Warhammer Online has a lot of good things going for it. Of course you'll have to pay a monthly fee. If WoW can charge $15 a month and get a way with it with millions of people, it obviously isn't a bad idea.
Electronic Arts bolsters its foundation with the acquisition of MMO specialists Mythic Entertainment. We talk to the company's CEO, and the EA exec who cut the deal.
How far will men in tights get you? For Mark Jacobs (shown, right) and the team at Mythic Entertainment--developers of the stalwart MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot, as well as the upcoming Warhammer Online--it means cashing out to the tune of millions.
Yesterday, the 9-year-old Mythic was acquired by opportunistic Electronic Arts. As was the case with EA's acquisition of mobile game publisher Jamdat, the purchase of Mythic gives it instant credibility in the online space, an area where it has sputtered and underwhelmed (apart from the breakthrough Ultima Online).
With a recent track record that includes the underperforming Sims Online, the canceled Earth and Beyond, and the forgotten Motor City Online, a theory of acquisition rather than organic growth makes it look as if the die to acquire was cast some years ago.
GameSpot spoke with Jacobs, and biz dev exec Owen Mahoney from EA shortly after the news was announced.
GS: Does Electronic Arts pick up Mythic's entire back catalog, including Dark Age of Camelot?
MJ: Absolutely. As part of the deal, obviously, EA looks at Camelot and goes 'this is a historically important franchise, one that is still a very popular one' and they are excited about the prospect of seeing what can be done with it going forward.
GS: Have you given up on being an independent game developer?
MJ: My dreams never revolved round being independent...my dreams revolved around making great games. It was always about making great games. At the beginning, nobody wanted us, nobody wanted Camelot. But our dream [at Mythic] has been, and remains, to simply make great games.
GS: And this deal...
MJ: ...is an opportunity to fulfill my dreams in a way that, frankly, wasn't possible as an independent.
GS: From the perspective of managing risk in a sector that takes a lot of money to compete, how was Mythic approaching the future as an indie shop?
MJ: What would make it difficult for Mythic, or any independent [developer] going forward is the competition. You have companies like Vivendi, which have made a lot of money with WOW and are committed to going big in the online space. And you have Sony, which is also one of the pioneers in online games, and still a big believer in the online space. And you have other companies looking at this market hard, and rather greedily, and seeing that they want a piece of it. So as an independent, my path to compete with those guys was going to get harder, not easier. Not only over the next two years, but over the next five years.
So we were faced with a choice. We could stay independent, and that had some risk. Or we could go with EA, and that also had some risk. What made the choice simple at the end was that EA said we were going to have the opportunity to not only make Warhammer the best game we could make it, but going forward, other games as well. That was pretty tough for us to turn down.
GS: What current EA brands would you personally love to see made into an MMO?
MJ: Certainly EA has a lot of interesting IP out there. [But] the last thing I want to do is give any of the competition information as to what we are looking at. But the key for us is looking at what EA [owns], looking at what else we'd be interested in, and whether it's owned by EA currently or is out and available.
What's going to make the best MMO?
EA has said that they are driven to make great games. And to create as well [as leverage] their own IP. What's going to happen over the next weeks, and next few months, and over the next few years is that Mythic and EA are going to sit down and start, and then continue, a dialogue about what are going to be the strongest products that Mythic as well as EA can do in this space.
We're certainly going to be pushing hard for Mythic to be the guys to do it.
GS: How do you compete with World of Warcraft?
Owen Mahoney, EA SVP of corporate development: It's not 'how do you compete with WOW?' It's 'do you believe in the MMO market or not?'
OM: We really believe in the MMO market as a rapidly growing segment and instrumental to our worldwide growth in North America, Asia, and Europe. We feel very strongly about the segment.
GS: Were there other developers you considered acquiring?
OM: Candidly, we looked around the industry and talked to a lot of people and came to the conclusion that the executives at Mythic, and the team they put together, are among the very best in the industry. So it came to a pretty clear conclusion in our heads that this was the right deal to do.
GS: How many studios did you consider?
OM: Several. I can't help you out much more on that. As EA, we get approached by a lot of people and we talk to a lot of people.
GS: Are there lessons still discussed from the previous MMO products from EA, specifically, The Sims Online, Motor City Online, and Earth & Beyond?
OM: The number one lesson is the number one lesson out of the games business in general, and that's: Gameplay is the most important thing that we do. And you need to focus on that first and last.
GS: Will Warhammer be one of the first MMO titles to test the waters of the online console space?
