Rich Vogel has an extensive background in games-as-a-service. He worked on seminal MMOs like Meridian 59 and Ultima Online. He managed both MMOs based on Star Wars, and he was the star hire when Bethesda set up the Battlecry Studios to make AAA online games for the modern era of connected gaming.
So it might seem odd to discover that Vogel has left Battlecry and taken a position with Certain Affinity. While it's based in Austin, TX like so many of his previous employers, Certain Affinity is best known as a work-for-hire studio handling support duties for AAA titles. While it has developed original titles like Age of Booty: Tactics and Crimson Alliance, the bulk of the studio's work has come from creating multiplayer modes, user interfaces, map packs and the like for massive franchises, including Halo, Call of Duty, and Doom.
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz yesterday, Vogel explained his attraction to the studio. Even with more than 125 full-time employees, he said it has the feel of a small company. It has loads of multiplayer experience thanks to its work-for-hire efforts. And perhaps most importantly, its plans for the future make itself a good match for his focus on games-as-a-service. Vogel is joining the studio as vice president of technology and services, and one of his first big tasks is to build a new live services team from scratch.
"I believe that in the market, there's always room for something new and unique"
"Publishers are realizing that these games have huge potential if they're given the right amount of funding and time to build an audience. They can do very well and continue to do well," Vogel said, noting that ongoing development models have served Blizzard and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds developer Bluehole well. "Having a connected audience and developing a product around that just builds a really huge brand loyalty that you don't get in single-player games, where you don't get that immediate feedback loop. That's always been my passion, these games that people play and connect people together. I love the social aspect of it, and that's why I do it."
Vogel is not alone in pursuing games-as-a-service models, and anything Certain Affinity produces will have the challenging task of gaining the attention of potential players who are still quite engaged with their existing games-as-a-service titles.
"One of the biggest problems we have is visibility," Vogel said. "How do you get something new to people out there when there's so much stuff out there? I think it's about finding something that resonates well with people and understanding how to market to those people so you can develop a viral niche, then you have the hockey stick [growth curve], right? I think there's enough room in there, if you're not copying what other people are doing, mind you. Because I don't think copycats will do it.
"I believe that in the market, there's always room for something new and unique. And I think it's [more likely] going to come out from the indie or small game studios than I believe it will from the big publishers. If you look at League of Legends and Riot, they came out of nowhere and developed what I think is the biggest game in the world."
Vogel said the company is working on two games-as-a-service projects, "one original, one unannounced," and it will continue to do work-for-hire as it builds them.