Tuesday, May 29, 2012

38 Studios R.I.P.

As most readers of this blog likely already know, 38 Studios closed up shop just before the holiday weekend. This follows news that the studio missed a loan payment deadline...and then missed paying the employees.

(I hear some, perhaps many employees, were willing to work without pay until the company got things situated. I'm not sure I would have been in that camp. As a co-worker once said, "If I am getting zero dollars a week you can expect me to work zero hours a week.")

Sad news for all involved.

I suspect the majority of the laid-off employees will be able to find work soon. 38 Studios had a lot of good talent and there appears to be a lot of jobs in Boston and nearby areas.

All that isn't the point of my post however. This is: what the heck were they thinking, making yet another fantasy MMO?!?

A fantasy MMO is perhaps the riskiest venture a fledgling game company can take right now, consider:

  1. The market is dominated by the largest gorilla the game industry has ever seen: WoW
  2. The market is crowded
  3. The market expectations are very, very high (see #1)
  4. The market is in transition between subscription and freemium pay model

Using my amazing powers of hindsight, I believe 38 Studios should have made a sci-fi MMO, a Red Dead-type MMO, a Gamma World sort of game, a Skate or Die MMO or a or invent something new.

Of all the things 38 Studios could have done, the one thing they should NOT have done was to venture into the shark-infested ocean that is the world of  fantasy MMOs.

This is exactly what they did.

I see no shortage of safe harbors for new genres in the MMO landscape to be developed. Where a new game can be nurtured and grown away from the WoW and WoW-clone sharks. Develop an IP, establish a brand, gain the trust of gamers, then venture out into the deeper ocean (perhaps I am taking this metaphor too far) and take your shot at the WoW sharks.

All in all I can't blame them for shooting high. If I had access to a $100 million I can't say I would take the safe route either. What game designer wouldn't want to make his or her own version of WoW?

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