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Industry must "smarten up" about social networks - Garriott

Mon 01 Mar 2010 8:00am GMT / 3:00am EST / 12:00am PST

Portalarium founder warns: "Participate yesterday, or you will be left behind"

Richard Garriott, the space-faring creator of the Ultima series of games - and now the founder of recently-announced social media network platform Portalarium - has told GamesIndustry.biz that those people in the industry not currently taking the genre seriously need to "smarten up" or risk being "left behind".

Talking in an interview at this year's DICE Summit, Garriott looked back on his career to-date and identified three separate waves in the industry's growth - the initial creation of the games business, the emergence of online, and now the rise in popularity of social media games.

"The third wave is happening right now, with the emergence of the casual gaming customer, largely through the social media networks," he explained. "What people in this industry better smarten up about, I think, is to recognise the power of this coming wave.

"I actually think that in my career I made one stunningly strategic error, and that was being a big Apple fan at the time of the emergence of the IBM PC. I though that surely the consumers are as smart as I am and would realise what a superior platform the Apple was - I kept all of our development on the Apple and it nearly put us out of business, because we had to retool everything quickly as the IBM rapidly took over.

"Well, the same thing is happening now with social media. There's no question that core gamers still exist, but the money flow is already shifting so quickly that if you look at the biggest games that are offered on social networks, not only is the player base again ten times higher than World of Warcraft, but the monetisation is now rapidly exceeding all of the games that all of us think of as traditional games - or "higher quality" games.

"What's interesting about that is that traditional games people are looking at social media games as having game styles beneath them, they're too simple, or the quality of the offering just isn't inspiring - which, by the way, I have said too, so I understand people's reticence."

The Portalarium product is based on the principle that while existing social media games are popular, they don't offer a compelling user experience in the same way as current traditional games - so the company's player aims to marry the two elements into one.

However, while Garriott doesn't expect the traditional games business to go away, he does feel it could be dwarfed by the new opportunities afforded by the likes of Facebook.

"I actually think that this growth wave in social media networks will quickly become the level of quality of offerings that we're more accustomed to, and it's going to become the financial powerhouse of the industry," he said.

"So you better choose to participate yesterday, or you will be left behind. I think it's that big a deal, and that important."

The full interview with Richard Garriott is available on GamesIndustry.biz now.

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