TGS 2008: Turbine's Crowley on socializing MMOs

Lord of the Rings Online developer's CEO talks about collision of virtual worlds and social networking; Mines of Moria expansion dated for Nov. 18.

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TOKYO--In June, massively multiplayer online game developer Turbine landed $40 million in funding to help bring new titles to market and expand beyond its PC roots. Job listings spotted later in the month showed the developer of Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online was looking for console engineers with experience working on the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3.

Since that time, the publisher has been somewhat quiet about its plans, except to promote the first Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Mines of Moria, which will launch in North America and Europe November 18. Today, though, Turbine president and CEO Jim Crowley presented a keynote address at this week's 2008 Tokyo Game Show which focused on the intersection of traditional MMOGs and online social networking.

Obviously, massively multiplayer online games are, by definition, social, with most of the content in games such as LORTO, World of Warcraft, and more recently Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, geared toward cooperating or clashing with friends or strangers. But Crowley believes MMOs need to evolve further to include the social networking elements of sites such as Facebook and MySpace to cater for the demands of their audience.

And it's not just for the demands of current MMO players. Crowley says the next generation of players--kids he likes to term as being "born digital"--will expect their social and gaming worlds to seamlessly combine both within the game and on the Web. He said including things such as forums, friends' lists, news feeds, user videos, achievements, and more on a Web interface outside the game will not only extend the appeal of MMOs to current fans, but bring new players into the market.

"It's fundamentally what's happening now anyway. There's just as much activity happening inside the world as outside the world in terms of posts and forums and the like. There's just a groundswell of demand for this capability. The communities themselves are trying to that larger Web 2.0 space, and it's important to capture that," Crowley declared. "The born-digital generation expects those capabilities and will continue to accelerate over time. And you have to find a way to marry the two of them."

Turbine's own LOTRO is about to increase its social networking footprint, with a functionality update planned for release in December. The update--separate from the Moria expansion--includes a Web page that links directly to game servers to provide accurate real-time news feeds, player profiles, friends lists, blogs, user videos, and character achievements. "It makes the world more sticky, but it also allows you to tap into that viral power of the social networks, which inevitably drive consumer activity," he said.

But while making MMOs more like social networks is Crowley's goal, he believes they won't ever rival the likes of Facebook or MySpace in sheer size. "The big social networks you see today are incredibly horizontal in nature. What we are talking about doing is driving a vertical intersection into that, so it can start spreading horizontally. I don't think any specific MMO will be of that [Facebook or MySpace] size, but you will see as MMOs turned themselves inside out and expose themselves into these social networks, that they'll start tapping into that community," he said.

Discussion

17 comments
Magusi
Magusi

To Peltz999, You are ignorant when it comes to MMO's. So let me offer you some knowladge. "WoW" was not the first and greatest MMO. All it did was come at the right time for the genre. Plus it simplifed the formula for ease of use. Since I started with Everquest, WoW didn't ... "WoW" me. I am under the impression that many like it, more so for the fact that it was new to them. Popped the cherry to the MMO world. Just like my EQ experince will never be topped by another MMO. Point being, something will top "WoW" for others. It will steal the formula (just like it had) and then improve on it. You may not agree, but it dosn't mean you are right. Also, Lotro is a great MMO for many reasons. It's a sold and stable MMO. Big Updates are added all the time and it has something "WoW" dosn't. A great gaming community. Everyone is mature and just cool to each other. You get a lot of lackys on "WoW". Not everyone ... but more then a handful. Alright, to some up, Lotro "is" good. "WoW" isn't the "be all, end all" MMO. That's my 60'cents.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I was in the beta for Lotro and I found it to be better then WoW

bojan_sokol
bojan_sokol

Lotro is a good game, nice graphics and good story

buzzguy
buzzguy

LOTR Online is actually pretty decent. Turbine seem to know what they're doing.

BloodMist
BloodMist

I play this MMO in addition to WoW, it's a wonderfully made MMO that stays true to Tolkien lore.Socializing...not so much, hell i've seen more RPing in WoW than this game, far more.I play on an RP server for a reason.

MariusSE
MariusSE

November 18th? Wow, someone is gonna get in the shadow of some other expansion in the same genre..

Peltz999
Peltz999

Nobody cares about the available options when the core game is boring. And try explaining to a raid leader that you were surfing myspace when you aggroed that boss. These concepts are just minor cosmetic buffs, if the core gameplay fails to attract = millions of $ down the toilet. Those people that are around the age of 25+ wont see the next "wow" effect with their own eyes. WoW exhausted the emotional reserves of these players and theres nothing left to attract the customers. Basically they have seen everything that there is to see and no matter how many MMOs line up they will fail one by one trying to achieve the same effect. Sure there can be profitable MMOs but there will be only one true King. So kindly keep your bulls**t myspace integration to yourself and go develop some decent games for a change.

thescorpion1983
thescorpion1983

I dont think mixing both feels right, i am not sure it is right..but what im sure is that its the next natural step. I dont think people on my facebook or myspace will tend to join in a mmo, but people stay on Facebook for so long, wathcing pictures, videos, profiles, that its almost a mmo by itself lol. And like Pandion said, i think the same way BUT..i find it sometimes pathetic that me and 9 other friend play online from 8-10pm...while we could basically go out and see eachother.

PuhJesus
PuhJesus

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

PuhJesus
PuhJesus

Communities inside games are very important.. Look at guilds for instance. Without community, you might as well just solo your way to max level and not talk to anyone along the way.

surppo
surppo

i think they need to work on making the games more fun first i think if they made an mmo that played devil may cry or mass effect with headset com that would be funner than putting myspace on the same old concept

pandion
pandion

As people get older, get married, and start having kids it becomes mroe difficult to socialize with friends outside of the house. MMOs have become somewhat popular with gamers in this crowd because of the ability to have interaction with friends while still being able to take care of one's responsibilties. All assuming that such people are reasonable about their game time of course.

svaubel
svaubel

Games and social sites need to stay separate. If you want to go use SpamSpace, then use an interface browser. If you want to play an online game, you should be able to be entitled to that too. Last thing we need is for all the other MMOs to turn into Second Life.

baystatethrashr
baystatethrashr

i think XBL is getting very close to being something along the lines of a facebook. being able to go on my computer sign in and send messages to my friends via xbox.com is a great tool and of of the many things that puts XBL over PSN.

Gamer_supreme
Gamer_supreme

Personally i do not wish for all of myspace to jump into WoW. The game would become way more casual than it already is thus ruining the game for everyone else. World of Myspace doesnt even sound fun... Run around and add everyone to your friends list! Level 70 instance, kill Tom! Ok the last part sounds fun...