The producer on Global Agenda thinks that for an MMO developer, trying to aim for the success of World of Warcraft is akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
In the eyes of many gamers, MMOs are seen as the "big" genre - they even have the word "Massive" right there in the genre description! The worlds are big, the playerbases are enormous, the budgets are large, and sometimes even the failures are epic-level crash-and-burn spectacles.
But while EA is currently spending bajillions on Star Wars: The Old Republic in a desperate attempt to unseat industry kingpin World of Warcraft, other studios have had to learn the lesson of thinking small. Speaking with Next-Gen.biz, Hi-Rez Studio's Todd Harris - the executive producer on "spy-fi" jetpack MMO Global Agenda - said that it was perfectly possible for a smaller studio to thrive on a smaller MMO, provided they didn't try to ape the fortunes of WoW.
"What seems to be the trend," says Harris, "is people chasing the success of WOW, spending inordinate amounts of money setting the expectation bar incredibly high, launching and then seeing their numbers decline post launch." That, by the way, would rather aptly describe the fate of every single so-called "WoW killer" from Guild Wars to Warhammer Online.
But even with the crumbling of APB - a game that had cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop - Harris thinks that there is room for other studios to thrive in the MMO space. "I think small [developers] can do it if they're conservative with their projections and their costs. So even a more niche title, if it grabs 10,000 or even 5,000 subscribers, can support a business if it's right sized."
Global Agenda launched early last year with a dual-tiered model (one subscription-based and one merely buy-to-play), though it ditched the subscription several months later to fully embrace the buy-to-play style popularized by Guild Wars. "Feedback from our users, and us looking at the game, told us it wasn't yet at a point where it justified that subscription, so we never charged them [for the subscription]," says Harris of the genre-straddling third-person-shooter/MMO hybrid.