Sony Online banking on the '3D-like' transformative power of the MMO

Sony Online banking on the '3D-like' transformative power of the MMO
Michael French

By Michael French

May 12th 2008 at 11:55AM

Format-holder's online games studio says massively multiplayer games can transform the industry the way 3D graphics did

Sony Online Entertainment reckons that massively multiplayer online games - traditionally seen as hardcore titles - will drive further growth of the games market.

Speaking to the Seattle Times, president John Smedley said that Sony Online Entertainment - the operation he runs which recently became part of Sony's PlayStation-managing Computer Entertainment division - is banking big on this philosophy when it comes to new titles, including its next game The Agency.

"I would say [MMOs are] getting more mainstream. If I were characterizing it, I would say think of the video-gaming industry five years ago. That's kind of where I think we're at. ... Five years ago, do you think Grand Theft Auto IV would have done $500 million [in opening-week sales]? To me, video games are just reaching the real mass-market now. That is going to translate to the MMO side of the business.'

Said Smedley: "We're not really the mainstream yet, but we're headed there, and I think it's titles like The Agency that are going to be the trailblazers in that direction."

"I think the word MMO is going to be like the word '3-D accelerated,' " added Matt Wilson, executive director of development at the firm's Seattle-based studio. Wilson founded the small four-man studio which Smedley later acquired to become SOE, which will soon boast a headcount of 120.

"I remember when we would go, 'Hey, this is a 3-D game,' but those things are gone. ... I think MMOs are exactly the same thing.

"I think that is the future of the gaming space — online community, the MySpace equivalent.

"Everybody wants to share things, everybody wants to show off their stuff, everybody wants to grow to that space. Definitely, we use the MMO word. I'm hoping over time that goes away and it's just like, this is 'The Agency,' this is what the game is and here's the features."

But, Smedley added, the team isn't thinking that 'every game will be an MMO'.

He said: "I think it's just like in the single-player or low multiplayer; it's just about the individual games. We think there's a huge, hungry audience waiting for that to come to the MMO world. It doesn't mean everything's going to be an MMO. I'm sure there's always going to be single-player games."