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Big publishers ready to "play hard" in portable MMO space

Conservative companies waiting for break-out hit on iPhone/tablets before entering sector

MMO veteran and NCsoft West executive producer Jeremy Gaffney has said that massively multiplayer online games have the potential to hit it big on formats other than PC, and predicted that once one sets the standard, publishers will flock to new formats.

"I think we'll see a big hit in the tablet and iPhone space, I think we'll see a big hit in the console space," said Gaffney to GamesIndustry.biz in an in-depth interview published today.

"There are some pretty good games experimenting with that on iPhone and tablet - one of those is going to hit at some point, and once it does all the big boys who are so conservative with all their money are going to come in too and play hard in that space."

One of those is going to hit at some point, and once it does all the big boys who are so conservative with all their money are going to come in too and play hard in that space.

Jeremy Gaffney, NCsoft West

He acknowledged that the main difficulty for MMOs on formats other than PC is that development periods are out of sync with the rapid iteration of hardware, but still believed the potential to become market leader on new formats is up for grabs.

"If you have a five-year development cycle, trying to hit a console is very hard, because the hardware may change in that time. So all of a sudden the console you're working on went away, or it's 'hey let's sign up for the PlayStation 7 six years in advance', and who knows where the market is by the time you come out. Because of that it's very difficult to go to console.

"It's similarly difficult in iPhone and tablets because generations of that come out faster than your development cycle."

The full interview with Gaffney, where he discusses the pros and cons of free-to-play versus subscriptions, managing falling players numbers following big MMO releases and the future of online play, can be read here.

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Latest comments (9)

Martin Rohatynski student 8 years ago
He raises some solid points, but I don't believe MMO:s will achieve same success like, let's say, Angry Birds on the portable market.
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University8 years ago
what it is with people and Angry Birds still.
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Antony Cain Lecturer in Computer Games Design, Sunderland College8 years ago
Angry birds is to mobile as WoW is to MMO; it'd be silly not to use it as a measuring stick :)
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Show all comments (9)
Lance Winter Senior Game Designer, Splash Damage8 years ago
MMOs moving on to consoles and mobile devices is inevitable. However I believe the first major successes will be existing PC and Browser-based franchises branching out into other platforms, rather than entirely new games.

Having an established game and community of players provides a massive boost to any potential mobile/console game, and mitigates some of the problems highlighted in the article regarding the fast-moving nature of mobile platforms.
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Paul Farley , Tag Games8 years ago
The big driver of MMO's to other platforms will be webOS in my opinion. If I was building an MMO today I think I'd do it using Unity or HTML5

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Farley on 5th May 2011 3:28pm

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Barry De La Rosa Senior Staff Writer, Dennis Publishing8 years ago
What I'd like to see is current MMOs tying in with mobile apps - for example, an official Eve app that lets you check prices or play with fittings. Even traditional MMOs like WoW and Rift could let you check your in-game mail or play with your inventory. There's huge untapped potential there, I'm surprised no-one has gone there yet.
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Scott Moore Chief Revenue Office, GamerDNA Media8 years ago
In contrast to casual games like Angry Birds, MMOs are a multi-dynamic emmersive gaming experience not designed for portable platforms like the iphone or Tablets.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Given that many MMO players can sit for hours in a session, is anyone making these games really thinking about assorted device battery life or what happens if there are ever connection issues that shut these games down temporarily? I can't imagine someone camping out in a hotspot to level grind on their iPad or phone while on the road, but I'm sure Starbucks will set up some sort of MMO zone one day and prove me wrong ;^P

Also, at this rate, your core device users are going to want that device MMO to be cheaper than a cup of coffee (or free, somehow!), long development cycle be damned. Sprt of like repainting the Sistine Chapel ceiling and finding out you're working for free (or all the coffee you can drink, but it's a really small cup with a crack in it)...

I Like Barry's ideas, but I'd add something where you could take your character traveling with you to level up in a single-player or linked play experience with others and transfer that quest data and rewards to the home game... stick a pedometer or something in there (oh nooo, more tracking user data!) and it would be pretty cool...
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Guzmán Díaz8 years ago
I believe a portable MMO is feasible and can be very successful. However, developers have to think about them in a different way than PC MMOs.

Usually the time one can spend playing with a smartphone in a single run at most will be 20-30 minutes, sometimes maybe an hour, but usually not more than that. Thus, the ideal portable MMO should be playable within short lapses of time, be fun and try its best to reduce keyboard input (as in writing to communicate).

Last day I was thinking about all these things and I came up with an awesome idea that could work: think Super Smash Bros or Jump Superstars, add online gaming. There you go. It's a game genre that features fast and fun rounds, makes you feel no need to write messages while fighting, it appeals to both casual and hardcore gamers and sells fairly good (SSBB for Wii sold over 10M copies).

Offer it in a freemium package (maybe a one time fee for purchasing the app) with microtransactions and if well marketed, it could become a money printing piece of software :)

Of course that's just an idea, but what do you think about it? If someone here wants to go on and develop that, I would try to help :P
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