Richard Garriott Wants Blizzard and EA to Go Social

Richard Garriott Wants Blizzard and EA to Go Social

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Lord British thinks that EA and Blizzard may not view Zynga as a competitor right now, but they will if they don't invest in the casual market soon.

You've got to hand it to Richard Garriott: For a guy who's been in the games industry as long and as successfully as he has, he has every right to rest on his laurels. However, neither the sale of his mansion, nor founding his own company, nor the perils of space travel have slowed him down. He's still one of the first voices to weigh in on industry trends, and more often than not, he's got something smart to say. His latest advice is to gaming giants Blizzard and EA, suggesting that the two should view Zynga as a serious competitor, and the casual market as a lucrative business opportunity. Unless the core gaming companies diversify, argues the Lord of Britannia, they will allow up-and-coming competitors to dominate the casual space and lure core gamers away.

Garriott believes that the separation between core and casual markets is a temporary condition, and that all it will take to lure away traditional gamers is an increase in title quality. "Right now, [those] worlds seem very distinct, and very separate, and very noncompetitive ... I think within a few years, you'll see that's not really the case," says Garriott. "I think you'll see that the quality level that comes up through the casual games will rival the quality of traditional massively multiplayer games and then ... it's something that virally spreads."

This view did not arise in a vacuum. Garriott worked on Tabula Rasa, a traditional MMO for NCSoft, before transitioning over to its casual games team. When NCSoft decided that a casual suite was not necessary, Garriott and his team left to create their own company. During his time working there, Garriott observed firsthand a slow decline for the MMO that paralleled an unprecedented rise in the social market. Now, many core online games appeal only to a specific niche audience. "That's the only reason that I've switched. [The] people who are at the big companies of a previous era very commonly miss these shifts."

As for Blizzard (which he considers "one of the best" developers) and EA, Garriott believes the market would be poorer without them, but they'll need to do some work to remain viable. "The only reason Zynga exists is because people like EA, people like Blizzard, failed to step in," he explains. "And so each of these major upheavals allows new, major corporations to come in and fill that space ... and then leaves the big companies of the previous iteration actually trying to catch up."

EA and Blizzard have made some enticing overtures to the casual market. Garriott's advice to EA may even strike some as odd, considering the enormous amount of money it invested in casual gaming juggernaut PopCap. When the time comes, will Blizzard and EA be able to compete with Zynga - or whichever upstart company comes next?

Source: IndustryGamers

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I can see that happening. A lot of people who play video games are terrible at them. They express feelings of frustration and ask developers to make it easier. Thus casual gaming.... Oh wait I forgot about WoW and PopCap. I think these companies have already made investments into the casual market.

They will make more I have no doubt in my eyes, and WoW will become just a little bit more casual.

While I recognize the value of casual market(and seening really intresting things in the browser market) I dont believe everyone should jump onto the bandwagon till either it becomes a long term viable market or keeping the loyal niches in the market open on the side or you will alienate a good chunk of your return.

Then again I play EvE so I'm rather bias on Casual...

Thing is, they're almost certain to do this at some point. After all, they are both heavily profit-drive companies, and while there's money in the "core" market, there's more money in the casual market. They're eventually going to have to adopt the casual model if they want to keep their profits obscenely high.

Eh. They might as well expand their market base.
Someone needs to keep Zynga in check. While I don't subscribe to much of the "Casual Market", I would hate it even worse if an illegitimate business like Zynga ever grows to the point where it starts forcing itself onto the part of the market I do care about.

Im pretty sure Lord British is growing more insane with every day. EA already have quite a few attempts into the social gaming market - take a look in the "free games" section in Origin for examples of these.

However much like you'd never expect to see Ferrari release a small eco-friendly city-car, I dont expect to see big games companies start churning out "social games".

The thing is, there needs to be a maintained divide between the high quality developers that make causal games, and the high quality developers who make non-casual games. Just because it's successful for one person, doesn't mean it will be for another. Different talents, goals and visions encompass potentials for different markets. There will always be a market for both, too. So, no, Richard. I think you are quite wrong.

