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Terra Bytes

My own personal musings, random ideas and insights at the MMO industry of yesteryear, today and the future.

Author: Sirocc0

Microsoft's Millions

Posted by Sirocc0 Saturday January 2 2010 at 12:40PM
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Microsoft must look in awe and wonder at the success other MMO developers and publishers have. They have tried numerous times to get a piece of the MMO pie, but each time something goes wrong.



Microsoft first decided to venture into the MMO world back in 2002 when they announced Mythica, a game based on Norse mythology in which you would play a demi-god and developed by first party developer Microsoft Games Studio . However MMO scene veterans Mythic Entertainment didn't like their choice of name for Mythica, believing that gamers would confuse the two and filed a law suit. Fast forward to May 25th 2004 and Microsoft announced it's cancellation citing a competitive MMO environment. Rumours circulated it was the lawsuit that finished it off.


They also had a second project which started development around the same time as Mythica, but was to be made by third party Sigil Games. The Godfather of MMOs was in charge at Sigil, Mr Brad McQuaid and he meant to make the real sequel to EverQuest. The project was only to be funded by Microsoft , not developed, and some speculate to the amount of $30 Million. From interviews with ex employees it seems Microsoft became disgruntled with what exactly Sigil had done with their investment, and in May 2006 Microsoft sold the rights to the game to Sigil, who went on to secure publishing with SOE. Shortly after the launch of the game, which has been covered many times by other articles, Sigil sold the game to SOE but the game failed to recover from what seems like abysmal management decision throughout the games development.


When the Xbox was first released, Microsoft saw another prime opportunity to enter the MMO world and announced the development of True Fantasy Live Online in 2002. Developed by Level 5 (unknown in MMO territory but we love them now as developers of the Professor Layton series for the Nintendo DS) it was to be exclusively for the Xbox. Microsoft needed voice chat to be present, but Level 5 were inexperienced with massive VoIP networking and so Microsoft pulled the plug in 2004, despite the game being 90% complete. Level 5 blamed the cancellation on poor relations.


In 2005 after a lawsuit between Marvel and Cryptic Studios an announcement was made that Marvel Universe Online was to be made. Funded by Microsoft, licensed by Marvel and developed by Cryptic (who were already kings of Superhero MMOs) it was a dream combination - yet again it was another Microsoft backed MMO that never saw the light of day. It was cancelled by Microsoft who, yet again, cited a competitive MMO environment as their reasoning. Cryptic went on to use much of their work in their latest MMO offering: Champions Online.


On that note I'd like to mention that Microsoft seem to also have problems with MMOs on the Xbox 360. Champions Online should be on the 360 but Jack Emmert of Cryptic states Microsoft's Xbox Live Service has "various issues" which means we won't be seeing it anytime soon. That may also explain why Age of Conan has still not arrived for the 360 despite Funcom maintaining it would be all the way through development. Somehow I'm doubtful that it ever will now.


Microsoft does have 2 MMOs that run on the 360: Final Fantasy XI and Phantasy Star Universe. Yet Microsoft has nothing to do with either of the games, they merely operate on it's console in the same way that PC MMOs operate on it's operating system, and neither generate much extra revenue as Xbox Live Gold Membership is not required. So unfortunately they do nothing to dispel the myth that Microsoft has a cursed touch when it comes to MMOs.


What does the future hold for them? Well it looks bleak compared to their main competitor console wise at Sony. Sony's MMO branch at SOE are working away at two MMOs for both PC and PS3: The Agency and DC Universe Online. Another blow to Microsoft is that the sequel to Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV is going to be for the PC and PS3 as well initially, though they haven't ruled out a port for the 360 in the future. I must also mention that Huxley has been touted for the 360 as well, but in my opinion I'll be surprised if that even surfaces for the PC at this rate of delayed development.


I'll close with one final thought: What did Brad McQuaid do with Microsoft's Millions?