MMO franschises or pure content developers
One thing that pretty much always is seen in complaints with MMORPG titles are lack of content. When will we see a change in business models for improving the content provided – quality and quantity?
While player-created content is an option often mentioned (with the potential issue that at least 90% will be crap and will include various sexual manifestations), one that I do not see mentioned much is to set up a kind of MMORPG franschise for an existing virtual world or open up to 3rd party content developers. The developer of the virtual world provides the tools, concept rules and perhaps also the art assets – 3rd party developers develop the zones, the missions and encounters etc. Perhaps also run events.
A number of the major MMORPG titles we see or that are coming out soon have been in development for a number of years, perhaps 4-5 years. A significant portion of that time in those cases are likely spent on developing the tools to develop the games themselves.
For example Funcom has said that part of the investment and time spent with Age of Conan was for the tool and engine development, which they can reuse for other projects, such as their upcoming MMORPG The Secret World. That project started in 2006 and was reported in a “playable state” in 2007.
I recall an interview with one of the developers from Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment (developers of Stargate Worlds) who said one the tools were there, a major MMORPG title could be developed in 2-3 years. With that timeframe in mind, we might see Funcom’s The Secret World next year perhaps.
Still, a lot of the time of these 2-3 years will be developing concepts, art assets and other building blocks to build the virtual world itself, using the tools available.
I believe it was Jack Emmert from Cryptic Studios that said that it took 8 months to develop City of Villains. They had the engine and tools, they had a number of art assets that they could reuse. And look at Turbine, who reportedly have produced a good amount of content for Lord of the RIngs Online after it was released. My guess is that they have good tools and mechnisms that helps them produce content at a decent rate.
There will of course be issues to solve on how to charge for the content and how customer support is handled. And intellectual property like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings might n