Blizzard has reached new levels of success with World of Warcraft, but there are new challengers in the free-to-play realm. Richard Garriott thinks that his company Portalarium can challenge the Blizzards of the world, noting that Zynga has become a threat to them.
“The only reason Zynga exists is because people like EA, people like Blizzard, failed to step in,” said Garriott, adding of social games, “Right now, where those worlds seem very distinct, and very separate, and very noncompetitive, they’re targeting completely different users – I think within a few years, you’ll see that’s not really the case. I think you’ll see that the quality level that comes up through the casual games will rival the quality of traditional massively multiplayer games and then, because it’s not something you have to subscribe to, because it’s something that virally spreads, and especially because, as people churn out of a big MMO they’ve got to go somewhere. And if you’re a company that does only one big MMO, odds are they’re churning out for somebody else.”
“The only reason I left EA is because EA didn’t want to make MMOs,” he added. “I started again with a company called Destination Games, and we sold it to NCsoft. The only reason I left NCsoft – or, more complexly, the only reason a whole group of us left NCsoft- was because we started a casual gaming portal called PlayNC. We had built a whole suite of products for it and NCsoft said, ‘You know. We’re making so much money on MMOs, we don’t really believe in this casual stuff.’ So we all split off to form Portalarium. That’s the only reason that I’ve switched, and more importantly, the people who are at the big companies of a previous era very commonly miss these shifts. The only reason NCSoft exists is because the big solo player gaming companies failed to fill the gap once MMOs were discovered. None of them had the faith enough to continue it and allow new players to step in.”
“The only reason Zynga exists is because people like EA, people like Blizzard, failed to step in,” Garriott theorized. “And so each of these major upheavals allows new, major corporations to come in and fill that space, which I think is to the great detriment, and then leaves the big companies of the previous iteration actually trying to catch up. And so I think that the challenge for Blizzard, when you are that good, when you’re making that much money, when you’re that much on top of your game, in the current era, it’s actually fairly difficult to spend money towards things that seem to not be as profitable, that people don’t understand as well and that you don’t imagine could possibly beat how well you’re doing at the top of your game in the current era. And so that I think is a risk for anyone, including Blizzard, that they will elect not to tackle that one, because they don’t see that it’s important and relevant.”