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SOE's John Smedley

The online segment's president on bringing FreeRealms to the PS3 - and beyond

Last week Sony Online Entertainment made the move to port its hugely popular kids' MMO FreeRealms over the the PlayStation 3 platform.

Just ahead of that launch, GamesIndustry.biz caught up with SOE president John Smedley to find out how smooth a transition it had been - what the company hard learned from DC Universe Online, what the ultimate potential for the game was and did it spell a new industry gold rush?

[Editors note: This interview took place the day before Sony Online Entertainment announced a decision to close three studios and make 205 staff redundant.]

GamesIndustry.biz We're here to talk about the launch of FreeRealms for the PlayStation 3 - that's happening against a backdrop of 17 million users on the PC and Mac platforms. That's a phenomenal number.
John Smedley

It is a phenomenal number, and we're very pleased with its success - and it's really keeping going. I don't see this thing stopping until it hits 100 million.

GamesIndustry.biz Has it taken you by surprise?
John Smedley

I've got to say yes, but in ways that are very personal to me. I've got four kids, two of which are my younger daughters - they play the game incessantly, and I think I'm as proud of that accomplishment as I am about the 17 million.

And when I say "incessantly" I mean that when I get home at night, they bug me about FreeRealms. They've been in to meet some of the GMs here at work, and they've made them food and cards... they're obsessing about it.

I'd say it's taken me by surprise because we've never made a game for kids before this - their passion is something new to us.

"[17 million] is a phenomenal number, and we're very pleased with its success - and it's really keeping going. I don't see this thing stopping until it hits 100 million."

GamesIndustry.biz So let's talk about FreeRealms for the PS3 - it's been a while in coming, so what have been the main challenges in bringing the game to the console platform?
John Smedley

Probably the single-biggest obstacle was probably the interaction with communication - it's a unique problem for us, because by-and-large the PS3 has a bit of an older audience, and FreeRealms is a kids' game. So we've had to do some thinking about that.

Also, communicating in general - most PS3 owners don't have keyboards, so we're using PS3 Voice, which I think is really cool.

GamesIndustry.biz The user interface has also been one of the traditional problems for consoles.
John Smedley

We've spent a lot of time and learned a lot of lessons from DCUO with that, and we've applied those learnings to FreeRealms. I think people are going to feel like this is a real console game - and the cool thing about it for me is that now I can get my PC back, and let my girls play on the television!

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