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The Death of Myst Online: An Interview with GameTap

Posted Wed, Feb 06, 2008 by Cody Bye

Questions by Cody "Micajah" Bye and Katie "Khatie" Postma
Answers by Ricardo Sanchez, VP of Content and Creative Director for GameTap

The announcement that GameTap was going to discontinue Myst Online: Uru Live came as a sad surprise to many gamers, industry press, and developers. Myst Online was one of the only "alternative" MMORPGs on the market, and its removal will leave an indelible empty space in the MMOG market. However, Myst Online's discontinuation also raises questions about the future of GameTap in the MMOG marketplace, and Ten Ton Hammer sat down with Ricardo Sanchez, Creative Director and VP of Content for GameTap, who answered all of our questions regarding Myst Online and MMOGs.


Ten Ton Hammer: What repercussions, if any, will this cancellation have on future MMOGs you release?  Will you be hesitant in the future to pick up this genre of game? Do you think massively multiplayer games can succeed on GameTap?

Ricardo Sanchez: No repercussions at all. We are still very interested in MMOs and would love to add some to our service. The challenge is finding the right financial model that works for us, the licensor and our users.

The loss of Myst Online is a huge blow to the MMOG marketplace.

Ten Ton Hammer: Myst Online had already gone through a few sets of hands before it landed in your lap. What drew GameTap to the project? What aspects of the game led you to believe it would succeed?

Ricardo: Myst is one of those phenomenal franchises that has a substantial fan base, a great history and just kind of fit with what GameTap represented, the best of the old and the new in games. We liked that there was a group of people just waiting and hoping for the game to be released as Rand had originally envisioned it as well.

We thought the game would fit in well at GameTap in part because we have such a wide age range in our userbase. There are a lot of 35+ people who use GameTap, who were fans of the Myst franchise, as well as being fans of some of our older content. On the flip side, the devoted Uru fans were likely to be familiar with some of our brands like Pac-Man and we thought the two products would complement each other. Cyan and Turner have also had a long relationship so there was an already established level of cooperation and trust there that we could build upon.

Ten Ton Hammer: What are the successes and disappoints from Myst that will you learn from and build upon?

Ricardo: On the success side, I think we launched some really interesting content with Myst Online. I also think we found a pretty good formula for delivering MMO content episodically. One thing we will certainly want to look at if we do another MMO is a way to meld the community of an MMO with the addictive quality of television like delivery schedules of content.

On the disappointment side, well, that there weren't as many people attracted to the game as we'd initially thought. We're very happy with the content produced by Cyan. We think the product was pretty good. But either we were the wrong delivery vehicle for it or we didn't hit on the exact formula for delivering this kind of content.

Ten Ton Hammer: Aside from any financial difficulties the game may have had, were you fairly satisfied with how Season One progressed and finished up?

Ricardo: We are. Cyan did a phenomenal job and we have been really happy with the work they did.

According to GameTap, the "alternative" MMOG can compete in the market if costs are kept in line with potential audience.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do you think "alternative" massively multiplayer games can compete with the more contemporary style of massive games? What would an alternative game need to do to actually succeed in this marketplace?

Ricardo: Short answer, yes. But to succeed the costs have to be in line with the potential audience. Think TV and movies. People can make really good independent films and low budget TV shows that are profitable on smaller audiences because the costs were in line with how many people might consume it.

We're sort of seeing this now with some of the flash based MMOs that are cropping up. Hardware and software development costs are lower than for full 3D games like WoW or Everquest, and the game experiences are very different, and very interesting.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you'd like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers and the Myst fans?

Ricardo: Well, we'd really like to thank all the fans of Myst Online who did join us for Season One. And we appreciate how understanding so many of them have been about the closure. We have had a lot of users thank us for giving them the chance to see what Rand had envisioned for the game and for taking the chance on a title like this in the first place. 

What are your thoughts on the Myst Online discontinuation? What sort of repercussion does this have on the rest of the market? Let us know on the forums!

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