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GamesIndustry.biz - All News

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Thursday - October 16, 2014
Tuesday - August 19, 2014
Thursday - August 07, 2014
Friday - July 04, 2014
Monday - June 30, 2014
Tuesday - January 07, 2014
Sunday - December 29, 2013
Friday - December 27, 2013
Wednesday - November 13, 2013
Wednesday - October 09, 2013
Friday - July 19, 2013
Friday - May 03, 2013
Thursday - April 11, 2013
Monday - July 30, 2012
Wednesday - July 09, 2008
Tuesday - May 27, 2008
Saturday - May 10, 2008
Thursday - May 08, 2008
Wednesday - May 07, 2008
Box Art

Thursday - October 16, 2014

GamesIndustry.biz - The Death of Reviews

by Couchpotato, 07:21

GamesIndustry.biz is hosting a new article from someone called Steve Peterson who writes about the death of game reviews in the last few years.

Game reviews used to be an important (one might even say, ahem, critical) factor in the marketing of a game. If you were able to get some advance reviews, you'd even slap a great quote or two on your packaging, and certainly in your advertising. Adroitly timing reviews to appear in magazines when the product was in the stores would help boost sales - and since more than 90% of a product's sales could be had in the product's first month, maximizing launch impact was the most important part of a marketing strategy.

Fast forward to the modern game market, and everything has changed.

The initial sales of console games no longer account for almost all of the revenue of the game; that portion is steadily decreasing, as games get longer and longer lifetimes (especially now that they can be downloaded). The now-obligatory DLC for major console game releases also provides a significant revenue boost, as well as keeping the game selling long after the initial release. Yes, the reviews have an influence on that... but the changing nature of games has affected the relevance of the reviews.

Tuesday - August 19, 2014

GamesIndustry.biz - Article Roundup

by Couchpotato, 05:34

I found a few new articles on GamesIndustry.biz that interest to some of you. So lets get started as the first one is a new interview with EA about the publisher getting better.

By his own admission, Andrew Wilson still “geeks out” at EA's press conferences, despite his position as the company's CEO demanding that he take centre stage. When we meet after the Gamescom media briefing, he enthuses in great detail and at considerable length about a FIFA 15 video demonstrating the capabilities of the new game's goalkeepers. What that team has accomplished since he ascended to executive level, Wilson says, never fails to make him smile.

And Wilson has spent his first year in charge identifying the ways to spread that enthusiasm to EA's customers. That hasn't always resulted in success, of course: with Battlefield 4 the company stumbled once again on the unpredictable landscape of online gaming, and with EA Access it met with resistance from Sony on the grounds of value. In this interview, Wilson discusses both of these issues, and outlines EA's renewed dedication to listening to its customers and following wherever that might lead.

The second article is about all of us being worthless as customers, or to put it simply we buy games cheaply so were not worth the effort from developers.

"Where once you were worth $20, and then you might have become a fan and bought another 4 games off of us for $20, you were worth $100," Prince said. "We only had to fix your computer for you once, as well, so the next four games amortised the cost of the initial support... Now you're worth $1 to us. If you buy every one of our games, you're worth $5. After Valve and the tax man and the bank take their cuts, you're not even worth half a cup of coffee."

Thursday - August 07, 2014

GamesIndustry.biz - Preorders in Decline

by Couchpotato, 06:02

GamesIndustry.biz has a new article about the decline of pre-orders, and how it's affecting the entire gaming industry. Not surprising really.

Activision Publishing president says reservations are no longer the most important pre-launch performance predictor

Bungie's upcoming shooter Destiny is on track to be the most preordered new intellectual property in gaming history, but Activision Publishing president and CEO Eric Hirshberg isn't putting as much stock in that as one might expect. Speaking to investors during a post-earning conference call today, Hirshberg said preorders just don't mean as much as they used to.

"It's also important to sort of reset expectations as it relates to preorders overall," Hirshberg said. "You guys can see the same thing we see industry-wide, which is that there's been sort of a secular downturn as it relates to preorders. We think that's happening due to a number of factors: Things like increased digital consumption, particularly on the next-gen consoles; titles being widely available on day one; and the decline overall for demand of software on the previous gen consoles."

As a result, Hirshberg said other metrics like awareness and purchase intent have become even more important than the number of preorders. Fortunately for Activision, Hirshberg said both of those measures are at all-time highs and climbing for Destiny when compared to any other new intellectual property at this point ahead of its release.

