Apple Enters the MMOG Market

If you thought innovation had disappeared from the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) industry then it may be time to rejoice. The gaming industry is abuzz
If you thought innovation had disappeared from the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) industry then it may be time to rejoice. The gaming industry is abuzz over the latest announcement from Apple, a company not known for its gaming focus.   

Sony is not happy that Apple is entering the MMOG market.

iMO, presumably standing for Massively Online with the iconic Apple “i” stuck in front for good measure is Steve Jobs first foray into the world of massively multiplayer online games.  

The Cult of Apple

“We’re reinventing the way that people play MMOGs” chanted Jobs to the more than 25,000 Mac fanatics, many of whom had camped out for nights in front of the Moscone Center in San Francisco to hear their technology idol speak.   

As the crowd cheered Mr. Jobs suddenly and without explanation threw his arms in the air, tilted his head back and began to chant, “Fire Wire! Fire Wire!” The vast majority of the crowd joined in until Jobs quieted them by pointing to the enormous LCD screen behind the stage on which the letters, “iMO” slowly appeared upon an image of the Apple logo.    

It is unclear to this reporter what fire wire has to do with a massively multiplayer game, but I can report that the chanting attendees became almost like zombies.  I expected the next chant to be “Mooore Braaains” or “We love DRM”.   

The Game

If the crowd was unusual the game if you can call it that, was even more so.  Apple’s iMO will be unlike any MMOG to come to market to date.    Most MMOGs are purchased and then played on one ore more hardware platforms.  iMO comes as one proprietary package including both the software and the hardware.     

Appearing to be essentially a MacBook Pro with the useful parts taken out, iMO will include “a shiny aluminum case housing a 17” Apple Cinema Display, a 15” trackpad, an iMO webcam, an iMO microphone and an Ethernet port for Internet access.”   

When asked why Wi-Fi and a keyboard were not part of the product Jobs replied, “An Airport addon card is only $499.00 for those that want to use Wi-Fi.   A keyboard can also be added, though we don’t have pricing yet.  Besides, what would you use a keyboard for?  Have you seen that freaking huge 15” trackpad?”

The trackpad, which for all intents and purposes attempts to replace the keyboard, offers all of the gesture capabilities of the iPhone and iPod Touch.   Pinching your fingers together zooms your view out.  Quickly moving your fingers over the trackpad scrolls your view.   Perhaps the most unusual gesture is the “running” gesture in which you place two fingers on the trackpad and pretend to run.   This causes your virtual character to run through the iMO world.    Targeting is a simple, or difficult, as tapping the appropriate section of the trackpad that corresponds to the screen.   

We asked an Apple representative why the trackpad was chosen rather than a touchscreen like like the iPhone or iPod Touch.   

      “What a silly question, the screen stands vertically.   Who would want to run their fingers uphill all the time?  Sheesh!”

The Unveiling

At this point in the presentation we were nearly stampeded over as onlookers rushed the stage to watch an iMO being taken out of its box.  The Apple “unboxing” process, much like the fire wire chant is part of some strange, almost cult-like experience that comes with each and every Apple product.   

Four scantily clad women wearing little more than white gloves and bikinis with the letters iMO silk screened on their bottoms paraded onto the stage.    While they caressed and fondled a black iMO box Jobs looked to the side-stage, gestured and to the surprise of the audience, magician David Copperfield appeared.    A bow, a twist of his wrist and the iMO levitated out of the shining black box before the stunned and now cheering crowd.     

Mr. Copperfield proceeded to pass four hula-hoops around the floating iMO to show that there were no strings before handing them to the bikini clad women who promptly spun them around their waists in a hula-hooping frenzy.   

The Details

The iMO is scheduled for release in Q9 2009 at a price of $2,995.  The monthly subscription fee will be $60 and will include a membership to the iMO website where players will be able to interact with one another for an additional fee.    Addons will be available via the Apple App Store and iTunes.    

The title will ship without sound, but all tracks, music, environmental and ambient sounds will be available via iTunes for $0.99 each.    DRM free sounds will cost $1.29.    

Players who aren’t ready for the full iMO experience will have the option of the iMO Shuffle, which will choose the character’s class, race, appearance, etc. for them or the iMO Nano which will allow only one character per account and will be 10” in size.   The iMO Nano will be available in 12 different colours.   

It wouldn’t be an Apple product without a catchy tagline, “Remember iMO gives you iMOre.”   I can’t wait to see the television commercials that they come up with for this product.   “Hi, I’m a MMOG.   And, I’m an iMO”.   

Stay tuned for more on this story as it becomes available.

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