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Jun 21, 2006




I find the deal somewhat ironic, considering EA could've had VUG a few years ago before WoW exploded into a global phenomenon. For Mythic, while I understand the negativity of some of the blog posts, could this really be a bad thing? They'll have a much bigger budget and more importantly access to licensees they simply wouldn't have landed as Mythic (stand alone). Having never played a Mythic game, I'm curious...do you think the platform of Camelot and Warhammer is robust enough that, with a better licensee powering the universe of characters, Mythic could really contend in the MMO space?

Here are my thoughts on the deal if you're interested:



The folks at Mythic are world-class and very smart. I have confidence they are doing what's right for their company and the properties they're working on.

There are also many smart, dedicated people at EA. But from my experience, EA is not set up (corporately or culturally) to be a successful MMO operator. Ultima Online has stuck around as long as it has and done as well as it has in spite of EA's machinations, not because of them. Majestic, Earth and Beyond, Motor City Online, and (most of all) The Sims Online are cautionary tales -- carcasses of games that might have done phenomenally well in other hands, but which were vivisected in the corporate creativity-grinder of EA. Many other internal MMO projects (including several abortive successors to UO) have met the same fate there.

Ultimately I agree with Greg Costikyan as reported above. His analysis at least has the benefit of repeated historical accuracy. If Mythic brings out Warhammer Online on time and on budget, and manages to secure at least, say, 1M subscribers, they'll likely be left alone -- for a while. If not, well, EA is practiced at carrying out "nights of the long knives," a fate that has befallen many otherwise successful teams in that organization in the past.


Two bad tastes that taste bad together...

Actually, EA would be a good move for Mythic. It gives them financial support.

It's a bad move on EA's part, however. Mythic is a B grade developer. More importantly, Warhammer is not a AAA franchise, and won't hold pull even remotely competitive numbers compared to the Warcraft franchise it's trying to best.

I believe EA is once again testing the waters to see if they can be in the black, online. My bet: they bought Mythic and Warhammer cheap cheap cheap.


Warhammer is not a AAA franchise

If thats the most important aspect, perhaps they should make a Sims online game instead. Oh, wait... :)


You never know... And dats da fact, jack.

If any of us had predicted, a year or so before WoW went live, that it would be as phenomenally successful as it has been.. we'd'a been called nutsy-cookoo or something less kind. C'mon... an MMO based on an RTS? Yeah, the series had been successful, sure... but it was kinda... funny and offbeat. It used humor and had something of its own original mythos; i.e., it wasn't linked to Tolkien or CS Lewis or Asimov or Star Wars. No franchise to bring in the ignorant masses.

And... say what? The graphics are going to be kinda... cartoony??!! You expect die-hard role-players to lay out $15/month to gank with a TOON? NO F'IN WAY!!! The graphics have to be REALISTIC? Like Everquest, but, you know... more. Betterer. Truerer. Cartoony? Dead, dead, dead. Before it leaves the box.

OK. Maybe it'll do as well as EQ. Maybe it'll break the 1 million mark. But 2 million? Never...

It's fun to prognosticate, yeah. And I'd love to see a great Warhammer MMO. You've got some excellent opportunities for multi-team stuff with the various Tribes; natural grouping and tactical issues that come up in the Mech setting, etc. Could be a ton (ha-ha) of fun.


I always liked Mythic as a developer. Until WoW they probably had one of the most trouble-free launches of an mmo ever (imo).

Granted, I left DAoC I don't know how long ago, so I really don't have the benefit of having seen the place lately.

In any case, I'm not worried about Mythic pulling off a compelling mmo version of Warhammer. My concern will be over how EA treats their latest acquisition.


Jason> I'm curious...do you think the platform of Camelot and Warhammer is robust enough that, with a better licensee powering the universe of characters, Mythic could really contend in the MMO space?

Jason -- Not sure what you mean by "better licensee powering the universe of characters", so I'm not sure how to answer this.

On the general question of Mythic + EA = what? Mythic and Jacobs know what they're doing in this space much more than EA. DAoC was great at its moment -- plenty of eye candy, good balance, careful themes, great PvP. Maybe it still is - I haven't seen the #s lately, though, and I imagine it has lost plenty of subs to WoW. On the basis of my limited knowledge, and without knowing about the numbers, I can see why EA would be interested in doing this. I'm not sure what the story is with Mythic, but one can speculate, and there's plenty of good speculation out there.

I'm really not into industry predictions -- I leave those to Richard, Mike, and Jess, who do that well. But from my seat in the peanut gallery, I'm not sure what EA can do /is willing to do make Warhammer a better MMOG. I think whether Warhammer gets the massive numbers of subscribers depends mostly on what Warhammer offers, which is an unknown. If we're talking just about brand strength in the US, I think Blizzard's brand had a lot more punch than Warhammer, so they'll have to really market this loudly and make the game deliver something substantial if they want to play against where WoW and the rest of the pack will be at release.



I think he meant "or," not "ee" ...as in licensor.



What did he mean by "universe of characters"?


We all know that EA's business development strategy has been to buy into a market by acquiring studios and IPs, rather than fostering internal development. It seems EA finally offered enough money, or some internal situation at Mythic finally obliged Mark to accept, or both.

As an ex-EA veteran myself, and a long-term admirer of Mythic, I believe the essential difficulty will be cultural. Mythic has quite happily been successful as #2. DAoC was never as successful as EQ, but it was clearly the #2 choice, and did very well for itself.

I can't see anyone but a clueless EA exec believing that Warhammer will overtake WoW as the leading MMORPG. However, it might achieve the #2 spot, given each of the competitors has weaknesses (LotR, Conan, Tabula Rasa, EQ2, and Vanguard).