Later in the call, Hirshberg discussed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare preorders, saying the series is "not immune" to the downward trend. However, he expects the series to lead the industry in reservations once again this year. He also noted that purchase intent for Advanced Warfare is significantly above last year's Call of Duty: Ghosts, and "actually in line with our past top performing titles."

Friday - July 04, 2014

GamesIndustry.biz - Nintendo's Miyamoto Unsatisfied with Creativity in Games

by Aries100, 16:13

Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto said in a general shareholders meeting that he wasn't too inspired by what he saw at this years E3:

"Every year a number of companies exhibit at E3 and Nintendo is compared with other companies, most likely with Sony and Microsoft," Miyamoto said. "This year, the majority of what the other developers exhibited was bloody shooter software that was mainly set in violent surroundings or, in a different sense, realistic and cool worlds. Because so many software developers are competing in that category, it seemed like most of the titles at the show were of that kind."

 

 

GamesIndustry.biz - Why Developers Should be careful about Early Acces

by Aries100, 15:44

Rob Fahey from gamesindustry.biz has written an editorial about why developers
should be carefull about giving gamers early access to their games.

Early access isn't so forgiving. Early access throws your game on the mercy of the public, warts and all - and not every consumer understands just how many warts a piece of software in development usually has, just as not every developer is happy to thrust their work into the limelight before it has its make-up on. Cultivating positive word-of-mouth is the most important thing a developer can do in terms of ensuring the commercial success of their game, so it's well worth thinking about whether your type of game will endure being played with various experience-breaking bugs, and whether the Early Access cash is so appealing as to mitigate the risk to your word-of-mouth.

In conclusion, he says this:

I don't think I'll ever buy into an Early Access game; if I'm going to love something, I'd rather experience it when it's finished; but I'm happy to see a new funding system added to the repertoire of indie gaming. Just be careful; picking the right funding model is turning into a minefield for developers just as tricky as picking the right game engine or art style.

 

Monday - June 30, 2014

GamesIndustry.biz - Is it Time to Reinvent E3?

by Aries100, 18:48

Steven Peterson at gamesindustry.biz has written an editorial in which he suggests
that it is time to reinvent E3. Here's some of his thoughts:

First, the ESA needs to recognize and acknowledge that the target audience for E3 has changed. The show was originally staged as a place for publishers to show off products to retail buyers first and foremost, with the intent of maximizing orders. Secondarily, while you had all those booths set up to impress buyers, you might as well show products to the media and get some press coverage

His suggestion how to reinvent E3:

A combined trade show/consumer show would be highly efficient for the industry, keeping transportation and setup costs down for exhibitors. This plan also gets E3 more of what it is striving for: Consumer awareness and excitement about products. Publishers can encourage fan participation, cosplay and game play and celebrations of the games and the people who make them. Meanwhile, execs can still get useful industry-only time to cut deals, make sales and impress the media without hordes of consumers around.

Tuesday - January 07, 2014

GamesIndustry.biz - Violent Games Debate Over

by Aries100, 20:01

In an editorial entitled  The violent game debate is over Brendan Sinclar talks about
how

the idea that a few hours of Grand Theft Auto can turn well-adjusted kids into middle school Manchurian Candidate killers is being clung to by a vanishingly small portion of the population.

Brian Sinclair finds that games the indutry would never have been published is resonsible for this:

What will finally inoculate the major players the industry from this sweeping criticism is games with introspective stories about straining family ties, exploring the difficulty of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, or coping with a child's terminal cancer. It's no coincidence that games like Gone Home, The Novelist, and That Dragon, Cancer are emerging from outside the framework of the traditional gaming industry.

Sunday - December 29, 2013

GamesIndustry.biz - The Winners of 2013

by Couchpotato, 06:57

GamesIndustry.biz has another article about the Winners of 2013.

It's easy to knock those that had a poor run in 2013, as mistakes stick out more prominently than successes. So while we've already covered those we've labelled the losers of the year, its important to balance that with some positivity. And to be honest, it's been one of those most positive years in the video game business I can remember.

New hardware has lifted the console market, experimental tech has gained momentum, creativity has returned to games ten-fold, genres are spawning other genres, the player is spoilt for choice and marketing has returned to a grassroots level. Here then are our winners of 2013...

I'll quote from the article about Indie Games.

