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Cryptic's Emmert:  Neverwinter  Business Model Still Up In The Air
Cryptic's Emmert: Neverwinter Business Model Still Up In The Air
August 27, 2010 | By Kris Graft

August 27, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

Cryptic Studios' upcoming online co-op game Neverwinter won't be an MMO like the studio's past efforts, but COO Jack Emmert told Gamasutra in a feature interview that a business model with MMO-like recurring fees could still be a possibility.

Emmert said that the Atari-owned developer has yet to announce a business model for Neverwinter, but when asked if Atari and Cryptic would simply "slap a price on the box and forget about it," he replied "No."

Pressed if Neverwinter would have a monthly subscription or implement microtransactions, Emmert said, "I can guarantee you that we envision this as an online product that will continue to grow over time, that we continue to add content to."

He added, "So whether it's subscription fee, whether it's free-to-play, whether it's microtransactions, whether it's pay-by-the-minute [laughs], whether it's some sort of Ponzi scheme that I haven't figured out, I don't know. None of that has been announced."

Cryptic is the studio that created NCsoft-published MMOs City of Heroes and City of Villains. Following Atari's 2008 acquisition of Cryptic, the two companies launched the MMOs Champions Online and Star Trek Online.

Neverwinter, based within the world of Dungeons & Dragons, is a departure for Cryptic, in that it's not an MMO, rather an online co-op role-playing game that allows up to five players in one group. The game is due in Q4 2011 on PC.

Emmert said that with full-on MMOs, it's difficult to convince players to take on another subscription fee. "Now the question isn't 'Do I like this game,' necessarily, but 'Man, am I really willing to pay another subscription on top of World of Warcraft and Xbox Live Gold?'"

But he said that subscriptions will continue to be a viable business model for games of a certain quality. "...There is a threshold to get into the subscription business that requires a quality level that demands a lot of resources," Emmert explained. "That gives you a chance to roll the dice and see whether you're competitive."

"...Even if you spent $50, $60, $70 million in development, that doesn't guarantee success. It gives you an opportunity to roll the dice, whether it's Warhammer or Conan or poor APB. It's a ton of money, but you don't know what's going to happen."

Emmert explains more about Neverwinter, Cryptic's "new direction" and raising the quality bar in a new Gamasutra feature.

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Matt Nolin
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So if it's a PC game, will it be on the Mac? cause I enjoyed Neverwinter Nights 2, but I don't have a PC to game on anymore. Same goes for Civ 5 actually, won't be playing it till it comes to Steam with SteamPlay.

Samuel Browning
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(Insert ubiquitous PC fanboy troll here).

All joking aside, playing an MMO, or RPG akin to one without a right click sounds like madness.

Joel Langston
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Macs have supported right clicking with your mouse for years.

Also .. if you have a Mac and are serious about gaming just dual boot with the totally awesome Boot Camp, install your favorite version of Windows and call it a day. Windows XP runs faster and smoother on my Mac than on any PC I've ever seen.

I have played Champions Online, Conan, DDO, LOTRO and more on my "Mac".

Chris OKeefe
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I'm honestly reaching a point where any mention of 'business models' is making me cringe. The very notion of being able to make a game and then slap some kind of ongoing fee seems to make publishers and developers alike dizzy from the fumes. Rarely do they live up to the promises of content updates and the like. And by rarely I mean virtually never.

It's getting to the point where it seems like developers are saying 'wait, people are playing our game together - how can we charge for that?' I find it strange that technology has allowed developers to make games that people could play together over the internet for free, for all this time, and somehow we are taking a dive into charging for that feature. People have been talking about MW2 charging for online play, for crying out loud.

If you want to make more money from your Neverwinter game, here is a novel idea: make a good game. People will buy it. Promise. If it sells well, make an expansion. Make DLC.

But I for one will never pay a cent for cooperative play. I'm not going to encourage that kind of price gauging in a market that has supported free cooperative play for years. People already paid for the game once, and games are not a cheap form of entertainment. If you have nothing big to add with an online experience, don't even start to think about ongoing charges.

Case in point: Cities XL.

Alan Rimkeit
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Chris, I could not agree more.

Nick Green
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I understand what you're saying, but I'm only too happy to pay a monthly subscription for an MMO I enjoy.

Before MMOs I used to buy (on average) a single player PC game once a month. I get way more value for money from an MMO, which I enjoy more (for the social element) and which costs less than a quarter of what I used to spend on games.

Chris OKeefe
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I don't actually have a problem with subscription games, so long as they are warranted. I'm just tired of seeing developers find ways to add fees by removing features(holding them ransom), or charging for features that have historically been free. There have been tons of cooperative online RPGs that have not charged for anything. In fact there have been tons of games -in this franchise- that have had free cooperative play.

I'm hoping that any business model Cryptic comes up with will be opt-in for additional content, not charging for access to cooperative play. But after APB and Cities XL and other games that have talked about online components and business models, it makes me antsy.

Nick Green
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Sorry, I'm with you now....

What, with this game no longer actually being an MMO a subscription would seem a bit much.

But Cryptic felt justified charging a full sub and throwing in an item store for CO. Even if it had been a good game it still would have been overpriced relative to the rest of the market.

So when Jack says he has "kooky" plans for this game's business model.... well my expectations are very low.