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THQ's executive vice president of core games, Danny Bilson, has talked candidly about a lot of the company's woes, vices and virtues in a recent interview. One of the topics landed on Warhammer Dark Millennium switching from an MMO to a retail game and it was mainly because of the subscription model.
In yet another interesting interview from Ripten -- and hopefully one day we can get Michael Futter and the Capcom executives in a room together to sort out this Better Business Bureau and disc-locked content nonsense -- Bilson covers a wide range of topics, including going over the recent concerns of THQ being delisted from the NASDAQ if they don't get their share prices up to a $1 by July 23rd.
Bilson brushed off the delisting threats and instead focused on THQ's portfolio of games to come, especially over the next three years. He also verifies what GamaSutra recently wrote about regarding THQ finding stability in core franchises and working from there. Regarding core franchises, the topic of Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium entered the discussion and it turns out that the game's switch from an MMO to a premium retail title had more to do with investors and the subscription model than the actual game's state of development and core features, with Bilson saying...
"...it’s the business of subscription-based MMOs, and the state of that business right now. That’s what we were building: a big, ideally subscription-based, MMO. I can tell you that, unequivocally, certain people who have shipped MMOs, who saw this… a quote was, “that’s better than anything we’ve ever built.” That’s a quote from a room I was in, and that’s what kept the conversations going. There was a lot of, “how do we make this work economically, because it’s awesome?”
For those that don't keep up much with the MMO market, right now the big thing is free-to-play. If your MMO isn't Star Wars or TERA or World of Warcraft then a "subscription based" payment model will look frightening to most investors. Also keep in mind that in China alone the casual and free-to-play MMO market is worth an annual $6.6 billion dollars, according to GameIndustry.biz So moving away from the free-to-play market towards the fledging and ultimately unstable subscription-market would have put Dark Millennium in deep contention with the aforementioned subscription-based MMOs.
Based on what Bilson says of the game, it sounds like it may have been an MMO version of Space Marine, or potentially something closer to the likes of a Warhammer rendition of Vindictus.
Ripten wisely asked Bilson how a game like this, with five years of development under its belt simply switch to a retail-based, single-player game with multiplayer features, because as we all know there's a huge difference between MMOs and standard single-player games and it was asked if any of the MMO concepts would make the transition into this revamped version of Dark Millennium. Danny had a logical explanation for this...
Yes, and the reason is that there was a lot of innovation in that game. In particular, the shooting mechanics are real-time, not turn based. The content is absolutely incredible, and any time anyone ever had any doubts about it, all I had to do was bring them into the room and show them progress on the game. So there’s a tremendous amount of content that was built. At its core, the mechanics are very action based. Nobody has seen this before. We’ve never shown it to anyone. The team is incredibly excited, and this is the truth, about the new direction for the game.
My only reservation is that what's innovative in an MMO doesn't instantly translate into "super uber-awesomeness" for a single-player game. A good example of this, is that Vindictus, Guns, Operation 7 or Blacklight: Retribution as single-player games with multiplayer options would all be extremely trite and boring games. What makes them innovative is having single-player type features and functionalities on top of an MMO canvas. It will be very, very interesting to see how the development team makes the transition nonetheless.
You can check out the entire interview with THQ's Danny Bilson over at RipTen.