Sony Online Entertainment has always been one of the forerunners in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game market. Its flagship MMORPG, 1999's EverQuest, absorbed revelers into its fictional world of Norrath, where they fought monsters and gathered treasure and experience points with other players online in a persistent world.
Since then, SOE has developed several successful online games in the same role-playing vein. EverQuest has seen its sequel, EverQuest II, garner success in the stores, and the Star Wars Galaxies franchise, which SOE developed and LucasArts published, is still going strong and will see its second expansion ship next month.
The success hasn't been limited to PCs, either. The action RPGs Champions of Norrath and Champions: Return to Arms, both EverQuest-themed online PlayStation 2 games, have done well. Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade, another action RPG that supports wireless multiplayer action, is currently one of the best-selling PlayStation Portable titles.
Even though the role-playing genre dominates MMO games, SOE attempted to crack the niche with two other types of games. PlanetSide, released in 2003, was a first-person shooter set in an MMO realm. However, when compared to the success of EverQuest, PlanetSide's retail results weren't exactly out of this world. Sovereign, a real-time strategy MMO game, was originally introduced in 1999 as an MMO follow-up to EverQuest. After years in development, the game was eventually canceled in 2003.
Even after these disappointing results, Sony is planning to branch out into other MMO genres again. Why stray from a good thing? It seems the experiences with PlanetSide and Sovereign have taught the company a lesson.
"We know what we're doing now, and we're going to take it to the next level," SOE president John Smedley told CNN Money's Chris Morris in Morris' Game Over article. "We're always looking for the right idea and we didn't have it [with Sovereign]," he said. "We will be in the strategy market. It's just a matter of timing. We'll get it eventually. Our goal is to be the dominant player in every major genre."
Smedley confirmed that a new action MMO game is currently in the works. No details have been announced, other than that it won't take place in a Dungeons & Dragons-type world. SOE hopes to show off the forthcoming game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo…in 2006.
The SOE president also revealed more robust online plans for the PSP. Sony hopes to work out deals with wireless providers to let PSP users have Internet access for gaming at various wireless hot spots. The plan is to make access free of charge and not require a username or password. The hosts will be compensated by advertisers, who may show ads to gamers through in-game advertising