Gamers have been waiting for more than six years to scribble on lauded game designer Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa, and on October 16, NCsoft will finally end the wait. Though the sci-fi massively multiplayer online game isn't currently slated to appear on the PlayStation 3, a strong possibility of such occurrence was raised during this year's E3 Media & Business Summit, when Sony announced it would be partnering with NCsoft on several unspecified games for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable.
While it's natural that Sony would want to acquire talent such as Richard Garriott for work on its platforms, the NCsoft partnership left many scratching their heads. That's because Sony has its own online-centric studio, Sony Online Entertainment (EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies), which is an active rival of the South Korea-based publisher.
In a recent post to NCsoft's Web site, CEO of NCsoft North America Robert Garriott, Richard's older brother, addressed the eyebrow-raising deal. He indicated that it was NCsoft's urge to reach the console market, not necessarily Sony's desire for a new online studio, which sparked the arrangement. The elder Garriott noted, "We don't want to limit ourselves to the PC, especially while the console market continues to grow by leaps and bounds with every new generation...and console makers want to get into the online space." [Ellipsis in original.]
In contrast to development partner Cryptic Studios--which is currently working on a Marvel superheroes MMOG for the Xbox 360 and Windows Vista--NCsoft was attracted to the PS3 due to Sony's ability to provide "the best Internet connectivity and greatest freedom of Web access and interaction available to the user." Robert Garriott also mentioned that the focus of the partnership is for PS3 development "and perhaps the PSP." (SOE is currently working on a DC Comics-inspired MMOG for the PC and PS3.)
As for when NCsoft will debut the fruits of its labor on Sony's console, the elder Garriott said it is aiming for the 2008 holiday season. Though no specific titles were mentioned, he insinuated that the first project would be either a port or an extension to one of NCsoft's current properties. The publisher's portfolio includes Guild Wars, Lineage II, City of Heroes, and the forthcoming Tabula Rasa.
When NCsoft games do begin appearing on Sony platforms, Robert Garriott said that they will follow all current business models, including subscription, microtransactions, and free-to-play games with membership options.