Free Realms: Fun New Game or Insidious World Domination Plot?

Unless you've been spending your time studying the underside of a rock, Sony Online Entertainment's latest endeavor, Free Realms, has made its way into your consciousness by now. A number of...

Unless you've been spending your time studying the underside of a rock,
Sony Online Entertainment's latest endeavor, href="" target="_blank">Free
has made its
way into your consciousness by now. A number of emails and IMs I've
been getting have asked whether or not I think Free Realms can be a hit
with traditional fantasy MMOG fans. It's an interesting question that
I'll be happy to answer here, but after my observations, I've got a
question of my own - Does it even matter?

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You want a
piece of this, Spiffy?

Free Realms has all the fantasy fixings one could ask for. There are
plenty of magical forests, robgoblins that need terrorizing, and you
can even play a pixie if you choose. The game is lighthearted,
entertaining, and though most men I know would never admit it in
public, it can be quite addictive. Whether this all translates as a win
to the traditional MMOGer remains to be seen.

After playing the game for a while, I think this begins to become a
question of apples and oranges. Yes, there's href="" target="_blank">combat
adventure (if
you so choose) in Free Realms, but the majority of the game takes place
in virtual mini-games and that's what truly makes it different in my
book. I think Free Realms will appeal much more to the gamer that has a
limited amount of time to play each day than the one that can set hours
of time aside in large chunks to play the game of their

All of this is well and good, but as I mentioned earlier, I think the
more important question is whether or not all this even matters. After
what I witnessed this weekend, I think the answer is no. For quite some
time, we've been hearing that this game has been designed to target
young children. Not in any kind of evil Pokemon type of way, but just
as something that could be safe and enjoyable for the kiddies of your
family. I'm sure they'll have plenty of happy gamers from this
demographic, but it won't be Free Realms’ only set of gamers.
In fact, I dare say it won't even be the foundation of their customer
base. If not them, and not traditional MMOG players, then who's left?

Women. Lots and lots of women. They're the holy grail of markets that
development teams have been trying to crack for years, and even though
it wasn't their main objective, I think SOE has stumbled upon their new
gold mine. The key to all of it is the concept of Free Realms being
created around a number of various mini-games that have proven appeal
to the casual game market in that Bejeweled kind of way.

Some of you may remember href="" target="_blank">a
not-entirely-sane experiment I ran with my
wife earlier last year in which I dumped her in a room and had her try
out Vanguard: Saga of Heroes all on her own. The idea was to test the
new starter area and to have her go through it without being able to
ask me any questions. In the end, it wasn't something she minded doing,
but just proved again how not into MMOGs she really is.

It may sound crazy, and to be honest, it's not something I thought
about until my wife created her pixie this past Saturday morning, but
with Free Realms, SOE finally got her. And I don't mean they got her as
in she thought the game was cute or something. I mean they got her in
that Invasion of the Body Snatchers kind of way and href="" target="_blank">the
become her pod. From Saturday morning until sometime Sunday
unless she needed to get food or liquid (or heed the call of Mother
Nature from processing said food or liquid), she did not get out of her
computer chair the entire weekend. I’m not joking.

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Free Realms
is packed full of colors galore.

When I asked her about it, her unrelenting love of the game came from
two things. First off, she is always playing casual games over the
internet but gets annoyed about having to hop in and out of multiple
sites to do it. Free Realms has a wide variety of games she can play
and they're all in one place. Secondly, she gets to play a pixie and
can change her clothes. Seriously.

It may sound like the unintelligible rantings of the female species us
males have always found impossible to decode, but the proof is in the
pudding. To take a person that has proven on multiple occasions they
have no interest in MMOGs and turn them into a gamer that can barely
stand to part with her computer href=""
it was Golem's Precious is no easy
feat. Sure, SOE will probably get a million little kids playing the
game, but it's the hoards of women that will be playing that will have
them raking in the cash.

While I think the women of the world will be the mainstay of Free
Realms, I actually think a lot of guys will have some fun with it too.
So much so that they create they're own account? Probably not. But how
many of those same men do I think will pay the $5 monthly subscription
to get one of the extra character slots that come with it? More than
even an anonymous survey could uncover. Of course, this ploy would all
be done under the guise of "just showing my gal I love her", but it
will be done nonetheless. Whatever you've got to do, right guys?

When target="_blank">World
of Warcraft
went live, it took the world by storm and
spurred a slew of clones as companies scurried to jump on the bandwagon
and get a piece of the pie. I think the stage is set for the same thing
to happen again, just in a different direction. If Free Realms proves
half as successful as I'm predicting it will, we're going to be
bombarded with Free Barbie, Free Blues Clues, and maybe even Free
Willy. History may very well be in the making. Now if you'll excuse me,
I've got an appointment in Free Realms to show some hooligans the error
of their ways.

Has your spouse been abducting by the Free Realms gods? Is your child
already begging you for the game? Or do you just think I'm crazy to
believe Free Realms will be a huge success? href="mailto:[email protected]">Drop me a line
to let me
know or target="_blank">sound
off in our forums

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Free Realms Game Page.

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