The Company, The People Or The IP?

38 Studios

The employees of 38 Studios patiently await being devoured by the Sarlacc's younger, and less imposing, brother

With all of the new MMORPGs on the horizon I’ve been pondering what it is about some of the games that attracts me to them and not to others. Is it the company behind the game that makes me excited or the reputation of the individual people or just the fact that it’s based on a particular intellectual property? Also seeing as it’s been a while since I last published a poll (it was decided by the slim majority that I will indeed sacrifice my dominance of all MMO worlds for the sake of begetting children, as my wife was pleased to discover), I figured I’d make this into a fun little group activity whilst I was at it.

A few years ago I would’ve readily answered that it was the IP, and probably only the IP, that attracted me to a new MMO. I was so desperate to play Star Wars Galaxies for instance, not because it was a SOE game or designed by Raph Koster but simply because it centered around the largest, most singular focused obsession of my young adolescence. I knew everything about Star Wars, played all of the video games, card games, roleplaying games and even sat up at night reading the encyclopedia (oh how I was so popular with the ladies). SWG was the pinnacle of a 21 year old wet dream and I was foaming at the mouth for it. Unfortunately, just like most wet dreams, it failed to meet my expectations and my excitement was over quicker than I could say “pass the towel” please. I learned a value lesson from that experience: IPs don’t make or break a game.

Companies also come in all shapes and sizes with a multitude of reputations causing some people to totally adore them or utterly despise them. Blizzard, SOE, Funcom, Mythic, all veterans of the MMO industry backed by armies of loyal supporters or opposed by fervent dissenters. Again, I used to hold certain companies in high esteem and got excited for their products simply because it was they who made them… and I still do. I’m rather hyped up about the forthcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic mainly because I’ve loved almost all of BioWare’s previous games and thus give them a certain amount of latitude and benefit of the doubt. Of course, companies aren’t always right and we’ve even see giants such as Mythic take a nose dive even when their armed with powerful IPs and huge budgets. It goes to show that our trust in companies doesn’t always pay off.

Which brings me onto the people themselves, the guys behind the companies, and the often unsung and unknown heroes moulding the IPs into playable experiences. As I’m starting to learn more about the MMO industry and becoming more familiar with the individuals behind the games through news sites, blogs and forums, I’m starting to lean more and lean towards putting my faith in the guys and girls themselves rather than faceless corporations or glitzy IPs. You only need to look at a company like 38 Studios which has great designers like Steve Danuser and Ryan Shwayder and visionaries like Curt Schilling to become inspired by the fact that they simply want to great the games that we’ll love and they’ll be proud off. However, as we saw with Raph Koster and Metaplace, sometimes even the greatest talents don’t yield success.

It’s a tricky one to say the least but, I guess at the end of the day, it’s probably a combination of everything that attracts me to a MMO although right now I suppose I’m leaning more towards the people than any of the other factors. What about you?

What attracts you to a MMO?

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-Gordon

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17 Comments

  1. Jon says:

    Erm… It’s *Raph* Koster. Always has been, since the day he was born.

    http://www.raphkoster.com/

  2. rowan says:

    I don’t know much about the individual developers, outside a few very prominent ones. SO I guess I lean more toward the IP first and then the Company. One factor you didn’t bring up that I think is a huge influence on me *trying* a game is other players’ reactions. With the notable exception of STO, which I tried because of the IP, most MMOs I have started are because people I knew convinced me to play. And the games I am looking forward to are because people I consider to have similar tastes are excited about them.

  3. Tesh says:

    Inasmuch as “lore, game mechanics and art design” are part of the IP, I’ll offer a vote for that one. Company and the people mean little to me, though I’ll admit that if I like what they produced, I’ll probably take a moment to learn a name or two. Say, a Samwise or Koster. Even so, the product itself comes first… and knowing the names doesn’t automatically mean I’ll buy their other stuff.

    • Gordon says:

      I suppose I’m quite trusting and if an individual creator has a good track record, I’m usually quite inclined to be hopefull of their new products. This is definitely the case for me and books, TV shows and films etc. Unfortunately the track record for individuals producing successive high quality MMOs is pretty slim.

  4. nugget says:

    Eh your poll…

    …where’s ‘the game / game features’ ?

    O.o ‘Cause that’s more or less exactly how I decided to pick Guild Wars up, and I am happy as a clam with it… when it comes to MMOs, anyway.

  5. KiwiRed says:

    You forgot one reason: My friends are excited and talking about it.

  6. Syl says:

    Can’t speak for other, but personally I couldn’t care less for the company or people behind it, it’s nice if it’s an experiences and financially stable name behind it, but that’s no guarantee for a good MMO (as SE has just proven lately..).
    What I am looking for is the ‘itch’: that special feeling I get when looking at the game, the game features, the style, the atmosphere etc. Does it look promising? And indeed, who else is gonna play it and are my friends all over it already?

  7. Stormwaltz says:

    None of those matter to me. For me, it’s all about the features and the feel.

    The features are about bringing something new to the genre. If it’s just WoW with a paint job, it’s virtually a given that I’ll pass it by. I’ve been playing these games for over a decade now. The Same Ol’, no matter how well done it might be, isn’t enough to draw me.

    The feel is hard to quantify. It’s a combination of art style, attention to detail in the worldbuilding, and the inventiveness of the content. Essentially I’m looking for a world I can immerse myself in.

  8. Nils says:

    Wat draws me to an MMO is the promise of a fun virtual world. I do not really follow the people who create it. I am more interested in their previews, blogs and general coverage. I tried to take part in your poll .. but I cannot: All possible answers are wrong for me.

  9. Epiny says:

    Well I think it’s the mix of everything that keeps me drawn in. However that “neck turning” first impression is normally the IP. Then you get to find out who makes the IP, which either makes you optomistic or pessimistic…

    Then features keep you looking at it as the months tick by without it launching.

  10. Scarybooster says:

    I’m left speechless, great post

  11. Wolfshead says:

    The most important thing is the caliber of the people at the top of the organization. They are the ones who have the vision for the MMO and create the blueprint for the culture of the company. Everything that is both good and bad comes from the top.

    If you have good people running the company, then you’ll be able to attract talented people. Talented people make good games if they are in the proper environment.

    Read the sad story of Sigil and Vanguard to see how good and talented designers will thwarted by an incompetence of upper management such as Brad McQuaid who squandered millions of development dollars.

    It’s also very important to make sure you on are solid financial ground. You need people who can run a company like a business and attract investors. This is why it’s important to have a high profile and passionate spokesman — Curt Schilling comes to mind.

    The problem with the MMO business is that you are only as strong as your weakest link. Because of this, the chance of a company making a successful MMO is very rare indeed.

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