Richard Garriott, the man behind Ultima Online and the Ultima series, says that Blizzard Entertainment (and other big publishers like EA) face new challenges from the "Zyngas of the world."
Garriott is saying these kinds of things because he considers his new company Portalarium to fit within that category. IndustryGamers recently asked him if that means he considers himself "a new challenger to Blizzard," he responded by saying, "I hope that's exactly right." While Portalarium has worked on casual casino style games, Garriott tells IndustryGamers that one of his upcoming projects will target the core gaming audience, and will provide an experience "much more like Ultima Online than people might expect."
"Right now, where those worlds seem very distinct, and very separate, and very noncompetitive, they’re targeting completely different users – I think within a few years, you’ll see that’s not really the case. 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, because it’s not something you have to subscribe to, because it’s something that virally spreads, and especially because, as people churn out of a big MMO they’ve got to go somewhere. And if you’re a company that does only one big MMO, odds are they’re churning out for somebody else," Garriott asserted.
According to Garriott's view of the industry, it is going through what he calls a major upheaval right now, similar to how single player RPGs evolved and companies formed to populate the MMORPG space.
"The only reason I left EA is because EA didn’t want to make MMOs. I started again with a company called Destination Games, and we sold it to NCsoft. The only reason I left NCsoft – or, more complexly, the only reason a whole group of us left NCsoft- was because we started a casual gaming portal called PlayNC. We had built a whole suite of products for it and NCsoft said, 'You know. We’re making so much money on MMOs, we don’t really believe in this casual stuff.' So we all split off to form Portalarium. That’s the only reason that I’ve switched, and more importantly, the people who are at the big companies of a previous era very commonly miss these shifts. The only reason NCSoft exists is because the big solo player gaming companies failed to fill the gap once MMOs were discovered. None of them had the faith enough to continue it and allow new players to step in."
Garriott goes on to say that the only reason Zynga exists is because the big companies failed to step in and fill the space.
"The only reason Zynga exists is because people like EA, people like Blizzard, failed to step in. And so each of these major upheavals allows new, major corporations to come in and fill that space, which I think is to the great detriment, and then leaves the big companies of the previous iteration actually trying to catch up. And so I think that the challenge for Blizzard, when you are that good, when you’re making that much money, when you’re that much on top of your game, in the current era, it’s actually fairly difficult to spend money towards things that seem to not be as profitable, that people don’t understand as well and that you don’t imagine could possibly beat how well you’re doing at the top of your game in the current era. And so that I think is a risk for anyone, including Blizzard, that they will elect not to tackle that one, because they don’t see that it’s important and relevant."