Frontline Marketing

Feature: An MMO Legend In A Pocket

Lauren Arevalo-Downes   |  

The MMO business has evolved quite a bit over the past decade. What was once the domain of subscription based titles aimed at hardcore players has become mostly free-to-play with larger audiences in mind. With that said, there was an even larger audience waiting to be tapped in the mobile sphere, and with that Spacetime Studios saw an opportunity.

Comprised of experts from the local MMO development community in Texas (including veterans from Sony Online Entertainment), Spacetime Studios was founded in late 2005 by videogame veterans Cinco Barnes, Gary Gattis, Jake Rodgers and Anthony L. Sommers.  In 2009, Spacetime formed a research division (ClockRocket Games) to investigate the development and publishing pipelines for mobile devices. They released seven small titles and after an aborted team-up with NCsoft (canceled when that company withdrew most of its North American initiatives) they took the technology learned from that project and others to create the world’s first 3D real-time mobile MMO. After working determinedly for several months without pay, they produced Pocket Legends.

“It is a 3D mobile MMO with a global server set,” described Spacetime co-founder Gary Gattis. “Most MMOs are 2D and the 3D ones I’ve seen are on localized servers with very poor performance; the server is in Japan or America and everyone has to connect through that. [Pocket Legends] plays over 3G, edge and Wifi on global servers. Android will play on that same server set, and then we’ll play on PC for those users as well.  And is the number one RPG on the iPad.”

Yes, though Pocket Legends is only available right now on iOS platforms like iPhone and iPad, it will be expanding out to Anrdoid and PC, making it the first cross platform MMO to be available on multiple mobile platforms and PC with all versions being playable WITH each other. It wouldn’t have been possible without the strong technology base supporting Pocket Legends, but it also came from user demand – many found themselves playing the game at home on their mobile phone and simply wanted the convenience of using a device that wasn’t running out of charge.

Choose your adventurer.

“Right now, iOS is primary, and Anrdoid is secondary and PC is tertiary. We’re talking to international distributors to get more exposure overseas,” said Gattis. “When asked if Spacetime was expecting that the high penetration of smartphones internationally would help give Pocket Legends exponential growth, Gattis candidly responded, “No idea, but that is certainly our hope!”

“Think, for a moment, about the appeal of having an MMO available anywhere at any time. It feels like a preview from the future, a time when your games will be with you no matter where you are. For now, Spacetime is in the enviable position of being the first-mover in its space, but they know that complacency is death for both MMOs and technologies, and they realize that they’re ahead in a field that will likely have many competitors very soon.”

“It’s always a good idea to innovate. We have a very powerful engine, and we’re in a brand new space, so it makes sense for us to make as much traction as possible before anyone else shows up,” commented Gattis. “We update the game on average every 1.5 days, so it’s a very current application.”

“Amazingly, the userbase for Pocket Legends has been established totally using word of mouth – no significant advertising spend has been made on the game yet. That will likely change soon, especially when they come to new platforms.”

“We’re exploring different marketing channels, all mobile. But most of our exposure has been through PRs, a couple trailers,” explained Gattis, who added about the new platform expansions, “It gives us cause to go back to some of the more traditional marketing channels, but with PC we’re able to do more of a brand marketing approach, with web banners emails, etc.”

“We’d say that Pocket Legends proves when you offer something good enough it sells itself… except that it’s given away for free. Yes, like most MMOs these days Pocket Legends is supported by micro-transactions and revenue generated from convenience items ensured that Spacetime’s employees don’t have to work for free anymore.”

“Because of the size of the market and the demographic, players are looking for free experiences; it brings in many more players to the U.S. and elsewhere,” said Gattis. “As you’ve seen, subscription based MMOs have been changing rapidly to micro-transaction – it’s just the way the winds are blowing.”

“We’re starting another game very soon. It will be mobile to start out, mobile plus other platforms,” said Gattis, who noted that they won’t wait to release it on Android and PC. “Once our technology is expanded to other platforms, we’ll be able to launch on them pretty much day one. Early next year we’re going to be talking about it more.”

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