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Xbox Live business model must change, says Arena.net founder

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz this week, Guild Wars developer Arena.net co-founder Jeff Strain has said that the business model used by Microsoft's Xbox Live service needs to be overhauled before the service will be attractive to MMOG developers.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz this week, Guild Wars developer Arena.net co-founder Jeff Strain has said that the business model used by Microsoft's Xbox Live service needs to be overhauled before the service will be attractive to MMOG developers.

Strain, who was a senior developer at Blizzard before leaving to set up Arena.net, believes that the business model used by Xbox Live is fundamentally not designed for the close relationships MMOG operators require with their players and community.

"Their whole goal is to encourage people to go and buy games on the shelf, then there's an online component for it," he explained. "But for us, when you buy it on the shelf, that's just the beginning of our relationship with you - and we want a direct connection with our customer so that we're always giving you new content, always supporting you directly. Xbox Live just wasn't really built, from a business standpoint, to support that."

Strain acknowledged that seeking to take the customer relationship away from the platform holder and back into the hands of the publisher or developer would be a difficult thing to negotiate, but he remains optimistic that both Microsoft and Sony will embrace the opportunity represented by the MMO market.

"They know it's in their best interests to attract the top developers to develop for the console, and they know that that's going to take some business model changes," he told us. "I think that what we're going to see is that once the dust settles from the launch of this round of consoles, they're going to be very willing to engage in those discussions."

Strain was speaking in an exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz at a preview event in Munich for the upcoming Guild Wars Factions, the second title from Arena.net and the first of several "episodic" sequels to the million-selling Guild Wars. The full text of the interview is available on the site today.

His comments come a few months after the president of Korean MMOG giant and Guild Wars publisher NCsoft, TJ Kim, revealed to this site that his company is already working on titles for next-generation console platforms - but at the time, sources close to the company's European division were adamant that Xbox 360 was not among the platforms being targeted to begin with.

Strain's perspective on the business model issue may cast new light on why that was the case - with the control of the customer relationship being a possible stumbling block in any negotiations between NCsoft and Microsoft.

Although the possibility of MMOG titles appearing on Xbox 360 has been enthusiastically championed by Microsoft on a number of occasions, so far the only such title confirmed for launch on the platform is a port of Square Enix' PS2 and PC massively multiplayer title, Final Fantasy XI.

Click here to read our full interview with Arena.net co-founder Jeff Strain.

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Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.

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