The next billion dollar franchises will not come from established studios who have been doing the rounds for ten-plus years, churning out iterations of safe games that already have their audience locked down. The next billion dollar franchises, the one's the old-school publishers will wish they could have a slice of, will come from new independent development teams. The games that will grow so quickly and so successfully, seemingly coming from out of nowhere, will find an audience many didn't realise existed, at least not in such scale. Independent developers cater to those audiences, listen to those audiences and eventually create what becomes a product like Minecraft. Because indies are now the mainstream.

Friday - December 27, 2013

GamesIndustry.biz - Power to the People - Five Important Developements in 2013

by Aries100, 17:36

Gamesindustry.biz has an editorial about the five most imporant developments in the gaming industry this year. According to to the editorial, the most important one
is this one:

1. Power to the people

A year after the Kickstarter craze first kicked off, crowdfunding is still evolving. In 2012, virtually nobody was pretending crowdfunding could be a viable alternative for the creation of full-scale AAA quality games. Today, with Chris Roberts' Star Citizen at $34 million and counting, that might be a discussion we could start having.n 2012, Kickstarter reported $83 million pledged to game projects, compared to about $4.2 million in the three years prior. Games have now passed the $200 million mark since the platform's founding, with more than half of those pledges coming in 2013.

The fifth most important development is this one:

5. Consoles not dead after all Heading into 2013, there was a lot of pessimism surrounding the console market. Next-gen systems would be losing ground. Consoles couldn't compete with PCs, and indeed would be outright replaced by them. Developers were shifting focus away from consoles.........
Once the PS4 and Xbox One launched, it became clear the enthusiasm for the new hardware wasn't just smoke and mirrors. Both systems sold through 1 million units in their first day, and 2 million within a few weeks.

Do you agree with Gamesindustry.biz?

 

Wednesday - November 13, 2013

GamesIndustry.biz - Chris Avellone Interview

by Couchpotato, 04:14

GamesIndustry.biz sat down with Chris Avellone and talked about kickstarter.

Few game developers know the Kickstarter experience as well as Chris Avellone. The Obsidian Entertainment co-owner and creative director Chris Avellone has been part of a trio of very successful Kickstarter campaigns in inXile's Wasteland 2, Project Eternity, and Torment: Tides of Numenera. And when he's not busy with those projects, he moonlights as a human stretch goal for other Kickstarter campaigns.

"I don't mind saying that I prostitute myself quite frequently," Avellone said. "It's all in the name of writing, so I'm ok with that."

Avellone was tapped to deliver the keynote address for the final day of the Montreal International Game Summit, and his Tuesday talk was focused on developing old-school RPGs with the new-school funding method of Kickstarter. Starting with Wasteland 2, Avellone explained that using Kickstarter has changed the normal development cycle in some pretty significant ways.

First and foremost, Avellone said it's incredibly unusual to develop a game whilst sharing, not just details on mechanics and interface designs with the community early, but sharing technology between companies with a close working relationship (such as Obsidian and inXile).

"About two years ago, I would have said that trying to pitch an isometric role playing game was a pretty hard sell," Avellone admits. But thinks are changing. Words like "old school," "isometric," and "windows-focused" weren't very sexy for publishers. However, now that Kickstarter has shown there's a market for such titles, Avellone said publishers have been much more open to the idea. They know they won't get the next Call of Duty out of it, but these types of games can still provide a strong return and bolster a portfolio, Avellone promised.

Wednesday - October 09, 2013

GamesIndustry.biz - Richard Garriott Interview

by Couchpotato, 00:44

GamesIndustry.biz has a new interview with Richard Garriott about the power of crowd-sourced development.

How Unity Technologies helped the creator of Ultima to regain his mojo.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Unity Technologies struggled to find figureheads for its growing community of developers. The sort of august professionals whose long, storied careers could lend this upstart engine some much-needed credence.

The opening keynote of the annual Unite conference is reserved for just such a person, but this year's totemic veteran, Richard Garriott, believes that the tide has now irrevocably turned. Unity can now offer more to a distinguished developer than they could ever provide in return.

"My first game, I wrote in seven weeks of after-school time in high-school, so therefore my costs were close to zero," Garriott says when we meet after his keynote address. "I earned $150,000 in sales, and it's been downhill ever since.

 

"The total money has been bigger, but the return on investment has gotten smaller and smaller, and that's been true of the whole games industry: more expensive, more risky, smaller margins."

