In a sector that is becoming more generic, where most newcomers can be described as “World of Warcraft with…guns/lightsabers/robots (delete as appropriate)”, everyone is searching for a way to topple the market leader.
Trion Worlds’ solution is to step away from what makes current MMO behemoths so popular, enticing gamers with original ideas and ambitious business models.
The company kicked off its campaign for creativity back in March with the worldwide launch of its first title Rift. While this MMORPG held true to the genre’s conventions, it added more variety with dynamic events that change the in-game world, whether players are logged in or not. The concept was well received and sales have been steady, with over 1m units shifted to date.
“Rift had a fantastic launch,” says John Burns, SVP and general manager for Europe. “In such a competitive market and as a new IP we had a challenge, but we have a passionate and dedicated team. With very few bugs and a rapid content release schedule, Rift was widely praised as the smoothest MMOG launch ever.
“We will remain focused on Rift through the rest of the year. We have at least two major content updates due by Christmas. We’ve also just instigated a global price drop and this will be backed up by a fresh new marketing campaign.”
THE NEW STRATEGY
But Rift isn’t Trion’s only focus. The publisher is raising awareness for its second title End of Nations, a title that merges real-time strategy gameplay with the community elements and scope of traditional MMOs.
And, amidst the wave of titles that have dropped subscriptions, Trion is keen to position this as “the world’s first premium free-to-play title”.
“Fans of full-priced RTS games will enjoy a fantastic gaming experience with End of Nations,” says Burns. “However, because of the free-to-play model, we also expect to see a lot of new players come into the genre. This will help to broaden the audience and reach lapsed RTS players.
“We aren’t looking to dominate anything here. We just want to deliver the best RTS and free-to-play experience in the market.”
End of Nations is due out in 2012 and is but a hint of the changes Trion wants to bring to the MMO.
Perhaps the most ambitious example is Defiance, an action MMO borne out of a partnership between Trion and SyFy.
Set in a dystopian future, the story of the game’s world will be told by a TV series and events depicted on the show will have repercussions in-game. Similarly, the company reports that actions from within the virtual world will influence the TV show.
“For the press, Defiance is a mouth-watering concept in itself: a multi-format MMO linked to a TV show where the interaction and story is intertwined, is something completely unique,” says Burns. “The reception so far has been great – our trade and PR partners have been enthused by the title.”
It may surprise people to know that, despite only launching their first product this year, Trion Worlds has been around since 2006.
Burns, like many of the company’s execs, explains that this is due to a heartfelt ‘it’s ready when it’s ready policy’. Rift established the firm’s technology and infrastructure, and now its team is building on that.
“We have developed a very robust multiplayer gaming platform at Trion and have a very talented group of developers,” he says. “And we will obviously look to grow the European infrastructure in the near future with key hires to match our triple-A products. We see this quality focus as one of our main competitive strengths that we will build on in 2012.”