I've got some advice for YOU lord British: Please stop trying to be relevant.

Wow, what the heck is yall's problem? Casual games ARE a huge business opportunity, and they're quickly expanding in capability. Just look at the progress of WebGL. I don't know why yall are in an uproar anyway...this is an avenue to expand and bolster an existing business, not necessarily redirect their focus. Heck, they could even start new subsidiaries to deal with this market and spare your precious little ears from hearing about Blizzard Casual Gaming.

uppitycracker:
The thing is, there needs to be a maintained divide between the high quality developers that make causal games, and the high quality developers who make non-casual games. Just because it's successful for one person, doesn't mean it will be for another. Different talents, goals and visions encompass potentials for different markets. There will always be a market for both, too. So, no, Richard. I think you are quite wrong.

Completely agree although I am less certain about the ability for `hardcore` MMO games to remain viable in the face of more `casual MMOs` because they rely heavily on social interaction and the best way to get people to join is make it casual the graphics arent usually a huge issue in these types of games anyway so there isnt a big divide that way and if its free well thats a huge bonus more odds youre friends will give it a go if they dont have to fork out cash for it (at least on the surface).

But yes as for more non MMO type games I cant see there ever being a huge convergence of casual and hardcore games its the difference between a newspaper and a book.

Melopahn:
I can see that happening. A lot of people who play video games are terrible at them. They express feelings of frustration and ask developers to make it easier. Thus casual gaming.... Oh wait I forgot about WoW and PopCap. I think these companies have already made investments into the casual market.

They will make more I have no doubt in my eyes, and WoW will become just a little bit more casual.

I dont think you understood anything that Richard Garriott was trying to say or what he was talking about when he said casual games. WoW is the exact opposite of casual gaming.

Why is Garriot telling Blizzard and EA what they need to be doing, rather than just stepping up and doing it himself? Come on man, you've got the chops. Carve yourself a big chunk of the Zynga pie and then Blizzard and EA will pay attention because YOU are the threat. Standing on the sidelines saying, "let's you and him fight" just makes people not want to take you seriously.

Hitchmeister:
Why is Garriot telling Blizzard and EA what they need to be doing, rather than just stepping up and doing it himself? Come on man, you've got the chops. Carve yourself a big chunk of the Zynga pie and then Blizzard and EA will pay attention because YOU are the threat. Standing on the sidelines saying, "let's you and him fight" just makes people not want to take you seriously.

I think Garriott does intend to aim for the casual market with his current company, Portalarium. However, he doesn't have the same kind of resources as EA and Blizzard. I guess for now, it's better to encourage companies he likes than believe he's going to capture a huge market share overnight.

Satsuki666:

Melopahn:
I can see that happening. A lot of people who play video games are terrible at them. They express feelings of frustration and ask developers to make it easier. Thus casual gaming.... Oh wait I forgot about WoW and PopCap. I think these companies have already made investments into the casual market.

They will make more I have no doubt in my eyes, and WoW will become just a little bit more casual.

I dont think you understood anything that Richard Garriott was trying to say or what he was talking about when he said casual games. WoW is the exact opposite of casual gaming.

I offer you the same retort. Have you played WoW recently compared to what it used to be. There are pop cap games in it now. There is the easy mode of click this button for easy mode raids so you don't have to be skilled. They have micro transactions and the ability to purchase in game tender with real money. They have daily quests that do nothing but reward you small tokens you can use to make your character look better. If you do daily dungeons with your guild and in game friends you get bonuses. It costs 15 dollars a month. The challenge from the boss battles and other such fights that were known from vanilla wow have been replaced by the easiest boss fights to date and more streamlined content then ever before. The best method of playing is as a time sink.

Now for Farmville. It has small dailies you can do everyday for in game tender. It lets you play alone or with friends. If you are with friends you get bonuses, well helping them, the average player spends at least 15 dollars a month. They are loaded with micro transactions that give you items you can trade or direct purchase of in game tender. It does like any challenge I guess. It is pure grind. The content is extrememly stream lined and rewards nothing but time sink play.

