May 20, 2007
Gamasutra recently interviewed longtime MMO veteran, and founder of Areae, Raph Koster about a talk he had recently given entitled “Where Games Meet Web.” Raph does a great job, I think, of laying out how the games industry is missing the classic disruption happening to that industry from the Web, much like the large media companies in TV, film and music are being disrupted. Here is the core of his point:
“Consider the statistics. Webkinz, 2.5 million uniques in December; you buy a plush toy. Runescape: we still don’t think of Runescape as being part of our industry, but it’s probably the most popular MMO in the world, more popular than WoW.
Toontown is up to more than 2.5 million uniques now. We never talk about Toontown because it’s web deployed. Then of course there’s was Club Penguin, with 4.5 millions uniques in December alone…When you compare the numbers, all of those are larger than the number two MMO in the western world, every single one of them. So yeah, I think people are missing something.
New Horizon Interactive’s popular massively multiplayer online game Club Penguin
Similarly, there’s something up with the ways we do our development practices. The web principles are release often and fail fast. We don’t do that. We plan for two or three years, putting something together and then dumping it out there. With the web guys, it’s just a whole different method of operating. Flickr patches every half hour.
I think we have to look at the current game industry as being a subset of big media, and big media is running into some issues lately. It’s not that they’re going to go away, and it’s not that they’re going to have less power. Well, maybe they will have less power in some ways. But what’s happening in the other industries, like film, TV, music, publishing, is we are seeing a radical redistribution of power–where the money is going and where the eyeballs are going.
Some of the industries have adapted better than others. We’re seeing TV reach a decent accommodation pretty quickly, whereas as music, music just sort of flew head long into a wall and threw up its hands and now it’s cringing in the corner dying, melting like the Wicked Witch of the West. They’re in the position where the industry is suing its own customers because they like its product. Something is completely wrong there.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves; we’re in the exact same boat. The only reason that isn’t happening even more with us is that our industry isn’t relying on proprietary record play. Can you imagine if there was a standardized platform games, if PC were it, what would happen to the games business? The answer is, we’d be screwed.”