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Monte Cristo confident with MMO business models

Low cost multiple options to be key for success, says French developer

Paris-based developer Monte Cristo, which is currently working on Cities XL - both a solo and MMO title in one - is confident that its approach in offering very low subscription price points will tempt more people to try the game's online features, and once there they're want to stay for longer.

What's more, studio head Jerome Gastaldi believes that by charging around GBP 10 for three months access to the wider, multi-player version of its city-building title, the company is more likely to draw people into buying the various low-cost plug-ins that it is developing.

The result would give Monte Cristo, which is hoping for around 250,000 players to buy the game when it launches later this year, income from a variety of sources - the boxed product, subscription, microtransactions and possibly in-game advertising revenue as well.

"Our philosophy for the business model is that it must mirror the way you expect your potential clients to buy," Gastaldi told GamesIndustry.biz. "We don't buy the specific microtransaction-only philosophy - we ask ourselves what our players would be ready to buy, ready to pay for.

"They're ready to pay for a solo game - millions of people are buying solo games - so we'll give them that, but they've also proven that they're ready to pay for playable content as well, whether that's in solo or connected mode. So let's give them access to add-ons and plug-ins that they can buy online.

"And as soon as you talk persistent online service, you have to talk subscription - so that's just the way we end up with a mixed model. People will buy the game, and then they will have the possibility to upgrade it with more playable content and online functionality. That's the plan, and we feel pretty comfortable with it. I think there's logic to it."

Monte Cristo has funded the game using cash from venture capitalists, and Gastaldi admits that the project was "a level of risk that no big publishers would have taken" - but now the game is feature-complete he's hoping to be proved right on the EUR 12 million that it's cost so far.

"We were convinced early on that there was an opportunity there, and we've been able to convince some venture capitalists to follow us on the adventure," he said. "Full credit to those guys, they've done it on a PowerPoint and a video, and they deserve respect for taking a level of risk that no big publishers would have taken, so I hope we're not going to disappoint them.

"We will be making money through boxed sales, because it's also a solo game - but by the time we launch we'll have spent about EUR 12 million, and that's not money that you'll recoup just on the solo game alone.

"Even so, we think to a large extent this is a lot less risky than a single-player game. There are so many monetisation opportunities in the system, whether they're coming from the pockets of players or real-world brands, we don't see ourselves as having taken a massive level of risk.

"Plus the nature of the game doesn't require the same level of infrastructure that you'd need for an RPG MMO, for example there's not the same need to reach a certain level of latency performance. The investment per subscriber is therefore a lot lower."

The full interview with Monte Cristo's Jerome Gastaldi is available now.

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Phil Elliott

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