But Hautemont's goal is still to develop the online games market his way, with games that play equally well online or in person. After being rebuffed by PC publishers, he says he found attitudes most sympathetic to his own in an unlikely place: among console publishers. "The console guys actually have a fundamentally different view of their consumers than PC publishers do," says Hautemont, "and it's much better. They understood what we were trying to do almost immediately."
PopCap's Kapalka, has similar hopes for the console market, specifically Microsoft's Xbox 360. "Their Live Arcade service will allow people to download and buy a variety of 'budget' games, including Bejeweled 2 and Zuma from us initially. I'll be very curious to see what the response to this is. It might be ignored or laughed at - 'I didn't spend $400 to play Bejeweled' - but I have a feeling that there might be some interesting responses from hardcore gamers when they get tired of the launch titles."
Days of Wonder isn't ruling out proceeding with Ticket to Ride for consoles, but development choices have to be carefully considered. "The opportunity cost for us would be that we would have to choose between that and Memoir '44 online," says Hautemont, referring to his company's popular World War II boardgame that he feels has a chance to be the next Panzer General. Like Ticket to Ride, it's simple and quick-playing, but has a theme (military conflict) that might be more appealing to traditional computer strategy gamers.
The disappointing part of this story is the degree to which traditional PC publishers seem to have abandoned once staple genres like this. Former SSI head honcho Joel Billings once remarked to Hautemont during a visit to his company that these gamers hadn't gone away, but were being badly underserved by the current marketplace. How ironic would it be if the once-mighty turn-based strategy market ended up consolidating around console games and boardgame conversions? Wherever it ends up, Eric Hautemont and Days of Wonder hope to make the actual play experience as good as before.
Bruce Geryk battles his gaming nemesis, Tom Chick, every month in Computer Gaming World magazine. Also the magazine's wargames columnist, you can find his blog at grognards.1up.com.