Ambitious publisher Trion Worlds is hoping to shake-up the MMO market with a combination of higher quality games and multiple revenue streams, after sinking at least $100 million into the three games it currently has in development.
The publisher is committing to releasing at least one big tent pole title a year, supported by different business models depending on regions. The West accept subscription models if the quality bar is high enough, said CEO Buttler in an interview published today, but in other areas such as Russia, micro-transactions will be the main source of revenue.
"In North America and Europe, if you have a very strict quality bar, subscription is the right model. That's what people expect," he said. "If you make it free-to-play with micro-transactions they immediately discount it as lesser quality.
"The model is not the interesting thing, you optimise the model for the market and the time. It's really about matching correctly," he added.
Although hinting the company may have raised and spent more than $100 million - "we only publicly said that we raised over $100 million, so let's stay with that" - Buttler admitted that the business needed such high budgets to take product quality to the highest level.
"You can imagine that if you make these super-quality videogames that are live in a multiplayer environment it costs a lot of money," he said. "We never want to sacrifice quality, so we pushed for more time, we pushed for more money. We had to in order to get it right."
And it's the quality of its first game due in 2011 - MMORPG Rift: Planes of Telara - that Buttler insists will be the differentiator to multiple fantasy role-playing games already on the market, and could even replace the current market leader.
"Everquest was out there for six or seven years undisputed, now Warcraft is out there for six or seven years undisputed. You should never try to be a subscription game unless you have better production values and product differentiation than the current incumbent. If you're going to make a clone of what's already out there, well, it doesn't work. And I'm not sure what people are thinking when they do that."
As well as the massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game End of Nations, Trion is also working with the SyFy channel on a TV tie-in, due for consoles - a space that the company isn't going to ignore due to the number of connected users. "If you have over 50 per cent of consoles connected, it starts getting really interesting. Since the console market in the West today is about five times bigger than the PC market, it's definitely something we don't want to neglect," offered Buttler.
"For a role-playing game and RTS game then it's PC. For action games there's a huge console market, and if you tie the game to a TV show, people are already in front of it. So it would be a smart choice to put that on the console in addition to PC."
The full interview with Lars Buttler can be read here.