I forgot casual games meant it had to be on facebook. Sorry my mistake.

Melopahn:
I can see that happening. A lot of people who play video games are terrible at them. They express feelings of frustration and ask developers to make it easier. Thus casual gaming.... Oh wait I forgot about WoW and PopCap. I think these companies have already made investments into the casual market.

They will make more I have no doubt in my eyes, and WoW will become just a little bit more casual.

There is a big difference between someone who like to play big immersive experiences but suck generally at combat (hence why I play everything on Easy in general, though DE:HR I did on normal). Casual games and exploring a world are not related, and there is no requirement to be "good" to explore, you just need to get sucked into the scenery. Casual gamers don't have anything expansive to get sucked into, their experiences are shallower than that because they are not meant to be played for long. I'm sure you can see though that someone who plays Fallout 3 on God Mode for 8 hours straight is not the same as a "casual gamer" but is a certain type of hardcore gamer.

But, yeah, you are soooooo right about EA and PopCap. WoW isn't casual because it is an expansive time sink unlike Farmville which is a shallow time sink. However, maybe Lord British has so completely gotten lost in his own self-importance that he missed that EA picked up the Atari of casual gaming. I like how the article brought up Tabula Rasa, I'm sure that that's one thing he doesn't mention often. He had his moment as a revolutionary developer but he is pretty much a dinosaur of a different age like the Quake guys,

Ea already owns playfish and popcap. Infact i would say EA was too FAST to try and cash in on the casual market and ened up paying over the odds for these companies. There has been a massive gold rush and Zynga and the like seem to have already peaked, they had to deley their finacial statements for months as to avoid showing up a pretty subtantial loss from hoovering up a load of random companies (as it stands they only had a 95% declined in pofits) and their games are shedding millions of users.

maxben:
There is a big difference between someone who like to play big immersive experiences but suck generally at combat (hence why I play everything on Easy in general, though DE:HR I did on normal). Casual games and exploring a world are not related, and there is no requirement to be "good" to explore, you just need to get sucked into the scenery. Casual gamers don't have anything expansive to get sucked into, their experiences are shallower than that because they are not meant to be played for long. I'm sure you can see though that someone who plays Fallout 3 on God Mode for 8 hours straight is not the same as a "casual gamer" but is a certain type of hardcore gamer.

That is a very fair argument. Touche

I will still call WoW casual. I will just say it is the most hardcore casual game and definitely a personal favorite from the past.

And why do the dinosaurs of gaming always feel they need to speak when they clearly haven't been paying much attention. I.E. EA with popcap, I swear every week there is a new article from some ancient voice in gaming talking about how the modern developers (who are always trashing their company in sells) aren't doing what they should be.

So the great Lord British wants Blizzard to go social just to validate himself? Dream on.

You are no longer worthy of the video game industry's or fans'attention Garriot, so either go make a new Ultima game to try and redeem yourself or shut the hell up.

While I am not really a fan of Blizzard or it's games anymore, Blizzard makes enough money off real games that they don't need to go social.

The day that the "Hardcore" and "Casual" markets mix will be a very sad day indeed.

Chevy235:
Wow, what the heck is yall's problem? Casual games ARE a huge business opportunity, and they're quickly expanding in capability. Just look at the progress of WebGL. I don't know why yall are in an uproar anyway...this is an avenue to expand and bolster an existing business, not necessarily redirect their focus. Heck, they could even start new subsidiaries to deal with this market and spare your precious little ears from hearing about Blizzard Casual Gaming.

Except that it is by necessity a shift in focus. The more time and money that are wasted on making casual games means that much less time and money is there to be invested in making proper games. This very thing already happened as a result of the competitive multi-player boom, and now it's happening again. Those of us who are old enough to remember when game developers focused on crafting excellent and incredibly satisfying single-player experiences can already see the writing on the wall as far as casual "games" are concerned. Very soon there won't be anyone making "Triple A" titles anymore if this keeps up, just like there are barely any good single-player games anymore.

