Pandemic Studios may be gone, but its co-founder will apply its lessons to social gaming.
Like Richard Garriott and Keiji Inafune before him, Greg Borrud has set sail for Port Success on the rising winds of social gaming. Fans of the Star Wars: Battlefront and Mercenaries series may remember Borrud as one of the co-founders of Pandemic Studios. This prolific mid-size studio enjoyed critical success and good sales until its shutdown by parent company EA. While Pandemic worked on action and sandbox titles for a core palate, Borrud’s new company, Seismic Games, will focus on the casual and social scene. Borrud believes that, given some room to grow, social gaming could repeat the RTS boom of the mid-90s and turn a niche genre into one that achieves consistent mass market success.
Following the closure of Pandemic, Borrud found himself with some time on his hands. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the landscape to settle, he tried to learn as much as he could about where gaming could grow in the next few years, starting with the social gaming market. “I’m not sure I was excited about any of the games I was playing in the social space, but I was excited by the ability to, with relatively low risk, try stuff out,” says Borrud. “When you put out a new game [on social networks], you aren’t betting the whole company on it.” Along with two other industry vets, Borrud created Seismic Games, which aims to bring the kind of games Borrud himself would enjoy to the social market.
While Seismic Games does not intend to create hardcore games for a social market, it does want to adapt the ideas that tend to make core games more compelling and memorable than their casual brethren. “I felt like I was looking at RTS games from the mid-90s,” Borrud observes, “I was like, ‘I’ve seen how this plays out!’ Games started here, but then got really good and even more mass-market, especially as they started focusing more on the characters.” Borrud cites the transition of games like SimCity to The Sims and the evolution of the Warcraft series as good examples of franchises that opened up to a wider market, but did not lose their hallmarks.
Borrud is hardly the first former core developer to cast his hat into the casual ring, but his understanding of the market could be a useful asset. Pandemic Studios, at its best, made games that any core gamer could pick up and play. Now, all he has to do is apply that accessibility to a wider audience, and Seismic Games might just shake up the social gaming scene. At the very least, it should cause a few tremors.