Blacksmiths of Intellectual Property: The Rise of Originality in MMOs

Updated Mon, Jun 08, 2009 by Cody Bye

Original creations in entertainment are hard to come by in our modern world. It seems like every summer movie season is ruled by box office blockbusters that are merely different visions of old properties or sequels to previous year’s ticket smasher… which happened to be a different vision of an old property. The hottest books are constantly those coming from a well received series. Even niche hobbies like pen-and-paper roleplaying games are stuck in a rut, with the bestselling tabletop games continuing to be Dungeons and Dragons and the various iterations of the Warhammer franchise.

MMO gaming is no different. Over the past half-decade, gamers have been bombarded with products derived from established worlds. Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, and others still have bombarded MMO gamers with familiar settings, hoping that the long-time fans will be convinced to buy their game.

But something’s changed. Recently, Blizzard confirmed that their next MMO will not be based off of an existing IP, but be completely original. At E3 2009, upcoming or in-development MMOs based off of original intellectual properties outnumbered those based off established non-gaming IPs. While the big buzz still surrounded games like Star Wars: The Old Republic, the original IPs are slowly gaining ground on their enormous competitors.

Why the sudden and dramatic shift?  

To answer that question, Ten Ton Hammer queried a number of development studios working on original IPs about their decisions to create brand new game worlds and what kind of process they’ve been going through to make sure their games aren’t lost in the great MMO shuffle. Developers from Funcom, 38 Studios, Hi-Rez Studios, Quest Online Studios, and an unannounced company all weighed in on the topic and their answers are quite evocative.

However, it’s always important to gather the feedback from the MMO fans as well. As we try to do in all of our premium articles, we’ve asked you – the gamer –about your opinion regarding original IPs versus licensed worlds and what developers need to do to really get your attention in the growing MMO marketplace. At Ten Ton Hammer our articles are always written with you in mind, so it’d be poor-form of us to leave you out, wouldn’t it?

News from around the 'Net