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Catching Up with Scott Hartsman at IMGDC 2.0 - Page 2

Updated Thu, Apr 03, 2008 by Aelryn

TTH: Do you think that the classic style of game which you developed at SOE is going to be pushed to the wayside by whatever this new thing is?

Scott: There will always continue to be a market for those games. They’re not going away. I’d be incredibly sad if they were because I am a hardcore gamer. I have a $5000 dollar Dell machine. I enjoy those games. But the expansion of the market isn’t going to come from hardcore games. It’s going to come from approachable games.

You’ll notice I never use the word “casual”— people use it to mean so many things. A lot of people use it to mean games like Pogo. Let me get this out in the open. No, I’m not making Pogo. But it’s a great example: my mother, who sits down and plays Pogo games for 10, 20 hours per week… there’s nothing casual about that. That’s hardcore gamer behavior. It’s just a different presentation of content. So, what we’re really doing is training a new generation of gamers by giving them approachable, fun things to do. Those gamers are going to want to have fun all across the spectrum, which is why I think there’s going to be even more room for future EverQuest games, future World of Blizzstardiablo, stuff like that.

TTH: But that type of game definitely isn’t what you’ll be working on?

Scott: There’s one thing that I don’t want to do. I do not want to take some nice person’s 30 million dollars and turn it into, at best, a coin toss. If you are aiming for the model that EverQuest used to own and WoW now owns, you are very much playing with fire. Your chances of success versus WoW are smaller than a generation ago against EverQuest. EverQuest was covered in “pain points” that were waiting to be solved. The WoW guys came along and said, “Let’s make this game but without all these pain points.” World of Warcraft doesn’t have that same set of shortcomings, therefore, if you’re planning on making a business by getting some subset of Warcraft users, just stop now.

TTH: Do you have a comment on Bobby Kotick’s claim that it would take half a billion dollars to dethrone World of Warcraft?

Scott: Interesting thing with that speech… I read what he said, and I thought, “Well, okay, you obviously need to justify spending a whole lot of money to your investors,” and that’s fine. But if you scale that sentence back some, there are ways to succeed versus World of Warcraft. You can spend a billion dollars over a certain period of time, do everything that Blizzard did, build a trustworthy name—because wrapped up in that half a billion dollars is building a brand that has the value of Blizzard—that’s a billion dollar proposition even before you can begin making a game. And even so, what’s your guarantee that sufficient users are going to return home from work, return home from school, sit down in front of the computer, and play your game instead of theirs when all their friends are already playing theirs? You can do everything that’s within your control right, and still not have users show up. It really is a coin toss. So, I don’t want to do that. That’s why we started looking into all these other technologies.

TTH: Well, it sounds like you guys have a cool plan in motion.

Scott: Yes. We absolutely do. I really wish I could say more about it now, but there’s really no good purpose served in spewing the whole, “Oh, this is exactly what we’re going to do,” as much as it’s killing me not to. We have definitely been up to some crazy stuff, though. For example, as an experiment, one of the stupid things we played around with for technology’s sake was to make a Facebook app called “Heartbreakers” that let people send candy hearts to each other with messages on them. Why did we do that? Because we had a technology and we wanted to learn something about it. It’s not the kind of thing that I would have felt right doing on Sony’s nickel. It was a technological learning experiment. Is that what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life? No, of course not. Am I glad we learned it? Absolutely, because it’s one more little corner of online games that we now know something about.

I believe that there is a lot of potential for a good content experience out there. I think there’s still a good a future for the hardcore heavy games, and I believe that there’s a good future for ultra-light games.

TTH: That's great news for all of us, then. Well, whatever your top-secret project is, best of luck. We'll definitely keep a close eye on what comes out of your new company. Thanks for chatting with us!

If you'd like to keep an eye on what Scott is currently working on, make sure to watch his personal blog at Hartsman.com, where any project announcements will be made.

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