The Online Gaming Industry Today

An interesting article from The Seattle Times entitled ““Warcraft” fuels market for online gaming industry” says that World of Warcraft boomed the online gaming industry to where it is now and made the competition stiffer and way more harder than before the said game went out.

“The nice part about that game is it’s really opened up the gaming business to say this is a viable business,” said Matt Wilson, a former Microsoft employee who now heads a Sony game studio in Kirkland. “In fact, it’s more than a viable business. It’s probably the ultimate business.”

Follow up:

though Vivendi Universal, which owns the game, hasn’t said how much money it’s making off of “World of Warcraft,” it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out there’s some serious cash coming in.

There are 43 massively multiplayer online games, or MMOs, currently in development, according to a roundup published Friday by gaming site Joystiq. They include titles based on “Star Trek,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Lord of the Rings.”

“Now, almost everybody is looking for an MMO, looking to develop one internally or externally,” he said. “The venture-capital money is flowing a lot more into the MMO space, and I think the opportunities are huge.”

In Seattle, a studio founded by a former Microsoftie named Russell Williams is working on a pirate-themed MMO called “Pirates of the Burning Sea,” where players can sail the world on ships.

And the second-biggest success story in this war? It’s ArenaNet’s Guild Wars which sold a million copies of it’s first Campaign “Guild Wars: Prophecies” last year. Today, they recently released Campaign 2 entitled “Guild Wars: Factions” coinciding with Guild Wars 1st Year Anniversary – April 28, 2006.

There are no official statements yet but it is a known fact in the online gaming community that Guild Wars: Factions stormed the industry since the pre-ordering started (thanks partly of course to the great marketing of ArenaNet and NCsoft combined) to the point that they got double to triple Collector’s Edition than expected, and in my opinion, more than what Campaign 1, Guild Wars: Prophecies CE did last year. In fact, players are now asking or can I say demanding that they re-release a GW:P Collector’s Edition as well as a bundle of GW:Prophecies and GW:Factions Collector’s Edition box.

This is great news not just for ArenaNet and NCsoft but for the whole industry. Free gaming works and there is money flowing from it. This is a known fact here in Asia already especially in countries where free online games and Virtual Assets (aka Item Shops; Avatar Items; or microtransactions) are the thing – South Korea, Malaysia and recently the Philippines to name a few countries/markets. Still there are many companies who think (and well businessmen) that providing “free online games” will not work, is impossible, and there is no money from it.

Strain endorses the idea of releasing two new games in the series every year. At $50 a pop, that’s a cheaper annual cost than what a “World of Warcraft” player would have to pay, he said.

Strain won’t say how many people are currently playing the game — he’s saving that announcement for later — but said it’s much more than a million now.

When we next announce sales numbers I think people are going to be shocked,” he said.

Yes, people will be shocked, specially businessmen and companies who think Guild Wars is a big joke and will flop, shut down and ArenaNet will fold-up. Even in Korea, when I was in a meeting with a developer company, said that many analysts never believed in the Virtual Asset Sales (VAS) model (aka Item Shops, Avatar Items, microtransactions) but after some companies succeeded, the skeptics are jumping in and themselves earning.

Williams, whose Seattle studio is developing the pirate-themed game, said the idea of microtransactions is floating around the industry.

In this model, the game itself would be free, but a player could pay $1 or $5 to level up or get special items. It’s worked very well in South Korea, where gaming is a very social experience, he said.

But can the West duplicate this success story? Guild Wars, Second Life and a few others spearheaded the new model and others are not just trying, plannig, going to adopt it, they are further pushing the limits and possibilities of the new model.

The search for new revenue streams is one of the most talked-about goals in video gaming, and a hot MMO can propel a studio and a publisher for years.

“This is a significant part of the present games-industry hiring boom, that plus the new consoles. Most will fail, as it is much, much harder than it seems.”

Quoted texts from: Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or
Visit the full article here: “Warcraft” fuels market for online gaming industry.

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