CN: The game industry has a lot of that in a lot of ways.
RK: It really is an insular industry
in so many ways. Our biz-dev guy -- he's new -- he came over from our
VCs, actually. So he's not from the game industry or even the virtual
world industry. He spent eighteen months researching it, and spent eighteen
months working with us, but I'm walking around the parties introducing
him to people, and he's like, "I've seen the same people 48 times."
And it's like, "Yes!" We are, very much, a tight-knit community.
We are a group. One thing that was actually interesting to me about Maple Story was that I actually had been somewhat interested in playing it before, and I got interested in playing it again after looking at all those cute graphics on the screen. The thing is, I hate MMOs. I have no interest in them, or in virtual worlds. However, I've been on social networking sites -- I like looking at peoples' Flickr, and stuff like that -- and so I wonder if that kind of lighter stuff is the sort of thing that can get people like me in.
RK: Do you play Live Arcade at all?
No. But it's mostly because my console just isn't plugged into the internet yet. But I'm not compelled yet -- I'm not interested because I can just go over to my friend's house and play.
RK: As a gamer, me personally, I'm the kind of guy who tends to play games only when he's got friends over on a couch, and then it will usually be console. I very rarely go out and seek out PC games. If something comes out on PC and console, I'll probably play it on console, and I'll try to get people to sit with me on the couch as we go through it. Even in the PS1 days, we worked through Wing Commander on the PS1.
That's how I'm playing BioShock -- with a bunch of people on the couch.
RK: I can totally relate. I have been hooked on MMOs. It seems to happen to me once every three or four years that I get hooked on an MMO for a while. It lasts about three months, and then I get unhooked again. I'm off-cycle with everybody, because I didn't get hooked on WoW. So, I totally relate. I do think that there are experiences out there that are things that you would be into.
I think the potential exists, it's just that no one's trying to go for it. I don't see a whole lot of people trying to bring new users into MMOs.
RK: New users are coming in, but it's
certainly not the mainstream game industry that's trying or doing.
GoPets is a blatant attempt to bring new users in. So it's happening.
Puzzle Pirates was a direct attempt, and obviously all the kids'
MMOs are direct attempts. It is out there. It's just the mainstream
industry is very hard to push that through for so many reasons.
Do you think it matters if it comes from outside the industry or within?
RK: It matters to the people who make a living from the industry. I don't think it matters to the overall history of the genre. 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.
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.
Today, 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 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.
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.
My perception is that single-player
experiences are still going to be valuable to some people.
RK: No question.