Lars Buttler, the founder and CEO of massively multiplayer online (MMO) game publisher Trion Worlds, has built his online company on a foundation of new genres of MMO game experiences. The first game out of the gate, RIFT, was able to earn back its production costs quickly. Trion Worlds’ second game, the real-time strategy title, End of Nations, is its first offering in the free-to-play space. And the upcoming release, Defiance, will be the company’s first foray into the first-person shooter MMO category. Butler talks about the role PC games will play in the evolving video game industry in this exclusive interview for dperry.com by John Gaudiosi of GamerLive.tv.
What were your goals when you created Trion Worlds?
When we started the company we really wanted to take videogames into the connected era. We looked at the industry and asked a lot of questions — Why can’t online games have the same quality of videogames? Why can’t these games, which are online and connected, be truly social, always-evolving, dynamic, experiences? Why can’t online games encompass all the big genres of videogames? We set out to answer all of these questions with our games.
What are the challenges in creating these types of games?
It takes a lot of R&D, a lot of time, and a lot of money, but the outcome can actually be phenomenal. We’ve shown that we can take videogames truly into the connected era with RIFT, which established our quality bar and has been a strong revenue generator. RIFT is now the largest Western MMO launch. It has the best conversion and retention rates of any MMO outside of World of Warcraft. Now we hope to replicate this success with the strategy and action genres.
What are your thoughts on the future of PC gaming?
It looked a few years ago as if PC gaming was falling off a cliff and that was mainly driven by piracy. However, with the advent of online games and connected games, piracy is no longer an issue. Of course, if you make simply standalone games it is a problem, but if you make online premium games it is one of the most exciting platforms. It is very easy to innovate on the platform. It is a global platform and we believe it has a tremendous future.
How big do you see the game industry becoming as we see growth in casual and online games?
Obviously, everybody loves games. It is one of the most fundamental needs and the more devices you have to pick up and play in every situation from the casual game that you can just sneak in for a short bite to a game that you might invest four or five hours a day in, is good for the industry. The more choices you have in devices and games, the more it will proliferate. Because more and more of these games become connected to servers and build real communities, that also is very, very good for the monetization and the business. It’s bad for the pirates, but it’s really, really great for the creatives. We see enormous growth rates in connected gaming. We think that connected gaming is growing everywhere. Trion plays on the deep end of connected gaming where you have hundreds of game mechanics and great production values, but the growth is everywhere.
How far away is the games industry from going mostly digital?
If you look at casual games, we’re already there. If you look at premium games, a game like Rift has a vast majority of its purchases already online. The audience is online and once you have the game you also play it online and the vast majority of your monetization is also purely online. So the growth is online and I think we see the models that you see in Asia and in many other parts of the world coming to North America and Europe with enormous speed.
And what surprises you about where the game industry is today?
I think it is surprising that a lot of the innovation is taking place in Asia today, where you have fantastic companies like Nexon and NCsoft that are dominating their markets in the East. But there’s no equivalent in North America and Europe of online premium content companies in the game space. That’s one of the enormous opportunities that we have seen as a company to focus on the premium online games space in North America and Europe. Of course, we see Asia as a great marketplace as well.