Thursday, July 27, 2006

MMOG Boom Times in the Bay Area

Austin, home of SOE, NCSoft, and the new Bioware outpost, has long been ground zero for massively multiplayer online game development and ops, but Northern California's seen a marked increase in the genre recently.

A quick roundup of quakeland's MMOG players:

Perpetual's all systems go on Gods and Heroes (publishing partner SOE) and Star Trek Online, two high-profile titles, the former launching this year, I believe.

Cryptic (an NCSoft company) is hiring for multiple new titles to be announced this year, something I'm particularly excited about since City of Heroes/City of Villains is still in rotation in my house. Cryptic nailed the satisfying player experience -- you really do feel like a superhero -- and pound for pound is still the most fun to play of the current live games as far as I'm concerned. New offerings that leverage Cryptic's strong engine and learning so far (e.g. addressing complaints about shallow gameplay) will position them to keep breathing once the new DC and Marvel MMOGs arrive to threaten their flagship games.

Three Rings continues to innovate the casual MMO genre with the recent beta launch of Bang! Howdy and enhancements to Puzzle Pirates. These guys are figuring out leading-edge aspects of MMOG design, including creating for the mass market player and monetizing her through cash-backed virtual currency. Their numbers for the latter are scary good. Expect to see more of these kinds of games and less of the men in tights genres as more companies hop on the casual gamer clue train. and Second Life both operate on the fringes of MMOGs, being virtual worlds focused on creation and socialization rather than orc-bashing, but both are thriving.'s made some key hires recently, and SL is in the virtual world news practically every week with some new buzzworthy milestone. Virtual currency and user-generated content are at the heart of both games, it's worth noting.

Even Electronic Arts is in the mix again. The industry behemoth is looking to improve its reputation as the Game Company Where MMOGs Go to Die with an overhaul of Sims Online, as well as an unannounced second game that perhaps a little too excitably is being called by one staffer "the next Spore." Given that Spore hasn't launched yet, I'm not sure what this means. And, Ultima Online is still up and running, lo these many years later.

The landscape of MMOG development in the area was very different even only a couple of years ago. Nice to see the rise of virtual worlds in the Valley again!

1 comment:

DaveyK said...

Is that enough to draw you back here?