, I love World of Warcraft, and we bought them to milk this cow to it's fullest potential. He even went as far as saying:

"When we first started looking at it, it appeared to us like a game in an insurmountable product category... EA, Microsoft, Sony and scores of venture capital investments had been put to work unsuccessfully in trying to develop massively multiplayer games as a product opportunity,"

Perhaps if EA, Microsoft and Sony didn't produce heaping piles of dung for MMO's, you'd have something to go on. If you're putting yourself in the same ballpark as the people that made and ruined SWG and clusterfucked Vanguard into a catatonic state; well, you're kinda setting yourself up for failure, I would think.

I don't know what kind of monkeys you have running the show over there at Activision, but they are absolutely wrong. In fact, I'd bet my left nut that it could be done with a budget short of $100M USD. Here's my short guide on what the hell you could have done other than selling out. It involves seeing why WoW was successful:

  1. Use an already established IP.
  2. Cater to both hardcore and casual gamers.
  3. Combine proven concepts already existing in today's market.
  4. Market your product correctly, preferably to another demographic of online gaming.
  5. Above all - and I stress this - make sure your game is technically sound, doesn't need a Cray to run it, and is STABLE.

thumbs-up.jpgGee, but is there ANY established IP that could even compete? IS THERE? I'll give you a hint: it starts with an F and ends with a ALLOUT. That's right, this little blonde-haired punk to the left would have been the key to you actually creating a good product for the MMO market instead of blowing your wad on Vivi's back. Not only is it a huge cult-classic of a video game, but it has a scaringly active following on the mystical internets (example 1: No Mutants Allowed) and to top off the proverbial cherry cake, it even caters to a different demographic than the current fantasy-overloaded MMO scene.

A Fallout MMO is, or was, actually such a good idea that even Interplay knew it when they sold the Fallout IP to Bethesda. We're talking about a company in utter financial ruin here; they've been bankrupt for nearly 5 years now and are a cautionary tale of the gaming industry. Instead of cashing on even more money to launder into an offshore account, they decided to hang on to the IP rights for a Fallout MMO. They then preceded to propose a $75M USD plan for a Fallout MMO, hoping that investors would forget that they were in fact a broke company who just had to sell their last IP to pay off their debts and make sure they had enough for some hookers and blow on the weekends. My overall point is that you throw these Interplay guys a bit of green, and Fallout MMO IP is yours.

If you can't make a successful MMO with enough money to run multiple African or South American countries, something is wrong. Maybe the gaming business isn't for you.

I wonder if any of his corporate monkeys told him he's going to lose at least 30-40% of his market once AoC and Warhammer are on the shelves?

This article was original posted at the r1ft gaming blog at http://www.r1ft.com and is copied here with permission from the author(s).