Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Mythic merges with Bioware - Mark Jacob leaving

So the big news is that EA merges their two RPG / MMO subsidiaries Mythic and Bioware. That probably makes business sense, because there are obvious synergies in having all MMOs under the same roof. But of course if you merge two companies, you have one General Manager too much. So Mark Jacobs left EA.

I've read one nasty bunch of comments from people that were previously fired by Mark, and other comments wishing him well for the future. But most comments expressed surprise at him leaving Mythic. Well, I'm not surprised at all.

To me it appears obvious that when EA bought Mythic three years ago, Mark had to give them certain promises about the expected performance of Warhammer Online. We don't know what exactly he promised, but he did publicly announce his criteria for failure: Less than 500,000 subscribers and servers having to merge. Earlier this year EA announced that WAR had 300,000 subscribers, and there were server mergers. Now I'm not saying that Mark is personally responsible for the failure (as defined by his own criteria). But he was the boss. The buck stops here.

I don't know if Mark was pushed or fell on his sword voluntarily. But I do give him credit for this being a lot cleaner than when Vanguard failed and merged with SOE, and all employees were fired on the parking lot. Of course Warhammer Online didn't fail that hard, and is probably even making money. But not as much money as EA required and expected. Being held responsible was part of Mark's job description. Must be hard on him now, but if even Brad McQuaid can stage a comeback, I'm certain that Mark Jacobs will find another good job in the industry.
I'm really sad that this happened and that WAR failed. It had some absolutely stellar ideas like Public Quests and Open Groups that I really hope to see in other games. I would still be playing WAR but my MMO group wouldn't go there.

It's not that it was a bad game; it was a very good one. It just wasn't good enough (for them) to warrant tossing 4 years of another game away just to start over for a few new features. I'm sure other gamers felt the same way.

Maybe in a few expansions, it will be up to where it can realistically compete for a niche game (like LOTRO has seemed to come from behind to get really good), but unfortunately, it was too little too...not WoW--despite having a handful of really unique features.
This seems to suggest that EA has given up on WAR. I wonder if there will be any expansions or if they'll put all their efforts on the SW mmo.

I do wonder why they see WAR as such a failure. The reviews it recieved were good and it looked like a good game. Sure they didn't get 500k subscribers but which mmorpg does? With 200k subscribers WAR should still be profitable. I think EA just expected too much. Or well, EA might only be pleased with a game that gets those 11 million players. But most people who stop playing WoW just stop playing mmorpgs alltogether as they feel it takes too much of their time. So I don't see everyone leaving to the new game anytime soon.
With 200k subscribers WAR should still be profitable.

Define profitable! I'm sure WAR makes more money every month than it costs to keep the servers and customer service up and running. But if (completely hypothetical numbers, as I don't have the real ones), WAR did cost $50 million to produce, and makes $1 million profit per year, I could see how EA wouldn't be happy with having to wait 50 years to recover their investment.
MMOs cost a lot of money and manpower to make.

I wonder if the bigger is better approach will work.

For what do they need all this money? They could use some good new ideas, too. The early MMOs did not cost so much and attracted players because they were new and good.

I wonder if making a good game really requires so much manpower and fusions. They seem to focus on polishing their games than creating really good games.

The Mythic and Bioware merger is for me a warning sign that Knights of the Old Republic is going to fail the high expectations, just like Warhammer did.
Tobold. Your forgetting initial box sales. 750k (I forget the exact number released) X $50 = $37,500,000.
"But of course if you merge two companies, you have one General Manager too much. So Mark Jacobs left EA."

I don't think this is entirely accurate as Rob Denton just stepped up as GM of Mythic (Mark's old job).

Also, one of the Mythic devs made this statement on the WAR forums:

"Mythic is not 'merging' with Bioware.

Mythic and Bioware remain independent EA studios within a larger MMO/RPG group."
Hype too much, deliver too little, this is the result. Absolutely deserved in my opinion (although I wonder why Barnett still has a job). WAR had so much promise, it just utterly missed the mark. Hope the next big MMO doesn't launch 6 months too early.
I'm pretty sure Mark J. will find a new stint somewhere, certqinly once the economy gets going again.

As far as Warhammer being profitable goes, profitable is usually not enough. You see, EA is a public listed company. Shareholders expect to see X percent of profitability. If Warhammer online doesn't hit that, it will be seen as a commercial failure even if it DOES make a profit.

I live through the same now, my employer is a big public listed company which is actually doing quite well. However, the competition is doing somewhat better so... There ya go, massive layoffs. Welcome to capitalism, folks.
It's not like WAR was a horrible game, it actually had some nice ideas and interesting classes, but the actual execution left a lot to be desired.

I got totally fed up with the extremely boring leveling process around L20 or so.
Wonderful game. Beta, resubbed twice. I can't play through the lag, stuck animations.
Also it probably makes sense to draft in some of the Mythic team who designed parts of WAR who can be put to work on the new MMO. I am sure Mark will bounce back, it isn’t like WAR failed totally like hellgate London did, just didn’t live up to the hype and to rushed to beat Wotlk which was a mistake. No doubt someone will bring him onboard for an MMO because of his experience.
Over and over i heard warhammer was going to be a wow killer. Frankly the PVe aspect was so lackluster, weak, and left you with a tediusly boring grind (even though shorter than WOW)that I would have called it a failure even with 500,000+ subscribers and no server merges. The bottom line is they were extremely lazy in creating compelling content. WOW has the most in depth and immersive experience because it's a living breathing world of storyline but maintains a constant fast paced "Instant gratification" element to it. Warhammer would have been best served with 60 levels, tons more PVE storyline and content in the quests and more fast paced PVP (survivability was too high and wars became giant stalemates)
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