Friday, May 22, 2009
New York Times review of Free Realms
The New York Times is not all that well-known for keeping you up to date with all the latest MMORPG news. A game has to be hugely successful and mainstream to get coverage in the NYT. Thus the glowing review of Free Realms is significant.
And their remark that "For Sony Online, Free Realms is a triumph of the company’s own reinvention." is spot on. In 2004 SOE lost the duel EQ2 vs. WoW by a huge margin, and EQ2 being less accessible certainly played a big role in that. With Free Realms they now created a game that got 1 million players (not subscribers) in 3 weeks, and will certainly continue to make news with increasing multi-million player numbers. And while a million FR players will produce less income than a million WoW players, the point where Free Realms makes more money than all other SOE games together isn't far off.
Even veteran MMO players should take notice. Because ultimately game companies are not charities, but for-profit organizations. As long as WoW was the only game which was both ultra-accessible and attracted millions of players, some people could get away with claiming that it was an exception which couldn't be reproduced. The more successful Free Realms becomes, the more accessibility starts to look like a trend, and will influence the design philosophy of future games.