Mythic Entertainment, the developer and publisher of Dark Age of Camelot, today made two announcements. First, the company said that in celebration of Dark Age's second anniversary, it will rerelease the title, and include the Foundations expansion, for a suggested retail price of $9.99.
Mythic also made note that it was recognized this week by Deloitte & Touche as one of Technology Fast 50 (in the state of Virginia). This is a ranking of the 50 fastest-growing technology companies in the state.
This is Mythic's second year on the list. The company moved from 2002's 20th position to number six overall in this current year's list. This ranking is due in large part to the success of Mythic's Dark Age of Camelot game. Revenues from that game bumped Mythic's revenues up over 4,000 percent from 1998 to 2002.
With so much news coming out of Fairfax, the Virginia city where Mythic Entertainment is based, GameSpot decided to pay a visit (by e-mail) to the company's president and CEO Mark Jacobs.
GameSpot: As the company allocates resources toward its new announced title, Imperator, how are you forecasting the ability of Dark Age of Camelot to endure as a viable product for gamers? Are you expecting additional growth for Dark Age of Camelot? If so, where do see the number topping out?
Mark Jacobs: We are committed to Dark Age of Camelot for as long as the players want to continue to play the game. We have another expansion pack coming out in a few weeks, and we are preparing to work on our next subscription expansion for the spring. After that we have another retail expansion planned for next year. We expect Dark Age of Camelot to be a very viable product today and into the future. In terms of the numbers topping out, I'd like to grow our total subscription base 100 percent over the next year.
GS: In your opinion, what's the status, or rather health, of the subscription model for the MMORPG sector?
MJ: Very healthy for now. The success of Star Wars Galaxies has not come on the back of the other MMORPGs, as it has expanded the market. Based on Dark Age of Camelot's subs and what I've heard from other developers, Star Wars Galaxies' numbers are coming from a good mix of new players and veterans.
GS: Is it subject to being replaced by other, novel ways of generating revenue for game developers? Has Mythic asked itself this question, and if so, is it, as a company, and in a strategic sense, assessing alternatives to the subscription model?
MJ: No. I don't see it being replaced for the time being. I've always been a proponent of the pay-for-play model, and as history has shown, people will pay a subscription fee for quality product. A saying I coined about 15 years ago was "Premium games for premium players," and as recent history has shown, it is a very, very good model.
GS: What's your view of networked consoles as an environment that might one day provide the same sort of gameplay options and development challenges for the MMOL gamer (and developer) as the PC does today? Is Mythic looking at the console space as one it may one day want to enter?
MJ: All the consoles have a lot of issues in terms of doing a great MMORPG for them. I'm hoping that with the next generation of consoles some of these issues will disappear. In terms of doing a console game, if the right property and the right deal were available, we would consider it very seriously. FYI, we have spoken to all of the console makers in the past, and for various reasons the deals never came together.
GS: Mythic has experience in the area of collaborating with Hollywood in the creation of interactive entertainment. Given your experience in that space, how do you view the increasing collaborative nature of game and film property development?
MJ: Very carefully. :) With the right partner, the right property, and the right deal, the chance of doing a truly blockbuster product is quite high. The problem is finding all three of those at the same time. In terms of how we are increasing the collaborative nature, what we are doing with Imperator will be the stuff of game industry legends. We just hope that at the end of the project people are not talking about it like Heaven's Gate. :)
GS: Is this a good trend for the industry?
MJ: Yes and no. It has been tried before and it's failed before. If we have learned something from what has happened before in the industry, it is a good thing. If not, it is a bad thing.
GS: What are potential pitfalls?
MJ: Losing control of the IP. Losing control of the IP. Losing control of the IP. :)
GS: Do you see Mythic allying again anytime soon with a Hollywood studio?
GS: Dark Age of Camelot is self-published. How necessary are publishers to the game development/game distribution value chain today?
MJ: If you need money, publishers are essential. If not, they can be helpful. In our case, having a partnership with the fine folks at Vivendi Universal Games has made our life a lot easier and more successful.
GS: If a startup came your way with what you considered a killer app, what would you advise them to do the first time out--go with a publisher or go it alone?
MJ: If they have all the money they need and they are not afraid to lose it all, I would say go for it alone.
GS: The MMOL space is getting more and more crowded. How do you see the space evolving in the next two to four years?
MJ: I expect the next two to four years to be full of great successes and some huge failures, which is why I called it the Age of Disappointment in my recent keynote at the Austin Game Conference.
I expect the overall market to continue to expand in terms of both subscribers and live products, but I also expect that many long-term players of MMORPG will begin to get "burned out" on the type of MMORPGs that they are currently playing and that some big-name products will fail to achieve the return on investment that their backers had hoped. It's going to be a very interesting few years.
GS: Which do you see as the primary growth markets: Europe, North America, or Asia?
MJ: Asia offers the most growth in terms of US games looking to capture part of the market as well as the most risk.
GS: So who's on your radar in the MMOL space?
MJ: World of Warcraft is certainly the most interesting product from the best developer in the stand-alone industry, so we are very interested in seeing how it does. In terms of other developers, we'll be keeping an eye as they get closer to release. We have enough to worry about over the next two years with what we are doing here.
GS: How many employees today, and how many games, including expansion packs, are in development at Mythic?
MJ: As of today, 124 full-time employees. In terms of games, Imperator and DAOC. In terms of expansion packs, Trials of Atlantis is almost finished, and then we go to work on two more expansions.
GS: Thanks for your time, Mark.