MJ: I can say this much: As you know, we showed a console version of Warhammer at E3, running the entire time while the PC version was running. We look forward to talking to the other guys at EA of course, with Microsoft and Sony, and any console maker, about doing a console-based version of Warhammer. We have those rights...they were acquired by Mythic and were acquired by EA. It's safe to say we are going to be looking at all possibilities for the Warhammer franchise. Whether we are going to be the first...first doesn't matter, best does.
GS: Thanks Mark and Owen.
yeah, i agree with ATB . EA make an allright frst game but not smashing and tyhen refuse to give support for it, eventually shutting it down. lets just hope EA let them do their thing and just take a cut f the profits instead of trying to be helpful. theyll find that they get a better game that way. not that they seem to care, theyre all about profits, so ill say that youll get more money too. they really will.
It's EA, cmon, they will release the game and after 2 years they say: "Thank you for participating in our little MMORPG project and also, thank YOU for wasting your money, because we shut this thing down. "
Hey I friggen LOVED EARTH and BEYOND!! Motorcity online was original too! So IF .. that's IF EA kill Warhammer... THEN I'll consider them another SOE.. but so far I don't mind EA for MMO's ... now SOE... i'll never touch that. CIAO!
The only thing I am afraid of is some political or monetary bs popping up and seeing another article on how Warhammer has been cancelled. For the love of all that is good and just. Just let Mythic finish this already awesome looking game!
here is my question. now EA have bought out mythic, what kind of creativity or innovation will we have in the mmo industry? having a large company buying out independant companies like this will end up making the mmo market pretty dry with no real innovations. hopefully EA mythic can work as if it was independant.
ugh, EA is all that is bad in gaming. They already monopolize sports games, now want to head MMOs on next gen? I never played a Mythic game, but I respect them as a company. Hopefully they won't be backstabbing small indy companies like they once were.
Is it just me or does that Owen guy seem to avoid actually answering the question on how EA is going to compete with WoW in a really round-about, I'm-a-sleazy-politician kind of way? In fact, the whole conversation with him seemed to be cynical attempt at giving out some PR spiel about how great EA is, blimming corporates can never give a straight answer, hope his tie chokes him the next time he says a lie...
Owen Mahoney: "Gameplay is the most important thing that we do." Hahahahahaha. Just hope the people at Mythic get hands as free as possible for developing games for EA if they want to do this "great games".
I agree with blackIceJoe, Mythic just needed more money, especially since WAR is on this kind of scope. Mythic with Dark Ages was pulling off 100+ vs 100+ battles and the servers handled that, imagine what EA can do with the servers they can but with the money they have. It's not like Mythic said "yes" randomly, this was heavily negotiated. Imagine the resources Mythic now has at their fingertips now.
"Someone needs to develop some high-quality MMO middleware to make it easier and cheaper to produce new games..." Didn't Turbine try to do that back in the day with the Asheron's Call 2 engine? Not that their engine is particularly good from what I remember of AC2 and from what I've heard about D&DO... Still, maybe there'd be more of a market for that kind of thing now. To the topic, EA does have a bad track record of running MMO's and newly acquired developers into the ground, and while they do release some good games, their crap ratio is pretty high. As a Warhammer player, I hope this one ends up solid. I understand why Mythic did this, and I can't really blame them for doing it. I just hope it ends up being the right decision.
One has to wonder how much Mythic's own situation played into this... they cancelled Imperator after significant development, and now they face the prospect of completing another MMRPG from scratch, in the face of WoW, and with the pressure of faithfully translating a well-known license... I'd rather see Mythic gobbled up than shut down. It's unfortunate that it's EA, but that doesn't say anything about whether or not this will be a good game. It's too bad MMRPGs are so damn expensive to make these days... the publishers are now going to be disappointed with anything less than millions of subscribers, and anything that falls outside the same well-worn path is unlikely to achieve that. Which means... some publishers will avoid them entirely, and those that do create them will be looking to pump out WoW clones as quickly as humanly possible. Someone needs to develop some high-quality MMO middleware to make it easier and cheaper to produce new games...
At the moment it seems EA and Vivendi are eating up all the independent devs and publishers. Lets hope EA don't f##k up WAR or Paul's diary for that matter
Its very hard for a indy developer to make it out thier in a world where a team of 200 artists are needed for even a small project. I think everyone at Mythic should read the article at the escapist about what happened to origin after EA took over to see the same doesn't happen to them.
"EA has said that they are driven to make great games." That is such a terrible lie, it's not even funny. Well...maybe a little.
Some nice answers He gave being independent is good in the beginning then when you need more money its good to know you have some one how can pay the bill.I hope we can still see good games come out of this and not go down hill like almost every thing EA gets there hands on.
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