GS: What are you working on with the existing Ultima people?
MJ: Right now I am not working on anything with the Ultima team. We’re not part of EA officially yet, not til the deal is done.
What has happened to date that I can tell you is that as part of EA, they would like us to talk to these guys and look at the IP, look at Ultima Online and see what the scoop is. What can we do now, or could we do something potentially in the future? But I can tell you that we’ve chatted with these guys, but that’s as far as we can go now.
GS: Do you have personal interest in working on the next Ultima?
MJ: I think that Ultima, both the RPG and the online game, are two of the most important games in the history of the game industry. I mean, look at what Richard Garriot did with Ultima. Fantastic work. Ultima Online was the first MMO to ever have 100,000 subscribers, it was the most successful online game for a number of years, and I think the IP is one that, as an IP that is owned by EA, is one that we should look at, to see what we can do with moving forward.
GS: Do you think the World of Warcraft (above) success is repeatable?
MJ: Depends on what timeframe. Is it repeatable this year? No. Repeatable next year? No. Repeatable down the road a little bit? Absolutely. Almost any success is repeatable. If you go back to when Ultima came out and it had 100,000 subscriptions, I’d talk to publishers and they’d say “Oh my god Mark, nobody can get more than 100,000 subs.” Then EverQuest had 450,000 – but before we were working on Dark Age of Camelot it was only 250,000. They said the same thing to us then. So do I think Wold of Warcraft’s success is repeatable today, of course not. Is it repeatable in the future? Well every time I hear somebody say, “oh, nobody will ever touch that!” A few years later, somebody touches that.
GS: Do you feel like those people will come from existing online players, or will the market have to expand?
MJ: This is great, I love this question. When I’m asked this question by journalists – and it’s a good question, don’t get me wrong, I ask them a few questions in return. So now we get interactive. Do you think every home in North America has broadband?
MJ: Do you even think the vast majority have broadband?
GS: Not yet, no.
MJ: Out of all the homes that have broadband, do you think they all have high-end computers for games?
GS: I’d say we’re getting close, but probably the answer is still no.
MJ: So out of all the homes that have broadband, and that have high-end computers, do you think the majority of them have played an MMORPG?
GS: Probably not.
MJ: So what I’ve asked is that the people who have high end computers, who have broadband, who would therefore be most likely to play an MMO haven’t, if those answers are all no, what’s going to happen to the market?
GS: So what you’re saying is you’ve got to build up new players.
MJ: Right, so you’ve got a ton of potential new players, and that’s only in North America. So as great as this market is, now let’s go east – or west, depending on where you’re from. Go into Asia. Look at only one country there, like China, and how big is their market? That’s just China. As big as that country is, there’s a heck of a lot more countries out there, and if you go a little south, there’s India. How big is India? And the online games market for India is almost untapped, if not totally untapped. So I think that the market for online games is not only going to grow, but it’s going to go ballistic. It’s only a matter of time.
If you unwind a few years, people were saying “Oh my god, only Americans are going to play online games. Oh the Asians? They’re never gonna do it, the Europeans? Europeans hate online games, they’re backwards” and blah blah blah. And look at what’s happened? Dark Age of Camelot was the most successful online game of all time in Europe. We crushed everyone that came before us. World of Warcraft crushed us. What does that tell you?
So I look at this market and go, I don’t care how many subs WoW has. I really don’t! Because no matter how many they have, that’s a small percentage of what else is out there. And another thing to keep in mind is that one of the great things that publishers have said is they look originally at online games and said “Oh it’s just a fad.” Well, Gee. This fad has not only lasted since the mid-90s, and a fad whose user base is only growing. And a fad whose number one game is now the single most profitable game, I believe, in the online industry. So hey, if this is a fad, I’m all for it.
So I think you’re going to see more and more people come, and you’re also going to see the stickiness of online games, that people didn’t think was going to happen.