Higher barrier to entry? was RE: [MUD-Dev] NEWS: Blizzard Entertainment announces World of Warcraft

Derek Licciardi kressilac at home.com
Mon Sep 10 00:27:29 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Brian Hook
> At 09:04 PM 9/5/01 -0400, Derek Licciardi wrote:

>> of this only acts to increase the monetary barrier to entry for
>> the indie developer or non-big time publisher.

> I disagree.  There are always going to be the big budget games
> like the EQs, UOs and WoWs, but smaller developers can survive and
> even thrive by not directly competing with the big companies.
> Simutronics and some of the people even on this list have
> successful small MUD operations that operate commercially.

> The key to ask is "How do you compete with 1% of the budget?"
> Short answer: you don't.

> Our company is pretty much founded on the premise that if you
> can't control sales, you have to control costs.  Make smaller
> games quickly, and target markets that are underserved.  These
> include underserved genres (sci-fi, western, furries, Gothic,
> horror), consumers or even computers.  The Macintosh market is
> absolutely craving a good MMORPG, but so far I think they have
> none.  That's a captured market of at least 20K potential
> subscribers by my reckoning.

[snip]

> Companies like Verant and Blizzard are going to have the cash to
> make bigger, better, louder, fancier, prettier, huger, more famous
> games than we can.  It would be flatly idiotic of us to, say,
> release a fantasy styled graphical MUD, even though we're very
> capable of doing so.  We have to aim for the cracks and niches,
> and there are many, many of these.

> So our strategy is to control costs and target small, but
> interested, markets.  Our first game will be a single player space
> flight sim shoot 'em up type thing, and it will be released after
> 4

[snip]

> Optimistically speaking, we think we can get 5000 subscribers when
> the entire game is in place.  Our #1 worry is the infrastructure
> -- we know how to build it, but hiring ops and support staff,
> billing, bandwidth, etc. are big worries.  The technology is
> trivial, it's the logistics that scare us.  Which is why we're
> hoping for no more than a couple hundred subscribers initially.
> Unless we can find someone that's willing to partner with us to
> deal with the logistical stuff, at which point we're home free.

> So we think that the barrier to entry isn't that high -- if you're
> experienced, focused and choose the right problem domain, I think
> it's relatively simple to compete.  But if you choose to engage
> the competition on their turf then you're going to suffer.

I can certainly applaud your business approach.  It is sound and if
it is making you money then there is the proof in the pudding.  As
crazy as it sounds, I am putting together a plan and working on
funding(almost there) to do just what you are talking about not
doing.  In this regard I have a different perspective on the MMORPG
market.  I think it is lucrative enough to warrant big time
investment and I have seen interest.  EQ and UO are not the
end-all-be-all of MMORPGs and the next wave of MMORPGs is a good
upgrade, but to me lacks the complete makover that MUDs and MMORPGs
need to survive in the future.  Just my opinion though.  My analysis
of what I have read so far about Blizzard's entry into the MMORPG
realm is based from the perspective that someone would want to
compete and I think you would agree that the profits in this market
can potentially be staggering.  In the recent computer breakin that
happened to Verant, Sony released a figure in a press release saying
their EQ empire was worth 50 million a month.( I think Gamespy
reported it ) BTW I don't plan on having 1% of the budget.

>> believe they have the game talent, I do not believe that every
>> game company out there has the systems development talent to
>> develop large systems just because they can produce a single
>> player RPG/RTS.

> If ANY company has this, it's Blizzard.  They are probably the
> only company that has consistently demonstrated an ability to
> manage very large teams into delivering high quality products.  In
> addition, they're more familiar with on-line persistent gaming
> than just about any other company out there that isn't already
> involved in the field.

While I agree with you that their Diablo II experience is a big
help, there is a HUGE difference between supporting a few hundred
few player games and a single world.  Just the scalability issues
that become apparent make the entire server design a completely
different architecture.  Can they do it? Probably.  Will they be
successful at it? Probably.  I just do not see that they have any
more significant advantage over other companies.

>> it will raise the barrier to entry, but as of right now it will
>> not reinvent the genre and will therefore struggle like the rest
>> of the EQ clones.

> Except it's from Blizzard -- which is a huge, huge point for.  If
> it's released next year, it will likely be a better EQ than EQ,
> but backed by a huge company with a track record of making
> incredibly successful and popular games.  If people are tired of
> EQ by then or just want something new, they may just migrate to it
> naturally.

Absolutely, and those folks will quickly tire of a prettier EQ and
move on to the deeper, more complex MMORPG that is offered shortly
after Blizzard's.  The competition is fierce in this marketspace and
those looking to cash in using a clone may not be as successful as
they hoped because the competition for players is only going to
grow.  It will take a truly next generation game to hold on to
customers.

Derek

ps I am talking from the perspective of creating an MMORPG and
entering into the same space that Horizons, EQ, UO, WoW, and others
are playing in.  Until I see something that causes me to think wow
this truly is innovative, I will stand by my analysis and think that
WoW can only be marginally successful and stands to damage the
reputation of Blizzard more than it will help.(but that is another
topic entirely)


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