Thursday, April 24, 2008

GTA MMO To Be Released 4/29: Rampant Speculation Edition


I am sorry for David Jones and Real Time Worlds, and I am sorry for their investors. Sure, their MMO may be great, but the genre is about to be redefined. I am mixing fact with speculation and predicting future action, so the gaseous belch of speculation which follows may be completely off base, but . . . I wonder if anyone can tell me why GTA IV is not the next evolution of MMO.

In the words of my ex Eidos boss, Charles Cornwall, the MMO market is roast duck or no dinner. You are Warcraft, or you are not making money. There are some points in between where people make a nice living, but it is not Warcraft "fuck you" money. It is also hard to imagine the Warcraft killer. Gamers just don't want to leave a game they invested so much time money and effort. Guilds may sniff around a bit, but they talk about the new game in Warcraft. Warcraft can only be trumped with a disruptive model. What happens if about 4 million people to buy your game over the course of a week, and you provide them with a bazillion different multi player modes? Interesting you say, but it's not persistent. The game is not, but your avatar is when you join the Rockstar Social Club. But there are not millions of players you say. You are right, there aren't millions of players in Warcraft either. You are segregated across servers. You play on a single server with your guild members. In GTA, you will invite your friends into sessions which, coupled with the online presence, are remarkably like servers.

The Rockstar team built a rich, high res city with driving, flying and floating vehicles, an in game radio system and world wide web, and a bunch of other stuff we don't even know about yet. We can view this as a single game, or we can view it as a platform - 'Third Life." As a platform accessible through somewhere between 10 and 15 million 360's and PS3's, the audience could quickly reach Warcraft levels. But consumers are not paying monthly fees you say. You are right, but who is saying they will not be paying? As a platform, Rockstar has its choice of revenue streams. Advertising in game through billboards, placement, radio and the web; sale of game objects, music and videos and stuff we can't think of. There are some hints out there. look at the front of the Social Club, there are ads for the Liberty City Marathon, a new club, a card game and sperm contributions. What happens if the platform is opened to other people for them to start businesses? It worked in media darling Second Life with a fraction of the audience.

Every console generation has its platform defining game. I think we are about to see the definition of this generation. It may be time for me to change my gamertag from ChaunceyGardner to Hiroprotagonist - if J will give it up.




1 comment:

Stu said...

Interesting thoughts. I will say that it would be pretty surprising if Rockstar opened up its branding model to real-world brands. I just don't see them winning in that trade-off of street creed for money.

However, there are tons of other ways to monetize the model, some of which you've touched on. In particular, offering the platform's radio stations as a way to launch new songs and new bands, for a fee. Sales of their fake brands in t-shirts and other memorabilia. Sales of DLC for both the multiplayer and single player portions of the game. Others as well.

I'm not willing to call this a break from the MMO model, let alone a successful one, until I see how it does over time and how it holds up against competitors like APB. But you could be on to something.