19 August, 2018
This week I want to talk a bit about some crazy ideas I’ve had in the past. I’ll start with one I proposed long ago when I was working on Meridian 59 at 3DO. The head of the company wanted people to make suggestions and proposals for games. So I wrote one that happened to touch on some ideas 3DO had at the time.
Let’s dig into my memory, shall we? It is a scary place.
Keep in mind that the year was 2000. EverQuest had just launched, the original, and was hugely successful in ways M59 wasn’t. This was important, because the 3DO leadership saw MMOs as a failure; if they couldn’t succeed at it, nobody else could! And UO was really quiet about their numbers, not letting anyone know it was a very profitable success story.
My idea was super radical at the time: A free-to-play game. A game that people could log on to play, but wouldn’t have to pay for. So where does the income come from? Advertising! But not in the way you might expect.
Instead of having ads, the MMO would be a giant advertisement for other games developed in the same world. There were grumblings of people working on a science fiction setting, and I proposed an MMO that would span the entire setting of the game. Events in the game would be catered and designed to coincide with releases of single-player game, keeping an enthusiastic playerbase and getting them excited about new games. So an in-game MMO event would maybe focus on a planetary invasions by an alien force, and you could play that planetary invasion in a FPS.
But I wanted to do a bit more, have the single-player games feed off of the MMO. Content in the game would be drawn from the MMO. Notable guilds, even players could be included in the story of the single-player game, making them more invested into the game, more eager to spread word about the game to friends since they were in it! Thinking now, you could have the single-player game send info to a server to influence the MMO as well. The number of people completing the game, for example, might affect something in the MMO.
Now, from a business perspective this probably wasn’t the best idea. In fact, the VP of Engineering dressed me down a bit, criticizing me indirectly saying that a game has to be profitable. But interestingly enough, 3DO had a patent for digital items that would “transform” into other things as they were taken from one game to another. So the idea of selling digital items wasn’t too far from people there. Would have been interesting to pioneer the free-to-play model during the EverQuest era.
Although, given 3DO’s history with MMOs, that probably would have ended up a disaster… But it’s fun to think about!