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Is the MMO space ready for a paradigm shift? Game designer and Shiny founder Dave Perry (pictured) is looking to change the way we play and pay for MMOs, as he teams up with the new online-focused Acclaim.
Dave Perry and his consulting company have joined forces with the new Acclaim, founded by ex-Activision executive Howard Marks, to help change the business model for massively multiplayer online games in the US. 2Moons is a $25 million MMORPG that will be released in the US in six months and will be available for gamers to play absolutely free. Players will be able to download the game at http://www.2moons.acclaim.com.
2Moons was developed by Korean game maker GameHi and originally called Dekaron. Perry is directing the U.S. version of the game, which features a story by Los Angeles fantasy writer Henry Jones.
â??We want to radically change the way people think about advertising,â? said Perry, whoâ??s last online game was the PC game, Sacrifice. â??My example is that if youâ??re watching cable TV or listening to radio, they ram advertisements down your throat. On the Web itâ??s getting even worse where they have advertisements that cover over the information youâ??re trying to read. Theyâ??re making the consumer suffer for the sake of advertising. The dream would be that youâ??d be able to say, for the people who donâ??t like advertising you can just turn it off. And thatâ??s what Iâ??m pioneering is being the first game that will offer that feature.â?
Perry said the twist with his idea, which heâ??s patented, is that those gamers who choose to keep the small still image advertising window on at the bottom of the screen will be rewarded. Because the speed at which a player levels up in an MMO game is important–but is also a gameplay element that does not impact the balance of the game–2Moons will allow players who keep the advertising window on to level up faster than those who keep it off. Itâ??s this rewarding a player for advertising thatâ??s the basis for another innovation that will debut in this game.
According to Perryâ??s research, the business of microtransactions in MMOs is currently an $800 million global business that is being lead by Korea. Itâ??s that market that understands that the sale of virtual items canâ??t break the game, but can save people time and offer vanity items.
“I want to reward the people who our building our community.”
â??When you buy a virtual item, weâ??re going to do a search to see if any advertiser in real-time is willing to pick up the cost of that item,â? said Perry. â??That allows the advertisers to bid against each other to start picking up the items for these people. If you want this sword, it would put up a message and asks if you would like Coca-Cola to buy this item for you. The customer is happy because they get the item for free and Coke is happy because theyâ??ve had a positive exchange with you. This could radically change the concept of what virtual item sales are. If we can get enough advertisers that are willing to pick up the sales of in-game items then we can offer completely free games.â?
Perry said Acclaim will work with gamers, not against them, in the safe and secure sale of in-game items to other players. He said once a player buys an in-game item, he or she owns it. He said Acclaim will embrace this ownership and work to ensure all transactions flow seamlessly among gamers.
With the in-game advertising business booming, this unique approach could open up MMO gaming to a broader audience. The fact that the entire gaming experience would be free to consumers with no monthly subscription charges should open up 2Moons and other games to a much wider audience, including more casual gamers and more female gamers.
Perry is also going to reward the gamers who are out their trumpeting the title with friends and actively introducing new players to the universe. He will model this aspect of the game after the Las Vegas comp system, which rewards the whales who come to town and attract large crowds by offering free suites, free food and other perks.
â??They donâ??t really have that in the MMO world,â? said Perry. â??The more time and effort you put into the system, the more you will get rewarded. Being social is one of the most important aspects of MMO. Why donâ??t we reward the people who are growing huge fan lists or the people who are clearly helping other people? While games do reward you in the form of leveling up and finding new objects, I want to reward the people who our building our community.â?
Perry also envisions a network across all Acclaim MMO games that will allow players and friends to communicate across game experiences. The new business models for 2Moons will be applied to additional games. Perry and his team of consultants are already working on additional MMO games for Acclaim that are radically different from 2Moons in terms of story and gameplay. He thinks Acclaimâ??s vision is very forward-thinking for the videogame industry.
â??I think the game industry is going to move more into online,â? said Perry. â??Microsoft has proved with Xbox 360 how impressive their Xbox Live system is. Now Sony is rushing to try to catch up with them with PlayStation 3. And Nintendo is rushing to try to catch up to both of them. Overall, the online thing is not going to go away.â?
Perry doesnâ??t believe the future of gaming lies in more expensive consoles and games. Heâ??s not in favor of the recent trend to tack on an additional $10 for a next generation title or a special edition of a new game.
â??Iâ??ve always been a fan of getting our costs in line with Hollywood,â? said Perry. â??Weâ??re always talking about how weâ??re going to compete with Hollywood. We need to be the same kind of prices as Hollywood. Either a game should be the same cost as a movie ticket or the same price as a DVD. To say itâ??s going to be $60 and the next machine is going to be $70, to me thatâ??s going in the wrong direction.â?
He also believes Acclaimâ??s freedom from the retail industry is good for the future of gaming. The free digital distribution model that Acclaim will employ, which will not require any credit card number or any form of payment, is â??the worst news in the world for retailers,â? according to Perry. With its business model clearly defined as free games with advertising-based revenue, Acclaim and Perry are set to change the way MMO games are played in 2007 and beyond.