As part of an in-depth interview
published on Gamasutra today, Areae president and former Sony Online CCO Raph Koster has been discussing the future of MMOs, suggesting the business may be at major inflection point from the "barbarians... at the gate" of Web-based worlds.
Koster, who is currently working on online world/game construction kit Metaplace, suggests: "I think as a medium, online games and virtual worlds are going to continue marching forward, but history cares very little for the fate of individual companies."
He continues: "We had this huge inflection point in 1996 that coincided with the web. Before that, there were lots of people making millions of dollars doing online games and MMOs on CompuServe and GEnie and AOL. Then, a bunch of MUD people -- text MUD people who had been doing it as a hobby and who couldn't afford to play on the closed online services -- happened to bump up against money from a couple of big publishers, and the MMORPG was born."
But what of those original, leading companies in 1996? The veteran game creator points out: "Today, [HeroEngine makers] Simutronics is the only one of those old companies that used to make millions of dollars that is even still around. Mythic used to be the other, but they just got bought. But the others just folded! Actually, EA actually bought about half of them."
"So it's entirely possibly for there to be a whole industry going on, quite happily making tons of money. The ground can shift out from under them and the barbarians who come in at the gate do what they were doing, only do it in a fresh way, and just put them out of business. I think there is the risk that we're seeing that happen now, because every ten years or so, it seems to happen."
Concluding on this point, Koster adds of previous paradigm shifts in the online game space: "Even the creation of the MUD in the first place was that. It was the Internet-based reaction to the stuff that had existed on the microcomputers and the Plato network and all of that. All of a sudden, "Oh, wait! We can put a text MUD on Arpanet!" And it was like, "Whoa!" and it spread like wildfire, and all of a sudden, all of that other stuff went away. So it's really possible for that stuff to be happening now with microtransactions, with portals versus traditional publishers, with digital distribution publishers versus traditional publishers, and with MMOs from MTV versus MMOs from Sony or EA or NCSoft."
The full Gamasutra interview with Koster
is now available, and includes his in-depth views on 'game grammar', the uniting of MMOs and online worlds, and the software patent problem.