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MMOABC Interviews Digenetics' CEO James Lin Part I

MMOABC is pleased to have the chance to sit down for an interview with James Lin, CEO of Digenetics, Inc., a San Diego-based firm that has developed a patented technology that enables digital characters to evolve on their own.

MMOABC: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today, James. Tell us a little about Digenetics and this unique technology.

JL: Thanks. It’s my pleasure to be here. Digenetics is a technology company with a mission to revolutionize the gaming industry. We believe we have a real game-changing technology. Our key patent enables digital characters to evolve truly unique physical, intellectual, and personality traits without the need for ongoing programming. What we’re particularly excited about is the impact our adaptive evolutionary learning technology will have on game design and ultimately, gameplay. Specifically, I’m referring to extended replay value, genre expansion, and broader consumer appeal.

MMOABC: What types of games is your technology better suited for?

JL: There really is no preferred“types” because our technology that enables digital characters to evolve is applicable to all types of games for all different genres - MMOs, casual, and hard-core. The key at this point is for us to work closely with game designers and developers on incorporating evolution into game design.

MMOABC: What games featuring Digenetics’ technology are on the horizon?

JL: As you know, the first game featuring our proprietary adaptive learning technology is Ultimate Soccer Boss™, which is a classic online soccer manager game with a major twist– players’ skills evolve as players gain match and tournament experience. Ultimate Soccer Boss is about to enter Open Beta, and we’re pretty darn excited about it. In addition, we are working on other exciting games that we have not yet formally announced. I will tell you that the second project in the works is a casual type game which has a premise that’s been done for a long time, but our game will be the first of its kind in this genre!

MMOABC: Let’s talk about Ultimate Soccer Boss a little bit. Aside from player evolution, I understand that there will also be a feature called Ask Advisor. Can you elaborate on that?

JL: Certainly. Ask Advisor is a very cool feature. It is essentially a recommendation feature that provides suggested formations and tactics for managers gearing up to play an important match or tournament. The unique aspect of Ask Advisor is that it will be powered by Digenetic’s technology, so the recommendations it provides are based off of simulated matches where player skills have been projected and evolved. Thus, unlike similar features in other games that are based solely on backward-looking or historical events, Ask Advisor provides a real glimpse at possible future outcomes. How cool is that?

MMOABC: Switching gears for a moment, I understand that Digenetics was awarded its key patent regarding digital character evolution back in April 2006. Why did the company remain under the radar until recently? Why now?

JL: That’s a great question, and thank you for asking. The simple answer is that in 2006, the industry simply wasn’t ready to entertain the notion of evolution in games. To try to force the issue would have been a fruitless exercise. In 2006, the industry was at the beginning of a new console cycle; casual downloadable games were hitting its stride; and free-to-play MMOs from Asia were gaining in popularity. The outlook for the industry was very positive with great anticipation and excitement. Fast forward to the end of 2008 -- conditions have obviously changed. Although the outlook for the interactive entertainment industry is still very bullish overall, the challenging financial and economic climate has forced all companies to reassess their respective product strategies.

MMOABC: What specific indications give you confidence that the industry will be receptive to a new innovative technology such as the one from Digenetics? Historically, new technology and innovation have typically met with resistance.

JL: Resistance to change is to be expected. That’s usually the way it is until there is a reason to change, and typically, the reason comes about either from inspiration or desperation. When you consider some of the major challenges currently facing the industry such as sky-rocketing development costs, fierce global competition, glut of undifferentiated products on ALL platforms– console, PC and online, and a rapidly emerging base of very casual and intermittent gamers who are typically not tech-savvy, easily discouraged and unwilling to spend their money on games, I’d like to believe the industry is probably a bit inspired and desperate. Thus, current industry conditions are actually ideal for Digenetics as publishers and developers of all sizes are now, in earnest, looking for ways to differentiate their products from those of their competitors. And on a broad level, that is what Digenetics provides developers and publishers– the ability to differentiate their products with superior, innovative, and massively entertaining games.

This concludes Part I of our interview with James Lin, CEO of Digenetics, Inc. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with James post-GDC.

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