For Garriott, Unity is a "watershed moment" not just for his own career, but for the industry at large. Despite existing for less than a decade, Unity Technologies has fashioned a workable solution to the spiralling cost - risk, time, money, you name it - of game development. "Unity has fundamentally changed that paradigm," he says. "The risk and the time and the cost have been going up and up and up, and with Unity that has been reset dramatically."

As evidence, he offers his latest project, the Kickstarter-funded RPG Shroud of the Avatar. Garriott has been working in development for long enough to remember a time when it was necessary to build each game by "brute force" - a small team, a pile of money and a lot of hours. Within 90 days of choosing Unity as the environment in which to build Shroud of the Avatar, Garriott and his team went from nothing to a rough version of the entire game that any of his team could log into and play. In that first few months, they accomplished what Garriott believes would once have taken, "literally years."

Friday - July 19, 2013

GamesIndustry.biz - Shadowrun Developer New Kickstarter

by Couchpotato, 00:05

GamesIndustry.biz talks with Mitch Gitelman of Harebrained Schemes about kickstarter, and the company's plan for a new kickstarter.

With one Kickstarted project nearly in the can, Gitelman confirmed Harebrained Schemes is prepping to take a second shot at crowdfunded game development. He clearly enjoyed his first go-around on Kickstarter, and hopes to see it become a sustainable platform for game development, even if he can already identify some growing pains.

As Gitelman explained, "The real question for me is, 'Is Kickstarter a viable place where you can come with a new IP or an out-there idea and find an audience for that?' What I'm looking at with Kickstarter is whether we can really innovate in this space. Can we use that as a bully pulpit, and to cut through the noise enough to find an audience to support it? But now that Kickstarter is so big, it's almost like the iOS marketplace, so you have to market your Kickstarter and now you have to do even more work to get noticed. It's an evolving animal, and I hope it works out because I really like the idea of allowing gamers to voice their support in a way that allows indies to follow their passion."

Source: N4G

Friday - May 03, 2013

Chris Avellone - Talking Shop

by Couchpotato, 00:35

GamesIndustry.biz has a new interview with Obsidian Entertainment's Creative Director  Chris Avellone.

Avellone did not have any formal training when he joined the industry long ago. Though he did go to college, his degree is in English, with a minor in Fine Arts. His RPG experience kicked off early as a game master for a pen-and-paper games like Dungeons & Dragons, Champions, and Superworld. Avellone admits that led into his later work and said aspiring designers need to "do the job before you get the job."

"

"I didn't have any formal training beyond GM-ing for a ruthless, lazy bunch of players who would rarely ever run their own games and couldn't be bothered to even fully give their own characters disadvantages when balancing them. When you do that for a random bunch of personalities over a 10 year period across a number of game systems, you make a lot of mistakes, and that helps guide you as an entertainer," he said.

"Get familiar with all the tools out there - play games, not just ones you like, but as many as you can, and do post-mortems for each one. Get to know people at the companies where you want to work, ask them advice, ask them to help critique your design or art portfolio, or simply be friendly. If they ignore you or are jerks, then you wouldn't want to work with them anyway. Do mods. Put them up on the net. Let the internet savage them, then revise them, patch them, and put them back up there for another round of critiques. The best designers I've ever known are the ones that are or would still be designers even if they didn't have a career in the industry; I sure would, and many of the developers at Obsidian are the same way."

Thursday - April 11, 2013

GamesIndustry.biz - The Doctor is Out: Zeschuk on BioWare

by Couchpotato, 05:10

Yet another interview from GamesIndustry.biz, but wih Bioware Doc Greg Zeschuk. Enjoy  the article and give your opinion in the comments.

You've talked a lot about passion and how you lost passion for the games business. Does this mean your decision is a permanent one, that you're never going to make a game again, that you won't found a new studio? Or will you get involved somehow?

Greg Zeschuk: I have asked myself that very question, and I really don't see myself making a brand-new game developer. I also don't really see myself working for anyone else, at least in the traditional sense. But I can imagine myself, for example, being on a board, consulting. If a friend asked me to play a game, I would. I think advising and consulting is probably the limit for me. In building a business and making a game company, it is a kind of been there, done that feeling. When you've checked off all the boxes, why do it again? I don't really imagine a full-time gig in the business appealing to me - I just don't see it.

