Updated Wed, Jan 02, 2008 by Cody Bye
TTH: When you first started with 3DO back in 1998, did you ever believe that MMO games would grow into what they’ve become today, with World of Warcraft holding over 9 million subscriptions?
Brian: Well, ignoring the fact that it’s easy to say “yes” now after all these years. *smiles* But, by the time I was working at 3DO we were already in the middle of the dot-com boom. It was obvious that the World Wide Web was here to stay, and there were a number of games on the horizon that were looking promising.
Could I have predicted WoW growing to 2 million North American subscribers as it did recently? Probably not, but few other people had predicted it, either; so I do not feel too bad. *smiles*
A screenshot of the refurbished graphics in the current version of Meridian 59.
TTH: Speaking of WoW, what is your opinion on what a game of this magnitude has done to the industry – both good and bad?
Brian: Well, the good things are easy to point out. First of all it’s given us a fun game to play. *winks* But, it’s also done so well that it has gained a lot of attention for online games. Given its success, it’s hard to write it off as just some marginal geek pursuit as people tried to do in the past. It also showed that you can make a good game which appeals to a wider market than we were focusing on previously.
On the negative side, it’s encouraged one of the worst aspects of computer game development: the focus on cloning successful games. Unfortunately, people look at WoW and see a successful game they want to duplicate. So, unfortunately, many developers are just trying to duplicate the game when we already have enough of that type of game. There are many other types of online games that could be made, but people are focusing on this one type because of the astounding success of WoW. I would really like to see other types of games!
TTH: Everyone in MMO development, both big and small, seems keyed in on this idea of developing “niche” games…mostly to battle the 800-pound gorilla that is WoW. In all honesty, what does this mean? Are we only going to be seeing unique settings or should the gameplay be “niche” as well? Define niche for us, if you could.
Brian: Well, most developers say they are not making a clone because most of them know that making a clone is a pretty silly thing to do. I think that most of them try to use the excuse that they are making a “niche” game because most games will not be able to grow larger than WoW has.
“Niche” means finding a small but dedicated group of people and making a game to suit their desires directly. Meridian 59 is a niche game because we are focusing on hard-core PvP fans, particularly those that like “old school” type gameplay. There are a group of people out there that enjoy the game tremendously and are still willing to pay for it. Most of them feel that the game can offer them something that no other game can.
This is the opposite of what most of the larger game developers try to do: they try to make game as acceptable as possible to a wide variety of people. Anything that could frighten off potential players is eliminated in order to gain as wide an audience as possible. This is not “wrong” or “right”, but it is a different strategy.
The problem is that in order to properly take advantage of a niche audience, you can’t do the same thing as the larger games. The way the larger games make money is to appeal to a large audience and charge a small amount of money to each person. A niche game has to do something different to make more money and stay in business.
Make sure you check out the second part of our interview with Brian "Psychochild" Green!
Do you think the future of MMOs is in smaller, niche games? Voice your opinion on the forums!