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Independent States: The Future of Indie MMOGs - Page 2

Updated Tue, Sep 08, 2009 by Shayalyn

To Market, To Market

You might say that an MMO is only as good as its marketing strategy--even the most solid, entertaining game can’t become a success if no one has heard of it. How do indie studies bring their games to the forefront on a limited marketing budget?

Hi-Rez Studios relies on word spreading from gamer to gamer. “For Global Agenda our favorite form of

Global Agenda takes aim at their market via word of mouth and positive press.

marketing is word of mouth from people who have actually played the game,” says Harris. “We took the game to E3 and were thrilled by the reaction. The folks at Ten Ton Hammer were kind enough to award us ‘Best Gameplay of E3,’ and those complementary first hand accounts go a long way. So, after E3 we took the game to QuakeCon; now Dragon*Con and PAX, and we're planning additional shows to follow. Basically, we’re taking the game on tour so people can experience the gameplay for themselves alongside the development team.”

EVE Online, however, is an established game, so CCP’s current marketing employs a recruitment strategy that relies on existing players. “You pay your customers to sell the experience they chose,” says Richardsson. “Each of our customers is valuable to us, and if we can give a person free game time for finding a buddy to play with, or an affiliate partner or fansite some money for each person they refer to us who becomes a customer, it creates a very organic growth of friend networks. It’s a mutual partnership where we reward each other for mutual benefit. Later, you can supplement that kind of program with banner ads through CPA deals, AdWords, email re-activation campaigns, newsletters and other offers to let people come back and try out for free after an expansion is out.”

Shaping the Future

The future for independent developers seems poised to break wide open. Middleware platforms such as Multiverse and Big World Technology seek to enable developers to get into the meat of development without reinventing the wheel and starting from the ground up. But do these platforms represent the most direct route to success for indie developers at this time?

“I think it’s great that we’re seeing Multiverse, Metaplace and quite a few others going into this space, decreasing the barrier to entry to making games,” says Richardsson..”And we also have also things like Gaikai removing the barrier to entry of games created outside of extensive toolsets like Multiverse.”

“I’m currently on the Gaikai side of the fence as I fear that games created on platforms will have a certain homogenous feel to them,” he adds. “Later, their toolsets will evolve to address that, but the danger [right now] is always that you end up with complexity instead and then have that same barrier again. I think the concept is solid and there is something beautiful around standardizing a lot within game development, without eventually ending us up with the Nth iteration of the internet.”

“For Global Agenda,” Harris says, “given our goals of high-end graphics and fluid, fast-action combat, Unreal 3

Global Agenda employs the Unreal 3 engine.

was an excellent engine choice. However, I’m enthusiastic about the potential of new tools and platforms to make MMO development even easier in the future. I think we’ll see a viable MMO development platform emerge, but it will take some time. It’s challenging enough to build a robust, supportable platform for a single MMO game let alone a platform that anticipates the needs of future games by multiple developers. So, game developers are rightly cautious about using a platform until it has some history of shipped games. But, once a platform proves itself with a successful game, other titles will follow.”

And what about open source? We live in a world where many software developers of tools and applications from, image editors to word processors, are making their source codes more accessible ("open”) to outside developers and individual code monkeys. We asked if an open source MMO (there are already a few relatively unknown ones in existence) could prove viable in the future.

“Absolutely,” says Richardsson, “especially after we get a more mature gaming-centric middleware industry and more defined generalized components of tech which [developers] can utilize emerge. We use open source extensively ourselves--except of course we remain in creative control and don’t open up the game itself.

“But often when projects start from passion, and the strategy behind their development is to use open source, a

CCP makes use of open source for EVE Online.

certain mentality will end up in the games themselves, allowing the game to be open source end to end, including [outside contributions] to game design and features.

“We already have much more complex technological components in open source and creative arts open source that started a long time ago. These two can marry and I would not be surprised that the next disruption in the industry comes from there.”

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