Reply To: Old interview with Ken

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(re: Old interview with Ken)

Ken, what are you saying? You were a visionary. 5% of total gaming revenue? Massively Multiplayer, consistent world games are the current fad in 2004! EverQuest, PlanetSide, Star Wars Galaxies, Final Fantasy XI, Earth and Beyond, Dark Age of Camelot, The Sims Online – and soon, World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2 are going to push the boundaries even further.

You were dead on correct when you did this interview. EverQuest, one of the originals in the genre, has survived for over 6 years now on patches and expansion packs! 6 years has got to be some sort of record for longevity in the computer gaming business. These games sell off the shelf for the same amount as games have traditionally sold – $50 – and then a significant percentage of people continue paying monthly fees on top of that. Most people only stick with a game of this sort for a few months before moving on, but a large number also stick with the game for years.

True the games require a bit more infastructure, but when you have more than 400,000 active subscribers worldwide – which is the case with EverQuest as of August 2003, six years and five expansion packs after its initial release – and each member pays $12.95 a month – then you are bringing in over five million dollars of revenue every month just on that game. That is in addition to the 400,000 or more cardboard boxes that were initially sold for $50 each, bringing in the publisher approximately $15-$20 per box (for argument sake). Of course, the profit may not be as impressive once you consider development costs, advertising, etc etc, but in terms of sheer revenue… EverQuest is not unique in those numbers either. Star Wars Galaxies also boasts over 400,000 active subscribers, and Dark Age of Camelot recently passed the 200,000 mark. There is clearly consistent, steady profit to be made on these games, and the market is reflecting that fact.

Also, there is hardly a hit game anymore that doesn’t consist of some sort of multiplayer option. Some of my current favorites include Warcraft 3, Command and Conquer Generals, and Unreal Tournament 2003. Being a fan of storyline and having grown up on single player games, I still love the single player options. But the number of hours I spend playing these games multiplayer so vastly dwarfs the hours I’ve spent playing the single player that I hardly consider them “single player games” at all.

Ken, even your OWN success story, Half-Life, has spawned the biggest fan-produced, 100% multiplayer mod in history – Counter Strike. People hardly play Half-Life as a single player game anymore, but Counter Strike is likely the most popular game played at LAN Gaming Centers across the U.S. (lacking figures I can’t prove this – but I know it is the most popular game at MY Internet Cafe, and brings us the most revenue).

It is rare today to hear of a popular single player game. There are exceptions, like Max Payne, or the yet-to-be-released Doom 3. Multiplayer games are simply more engrossing, more challenging, and more dynamic. Its like the difference between playing Solitaire and Poker (if you like card games).

Anyway, I just was a little shocked to hear you call yourself wrong when you have clearly been vindicated more than anyone could have imagined at the time.

Bottom line, people PREFER multiplayer games and multiplayer games sell better than purely single player games. The Internet Age has turned the computer into a social gateway for many previously isolated geeks – and its more fun to mix social interaction into the mix then to sit in a dark room by yourself. That’s why I always played Sierra adventure games with a friend or two.

– Chris