I think part of it, too, is that I'm not spending as much time playing games as I used to. I used to play them all time, I used to have my finger on the pulse, and absolutely I'm less on the pulse than I was. I still play some big releases, and I'm going to grab BioShock Infinite, but I don't play the way I used to play. But I think I can help folks with company stuff and culture stuff and making great studios.

 Thanks goto Thrasher for the newsbit.

GamesIndustry.biz - Chris Avellone

by Couchpotato, 05:01

GamesIndustry.biz has an interview with Chris Avellone. I sometimes wonder if the poor man has time to finish his work.

Is it difficult to make sure there's no bleed between projects when you're working across so many?

Chris Avellone: Yeah, I think that's a good question to ask. I think it's because the settings in Wasteland and Eternity and Numenera are all so different...I think that kind of makes it safe. Because ideas that fit really well into the new Torment game, like it's crazy how similar the locations can be, they wouldn't fit quite as well into Eternity. Eternity has more elements that, while not being like D&D, Forgotten Realms definitely has hallmark D&D bits about it. Numenera is much more free flowing, much more story focused, and Eternity is stuff like dungeon exploration, party team, how do you approach a problem, how do you approach an encounter. And then the games just feel a lot different in terms of aesthetics. I think prevents a lot of design bleed between the two.

One of the designers was talking about one of the areas for Torment and it's basically this big living dungeon that communities live in, and also monsters, and depending on what you feed the dungeon it opens up new portals to other dimensions and it moves around. If anyone attempts to ever quantify the dungeon, and say 'I'm going to try and measure how big it is' or what intelligence level it is they're mysteriously destroyed. And I'm like: this is the craziest and most awesome fucking dungeon ever, but that's not something we would do for Eternity. Eternity would be much more like: here's the architecture for a dungeon that was exploring soul mechanics. So I think the two aesthetics between them sort of help.

It's also good from the writer's block standpoint where I can go: this idea will work really well in Torment so I can really roll with that, but when I get writer's block there then I can switch over to Eternity and do something else. It actually works out pretty well.

 

 

Monday - July 30, 2012

GamesIndustry.biz - Tribute to Gary Gygax

by Aries100, 21:35

Thomas Rawlings, the designer for Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land, has written a tribute to Gary Gygax at Games Industry. 

A quote on to become a game designer:

Playing Dungeons & Dragons is one of the best ways to learn the foundations of game design. It is how I (and lots of others in the industry) learned about making games. By running Dungeons & Dragons games we had to master a number of key skills including narrative, drama, gameplay balancing and crucially, the all important stats systems. These diverse areas make Dungeons & Dragons a bit of a paradox; at once a geeky stats-fest and yet also the ultimate social game that only works with a group of friends. What makes it a great way to learn about game design also points to why all games developers owe its co-creator and gaming legend, Gary Gygax, a full horn of ale and a lot of thanks.

A quote about Gary Gygax's vision for D&D:

It is also the great-grandfather of much of video gaming. Why? D&D, the product of Gary's rich imagination was based on a key insight to merge character, narrative and stats into a 'game engine'. D&D envisioned a fictional world simulator designed to be played within (and with). This core idea is still the basic framework for so much of today's video games industry. For example D&D has Hit Points and Damage Modifiers, Hit Rolls and Armour Classes - how many other video games, even non-RPGs, have borrowed this combat framework? D&D has progression with character levels, equipment, skills, spells and more. How many games use the various incarnations of levelling up to keep players interested? Tens of thousands. D&D gave roles to the participants via character classes such as Fighter, Magic User, Cleric, Thief and more. How many games use this approach of allowing the player to map their identity into the game? The answer is legion.

Wednesday - July 09, 2008

GamesIndustry.biz - Leipzig Interview with Wolfgang Marzin

by Magerette, 17:35

Video games business site, gamesindustry.biz, has an interview up with Wolfgang Marzin, CEO of Leipziger Messe on the status, past and future, of Europe's big Games Convention:

Q: The picture you paint regarding Leipzig as a venue makes it seem very positive, yet earlier this year it was announced that the rival GamesCom event would take place in Cologne - what's your view on that?

Wolfgang Marzin: Well I followed the announcement made earlier in the year, and we can't understand it, because it came from nobody we spoke to - but we have to respect it.

However, if you look at the facts - that there is a show that has worked for seven years while others are struggling all over the place - if you try to move a show in this industry, it's happened all ready that things evaporate in no time.

It's not up to us to judge what might be on the plan there, but we're very confident that we're able to serve the industry in the future at this location - but not necessarily only that, but also with a spread. We'll always be ready for the industry - we have the competence.

