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Launching MMOs - 20 Years and Still Kicking

MMO industry veteran Sean Kauppinen talks about launching RPGs today versus 5-15 years ago.

Author: MegaMouth

It's Been Awhile

Posted by MegaMouth Monday September 26 2016 at 4:04PM
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I've been in the games industry for 21 years and have launched or worked on the marketing for more MMO games in the Western World than anyone else (I think). My MMO resume includes EverQuest (Planes of Power through the 5th Anniversary), EverQuest II, EverQuest Online Adventures, PlanetSide, Lord of the Rings Online, D&D Online, Warhammer Online, Ultima Online, Shadowbane, Runes of Magic, Silk Road Online, Star Wars Galaxies, DC Universe, and about a dozen more I can't remember. I'm getting old :)

Back in 2003 I was brought into Sony Online to launch EverQuest II. I remember writing a plan that had daily programs revealing mobs, zones, gear, etc. We had dedicated fansite and guild outreach and support, press tours, previews, demos, you name it. This was also all in a time before social media. 

Today, I'm working on a lot of fun things. But, one of the most interesting and rewarding projects is Kings and Heroes, an online action, co-op RPG from a small team in Gilbert Arizona called Industry Games. There's a lot of talent on the team and by luck, and some excellent connections, it just worked out that I'm living in the desert now (just like Obi-Wan), when this team needed some help with publishing their first game. 

Even though I have done a lot of game launches over 590 the last time I looked, each launch is different. The cookie cutter doesn't work, press releases are harder to get into a lot of places, and social media moves so quickly, you can miss something if you aren't there at the exact moment something happens. 

I liken launching a game today to being at the point of creation for a new star in the universe. If you notice it, it grows and turns into an amazing ball of energy and light. If you don't see the star being born, you might just think it's just another star that has always been there. 

So social media, YouTube and Twitch have stepped up to the most influential positions when figuring out what game you want to play. It's become harder to find an audience with so many worthy games reaching such a limited number of influencers.

So with all of the streamers, I had to figure out who is legit, and who might be looking to gather and sell keys in the aftermarket. When you think about it, this is a huge waste of time. I'm sure the practice of looking to get free keys to resell is a widespread issue, but then I pull from my 21 years of experience and realize that it's not really worth our time to figure out if some guy with 150 followers on YouTube is really legit or not. 

That's where Keymailer.co came in. My old friend James Beaven told me about his idea sometime last year and I thought it was brilliant. It's a way to reach the new generation of streamers, YouTubers, and social media tastemakers when it comes to games. 

We got setup there and have sent hundreds of keys out to accredited streamers and YouTubers. We worked to get listed on Twitch (had to submit the game through the Giant Bomb Wiki to get listed first), and coded the www.kingdandheroes.com website so that YouTube can pull info and ensure YouTubers have a link to official content.

We're still in the early stages of our streaming, but we're starting to see some interest. People are playing. Bill Murphy of MMORPG.com played last week, and we've started streaming every Thursday night from 6-8PM PST so the community can play with the devs at: www.twitch.tv/industrygames

The fact is, you still have to love your game and love your players, which is something I will never forget. That was one of the first things I learned from John Smedley when he was the president of Sony Online Entertainment. I walked into his office almost 14 years ago and he had me sit down. He then proceeded to take a phone call that was in the support queue. He helped the person with their character and asked them what they were liking and not liking about the game. The feedback made it into the next development meeting. I learned about never losing the connection with the players, because when you do, you stop making something that they want, you start making something that you want.

This is the philosophy that Warren and John of Industry Games have had since before we started working together. They've always said that they want the fans and the players to know how much they care about not just the game, but the players and their experience. They want it to be fun.

Well, we're still in Steam Early Access, but have overcome some issues and it has definitely made the team stronger. I can see the passion in their eyes and know that if this game takes off and becomes a hit, it couldn't have happened to a better, nicer, and more deserving group of people.

So I'm going to try my best to light the engines on this game. I'll be back to blog more in the future, but wanted to get you on board!

Thanks for reading,

-SeanK.