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Coming In from the Cold: An Interview with Red 5 CEO Mark Kern
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Coming In from the Cold: An Interview with Red 5 CEO Mark Kern

February 6, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
Gamasutra: Can you say anything more specific than that?

MK: (laughs) Unfortunately not! I think it's also important to note that we are only interested in completely original experiences. We want to create our own worlds and our own stories here at Red 5. We don't do work for hire and we don't do licensed games. This is a unique opportunity. We have the funding and the business model that work to be a stand alone independent content studio and we are really excited about it and pushing it just as far as we can.

Gamasutra: This is just speculation because I know it's not your aim, but if someone were to beat World of Warcraft, what do you think it would take, as one of the people that created it?

MK: Oh! Well...

Gamasutra: I know a lot of people are trying.

MK: Genre to genre?

Gamasutra: Yeah.

MK: OK. Like if I were the maker of epic fantasy-based RPG-MMOs, first of all you are in an arms race. That is important to recognize. When Blizzard was developing WoW, Blizzard didn't just have to beat EverQuest, the leader at the time, but they had to beat EverQuest plus four extension packs. So you kind of get into this vicious cycle where you have to out do the last game over and over again. I think it's at astronomical heights now. So, if you are going to go into that arena, be prepared to go big or go home, and spend a lot of money doing it.

Sony Online Entertainment's EverQuest

Gamasutra: Well, I think a lot of people are going to try. It will be interesting to see how they do.

MK: Yeah. I think it's going to be really interesting. One thing I want to talk about, there’s kind of this lag. We saw some MMOs come out after WoW in the last year, but they haven't enjoyed quite the success level that would indicate that Wow had a huge impact on growing the market.

Gamasutra: Right.

MK: I think that's because it takes so long to make these games, that if you wanted to apply the lessons of WoW, and you already had a game in the belt but it was supposed to come out a year after WoW - it's too late. There is only so much you can do. I think the really interesting MMOs are the ones that have really sort of taken the lessons of WoW to heart and are going to be coming out in the next year or two.

Gamasutra: How do you feel about microtransactions and things of that nature?

MK: I think it's really interesting. I think that this is a really broad field. Different games are going to demand different business models. The important thing is that you tailor the game to the business model. I think that companies, particularly in Asia, that try to transition from a subscription-based model to a virtual items-based model have had enormous problems, because the game just isn't built to handle it and player expectations get in the way.

Gamasutra: There’s also the issue of whether it is “right” to do so, given that sometimes it can inspire gold farming, or…

MK: Oh yeah. There are certainly a lot of negatives involved, and I think that as a gaming purist, I cringe at the thought of your success at the game being directly related to how much money you spend to succeed.

That part does not interest me. If we were to do something like virtual items or microtransactions, I think we would want to avoid that and keep the game fair and balanced for all. That said, that doesn't mean that that model won't be a success. I mean look at games like Magic: the Gathering [the collectible card game] which is inherently built upon how much money you can spend to build the best deck. There is another side to that though, in that you can play a sealed deck of Magic with your friends and be on equal footing. You don't have that ability about an MMO. There are no neutral servers yet, like an item-based MMO where everyone is on the same footing and everyone doesn't have to buy their stuff.

Gamasutra: In addition to that, MMOs in general have a very high barrier of entry because once the game is open, there are people that have been playing the beta or what-have-you, who will have a greater wealth of experience. It's a tough world for newbies and whatnot.

MK: Well, I think part of it is we have to get away from the first level thing. Why is level the only indicator of success in an MMO? I don't think it has to be.

Gamasutra: Yeah. It would be interesting to see something that is a little bit more skill-based. Do you think that that would ever really come about?

MK: I think a lot of genres are possible and some are more adaptable than others. What would be essential in that case is that you retain the value proposition in your character. The idea that the more time I put into my character, the more value I accumulate and the better I will be. If you make something entirely skill-based, that's kind of at odds with that expectation.

Gamasutra: I suppose that's true. I guess the character investment is really a big part of it. I'm surprised that, aside from like Second Life, there hasn't been a real social networking component to it. Like a MySpace MMO, if you know what I mean.

MK: Yeah. Well, there are some early indicators of success in that area if you look at Gaia online or Habbo Hotel.

Gamasutra: Ah, yes.

MK: Or even Neopets, though that doesn't really have much in the way of persistence. I think there is interest in the social component there, but you do need something that is a little stickier, I think, to keep people around.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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