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Flying Lab CEO says why console MMOs fail

7:58 AM on 08.17.2008

Russell Williams, CEO of Flying Lab Software (Pirates of the Burning Sea), recently sat down with me to talk about his future console game and the reason why MMO developers have such a hard time getting their games onto the Xbox 360 and PlayStation platforms. Williams deduced that the issue is all contained within the quick-paced “mindset” of hardware manufacturers and the astoundingly large royalty payments that are expected from them.

The problem is you get in this mindset of ‘I want it all to be done in two years’ and that’s extremely difficult unless you’re doing the exact same thing that you’ve done before. I think…with MMOs, [hardware manufactuers] need to realize how big these projects are.

The other thing is that manufacturers need to find the right pricing models so we can be on Xbox Live, so we can play on PSN and not give a ton of money in royalties. It makes sense for the singe-player SKU, or a multiplayer SKU like Call of Duty because that’s not the reoccurring model that our entire business is predicated upon…I know at one point we had to get three times as many users [to sign up and pay] to break even [on the investment.]

Williams didn’t talk numbers, but I wonder exactly how much Microsoft or Sony asks of its developers for MMO content? I’ve seen publishers or developers talk about the issue forever, and it seems like hardware manufacturers aren’t exactly getting the point as to why we only see rehashed MMO content on consoles. Why would a developer create a new game, and then contend with the fees? It’s much easier just to port Final Fantasy XI or recreate Phantasy Star Online.

The full interview with Russell Williams will be available later in the day.

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