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Justin Webb: A Twilight MMO: Why the Hate?

Columns By Justin Webb on December 29, 2009

A Twilight MMO: Why the Hate?

New Moon (the second movie in the Twilight series) has grossed to date well over 250 million dollars at the box office, and made megastars of its tween-friendly trio of lead actors. A third movie is due in June and the hoopla surrounding the Twilight series shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the premier of Eclipse (the third movie) will probably be a tinseltown tweengasm visible from space. Regardless of whether you personally like the books or the movies, there can be no doubt that there is a massive market for anything related to the Twilight franchise. The second movie arguably proved that the tween-girl demographic could single-handedly "open" a movie and keep it at #1 for several weeks ... a scary thought indeed given that Hollywood just loves to recycle whatever is hot at the moment. Get ready for the rip-offs!

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It doesn't matter whether the films are good or not -- they're not btw. However, they unabashedly do exactly what they say on the tin -- pseudo-sapphic safe sexuality for tweens bundled in a supernatural wrapper served with a side order of cataclysmically bad advice for young girls. What is important is that, now, a movie can be precisely designed to make the members of a very particular market (tween girls and soccer moms) lose their collective shit. The second movie was a focused mercenary exercise in showing the two male leads in various scenes of non-threatening toplessness. Whether you subscribe to the colossally bad judgment that Bella (the female lead) shows throughout all four books doesn't seem to matter, tweens really love Twilight ... and a lot of their mums do too.

You might remember back last June when the interwebs picked up on a tasty news morsel claiming that a Twilight MMO was in development. All the news sites carried the story. The peculiar thing to me was the response in the forums, which was almost entirely 100% negative. In fact, many commenters linked the existence of a Twilight MMO to a sign of an impending apocalypse - I concede that the metaphor is particularly apt if the release date becomes 2012. I suppose that the bile wasn't entirely surprising given the sites I frequent, but it was a reaction that was completely contrary to my own. Yeah, I'm gonna say it... I've always thought that a Twilight MMO is a really good idea.

It's out there now, and I stand behind this statement a million percent. And I'll go one farther...

It's fiscally irresponsible for any major publisher not to be actively considering how to exploit this bloated cash-cow of a license.

While the news story ended up not really being true, the response was really interesting. As a player, I guess you just want to know that someone out there is making an MMO about something you really dig, something that you can get excited about, and not something you despise with every fibre of your being. And I'm with you there. I'd personally love to see someone credible take an MMO crack at the Whedonverse or the George R. R. Martin universe.

However, as a developer, I'm also really interested in making an MMO that's going to be popular in addition to being a great game. If the game makes money, my studio stays open and I get to make another game. So, active subscriber numbers and PCUs (peak concurrent users) are really important in this industry. Twilight just looks like an intellectual property that is primed to vomit money due to its, up-til-now, untapped demographic. If a Twilight MMO released tomorrow, how many girls do you think would be running to use their mom's credit card to sign up? Thinking about it, it should offer "Mums and Daughters" dual-subscription packages. I would imagine that the makers of Hello Kitty Online are similarly rubbing their hands together in glee.

I also think that there's some really interesting new game systems/mechanics there too. Vampires are very evocative, and they have all kinds of cool abilities. Twilight vampires don't have many of the traditional vampire design flaws - they can go out in the sun; they don't have to be invited in; and silver, garlic, and running water aren't the deal-breakers they are with, say, "Stoker"-ian vampires. They also have unique X-men style mutations. These abilities lend themselves naturally to interesting game systems. Every armchair designer I've ever met has had a handful of ideas for how to make a cool MMO vampire. Throw werewolves into the mix too and there is the potential for a really interesting game.

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