The question is, when the time comes, will Zynga have something better to offer than shitty browser games relying exclusively on micro transactions and the success of a social network it is placed in? Personally, I doubt so.
As for Lord British, I don't really see what the man is praised for. He made a bunch of Ultima games and then the franchise died. Well played.

ZeppMan217:
The question is, when the time comes, will Zynga have something better to offer than shitty browser games relying exclusively on micro transactions and the success of a social network it is placed in? Personally, I doubt so.
As for Lord British, I don't really see what the man is praised for. He made a bunch of Ultima games and then the franchise died. Well played.

His old company Origin Systems made alot more than Ultima. EA eventually bought the company out and ended up running Origin into the ground. They just recently ressurected the rights to the name with a lame online service filled with spyware. And the games he made were well ahead of their time. While he was in control of Origin it was a great game company. Unfortunately he liked the large lump sum checks a bit more than holding onto Origin.

I agree since then his relevance in the industry has definately died off. Sid is the only real old school developer who keeps himself up to pace.

Quite honestly I don't think Garriot should open his mouth except to say "I'm so so sorry about the betrayal of fans that was Ultima 8 and the pile of steaming, toxic monkey shit that was Ultima 9"

Until he does, he can flap all his lips as much as he likes, I wont listen.

Please Lord British, make another smart and charming RPG again, the gaming industry needs something similar to Ultima!

Daisuke1133:
Except that it is by necessity a shift in focus. The more time and money that are wasted on making casual games means that much less time and money is there to be invested in making proper games.

I reject the zero-sum theory of funding. These are, for the moment, niche markets which have not existed until recently, often targeting non-gamers. If a current company decides to expend a sum of money to get its foot in the door of social gaming, then yes, there'll be a slight dip in focus on its mainstream titles, but if the foray is successful, it will be a net increase in the amount of money available to the company - and it will pay for itself (by necessity) and more. Unless video game programmers are unavailable or the gaming market is completely saturated and will be for the forseeable future, then there is room for these companies to expand without sacrificing their main business. It is only when the market shrinks or one product is superceded (or has a much lower margin) that companies tend to refocus.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Blizzard won't refocus, but it isn't by necessity, not by any means, that they would do so.

With Sims and various sports stuff I'm pretty sure EA has casual timesinks covered. And it has that Popcap thing.

Blizzard has WoW, which is the biggest social/casual sink this side of time. Once WoW has pet battles I bet Zynga is going to start looking at the MMO market.

Not just PopCap but playfish too. And casual sims games aplenty

The problem with large companies like EA, Blizzard and Valve is that they are quite happy to consider a particular casual/indie game to add to their catalogue in some form but when they do it stops becoming an indie game (obviously) and may as well drop it's Casual tag as well.

Take DotA for example, it was just a mod and now Dota 2 is being developed by Valve you can bet your ass it's going to retail at the price of a regular game.

On the other hand, Plants versus Zombies is still very popular yet hasn't been adapted into some bizarre 3D engine based game where you have to terraform an alien world using the powers of your army of sunflowers whilst being attacked by zombie models that are worthy of the silver screen in Plants versus Zombies 2 *cough* don'teventhinkaboutitEA *cough*

And let us not forget Angry Birds - such a simple, casual game with a few paid addons, loved by millions (billions?). You watch what happens when that damn movie hits the screens, there will be Angry Birds clothing selling at more than your average tee, Angry Birds 'official' toys that you have to sell a kidney to afford, and then it will just get stupid like Angry Birds toothbrushes and panty liners.

Disclaimer: I actually like Blizzard and Valve as developers and this isn't a dig at what they produce, as they roll out some quality games, but the whole "see something doing well, buy rights to it, change it so it's barely recognisable and make a crap ton of profit off of it" attitude needs addressing.

 

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