Tuesday - May 27, 2008

GameIndustry - Encryption Chip Will End Piracy?

by Magerette, 18:53

In an article up at gamesindustry.biz, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell makes the prediction that games piracy could be ended in the near future, due to a new encryption chip coming preinstalled on the motherboards of new PC's :

Speaking at yesterday's Wedbush Morgan Securities annual Management Access Conference, the Atari founder suggested that game piracy will soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new chip.

"There is a stealth encryption chip called a TPM that is going on the motherboards of most of the computers that are coming out now," he pointed out

"What that says is that in the games business we will be able to encrypt with an absolutely verifiable private key in the encryption world - which is uncrackable by people on the internet and by giving away passwords - which will allow for a huge market to develop in some of the areas where piracy has been a real problem."

Bushnell thinks that piracy of movies and music, however, is probably unstoppable because "if you can watch it and you can hear it, you can copy it."

"Games are a different thing, because games are so integrated with the code. The TPM will, in fact, absolutely stop piracy of gameplay.

Source: Strategy Informer

Saturday - May 10, 2008

GameIndustry - MMO Week In Review

Thursday - May 08, 2008

GameIndustry - Koster talks Flash

by Woges, 16:57

Article with Raph Koster on web-based gaming.

Raph Koster, president of Areae and designer of Ultima Online and Star Wars: Galaxies, believes that the web, and Flash games in particular, are spearheading growth and innovation in the videogame industry.

Speaking during a private lunch at GDC last week, Koster said that because Flash is available on so many different devices, it's managing to reach more consumers than the last two generations of home consoles combined.

GameIndustry - MMO Week: Genetically Modified Gaming

by Woges, 16:47

MMO Week Editorial by Rob Fahey.

What was the biggest massively multiplayer online game of 2007 - and, indeed, of 2008 so far? Ignoring the obvious answer - "World of Warcraft, again" - I'd argue for a rather unusual answer to this question. Not Lord of the Rings Online, not Tabula Rasa. No, to my mind, the biggest massively multiplayer online game of 2007 was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Of course, in the strictest possible sense, CoD4 isn't an MMOG. Each individual game instance holds only a few dozen players, after all - although if you really wanted to turn this into a pub argument, you could introduce the fact that World of Warcraft also restricts your party size to an absolute maximum of 25 players in its instanced dungeons.

GameIndustry - MMO Week: TV Production Akin to Game Development

by Woges, 16:40

More from GI's MMO Week.

FireSky's senior VP of strategic operations Joe Ybarra, whose company is developing a forthcoming MMO based on the sci-fi TV series Stargate Worlds, sees a similarity between television production and game development.

"I think the best way to look at it is that the IP for Stargate Worlds was originally a television series, and what's really interesting about working on a TV-based property - especially with Stargate - is the fact that it's an ongoing production and the mentality that they take towards creating the show is very similar to that which we take when building a game," Ybarra told GamesIndustry.biz.

There's more from the Stargate Worlds developers here.

Continuing the MMO Week series, GamesIndustry.biz talked to two of the company's figureheads - industry veterans Joe Ybarra and Rod Nakamoto - talk about their plans, the concept of mass-market, and the future of content distribution.

Wednesday - May 07, 2008

GameIndustry - Life after Fantasy?

by Woges, 23:33

Oli Welsh editorial on MMOs as part of the MMO week.

Age of Conan and WAR are both fantasy RPGs. They're very far from being copycats; each comes loaded with its fair share of innovations, grand designs and unique selling points, Conan with its more down-to-earth setting and dynamic combat, WAR with its clever structure for interracial warfare on a massive scale. Neither should they be accused of jumping on WoW's thematic bandwagon; that game, after all, is merely a perfection of the dominant paradigm in MMO gaming going back to the Ultima days, and a reflection of the genre's roots in pen-and-paper roleplaying.

But the fact remains that they're both going to be perceived as extremely similar to WoW by the mass-market. Many in the industry are decrying this, saying that MMOs must broaden their appeal if they're to survive WoW's reign and capitalise on it. The trouble is, experience doesn't bear them out. Looking at last year's pair of MMO contenders, Turbine's polished fantasy stalwart Lord of the Rings Online has performed respectably, while NCsoft's much more innovative science fiction game, Tabula Rasa, is locked in a desperate struggle to retain its audience, never mind grow it.

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