The real question is whether EA management will have high expectations that Warhammer can't possibly meet. At EA, if you don't produce hits on a regular basis, your days and ultimately your studio's days are numbered. I'm very sure Warhammer could have succeeded by Mythic's standards pre-merger. Whether it will have enough success to please EA execs is another question entirely.

There is also the issue of how to transplant the PC MMORPG success story into console platforms. A number of companies are throwing considerable money at this issue in hopes of striking the next MMOG motherlode. Does EA have Mythic earmarked as their entry into this sweepstakes? If so, that's another high risk situation for Mythic.

As we all know from Origin Systems and Westwood Studios, when the expectations of EA execs are not met, studio execs are transferred and ultimately removed, new projects are micro-managed right into the ground, and after next nearly certain failure, the studio itself is slowly dismantled. There is no shortage of other divisions within EA who want a share of Mythic's MMOG action. They wait in the wings like hungry jackals, ready to pounce on each misstep by the guys and gals in Virginia.

My hat is off to Mark Jacobs for stepping into the alligator pit. I wish him the best of fortune. He's a fighter: he could win this one too. It's all about setting expectations in Redwood Shores.


I miss one major point in this discussion: Daoc was no mmo like all the others out there. It should be discribed as a pvp mmo, and can not be compared to all pve focused mmos (raiding games). It was a pvp raiding game, the pve contend later introduced via expansions was hated by a majority of the player base, and trivialized after about a year. Nobody played daoc for pve.
The teamsize in daoc was much much smaller than it is in all other mmos. There was no need for big guilds, the top guilds never had more than 15-20 active members at one time. In games like wow all guilds who want to play a part in the raiding game have about 70-100 active members at the same time. The teamsize is in my opinion an extreamly important factor for establishing a guild culture. The game was much more sport-like and personal than the big raiding mmos. Big guilds who started daoc nearly all split up and smaller guilds emerged. Its just more fun to play in smaller teams, it must have some reason that football is not played with 40 palyers at once. The amount of "work" required to form a good daoc team was in no way compareable to the pain it is to run a successful wow raid. An i have done both. Beating human armies is still much more challanging than beating software routines.

Warhammer is expected to be the next pvp mmo - at least by the daoc community - continuing this genre daoc introduced. Daoc subcriptions were about 250k in its best days, and currently about 125k. Daoc had a 25% market share at its start (excluding linage).

Warhammer seems to have much more in common with battlefield than with wow. I can hardly imagine that EA will suceed if they want to turn warhammer into a pve mmo.
There is a good demand for a well made pve mmo, at least the old daoc community will give it a try. I hear this from every ex-daoc palyers who plays wow currently. Of course, this is not enough to make the game a success, but maybe the share of pvp interested mmo palyers remained the same?

some possibilities ...
- EA just wants to make its own standard pve mmo (console?), and couldn't find something better than the warhammer licence?
- They think there is a market for pvp mmos, and they develope warhammer like it was originally planed?
- "Battlefield: Warhammer" series, followed by "Battlefield: Warhammer 40k" series 1-2 years later ;)? without all mmo elements? The possiblities for expansions without leaving the current warhammer universe are numerous.


Another possibility: EA has no comprehension of MMOs at that level of detail, and just wanted to buy people who have made a MMO. I don't think you could successfully explain the difference between WoW and DAoC to them, given a full 24 hours and a bucket of cookies. They can't figure out why every single MMO they've EVER tried to make and/or publish -- UO, Majestic, Motor City Online, Earth & Beyond, The Sims Online, and however many UO2s they've cancelled by now (what was the last count, 5 all told?!) -- has failed to receive high critical marks or high player acceptance. They are like a child who abuses their puppy and can't understand why the puppy dies, so goes out and buys a new puppy, only to repeat the cycle. They shouldn't be allowed to touch MMOs PERIOD, but they have the money to throw around, so eventually everyone gives in to their offers.

I think that's the worry with EA buying Mythic. People aren't worried that EA will try to turn Warhammer into a Warcraft clone (irony department calling...), but rather that EA will take all of the creative spark and talent that makes up Mythic, and squeeze it until it dies.


>>Another possibility: EA has no comprehension of MMOs at that level of detail, and just wanted to buy people who have made a MMO.

They did that before, in 1999; they bought Kesmai from News Corp. For that matter, they hired several people to Origin/EA that had extensive MMO experience and who revived UO from being stalled at 110k subs for 14 months to moving over 220k subs in less than a year.

So what did they do with all that talent? They dismantled Kesmai (losing the best talent in the process), chose Westwood's completely inexperienced team and their Earth and Beyond proposal over the highly experienced Wing Commander Online team for political reasons, decided that Redwood Shores knew more abut online than anyone and then proceed to drive away enough talent to create both NCsoft/Austin and Sony Online/Austin almost overnight.

I haven't seen that EA has learned anything from theri mistakes in the seven years. I suspect others here are correct: If Warhammer doesn't perform at 500k to 1m subs, the 'hammer' comes down.

One thing you can be sure of, though: Mark Jacobs made sure his people were taken care of in the sale. And that's a good thing.


Arnold is likely correct in his summary. Based on what I have read about EA and the small amount of work that I have done with people from EA it is clear to me that they have a strong culture that is very good at delivering one time sale games at a profit to the organization.

Any organization with a successful culture will try to impose these cultural rules on everyone who is inside it. And they should, these rules are the key to the organizations success. Throw them away and you get bankruptcy, not a brave new world of creativity.

But as we all know MMORGPs follow a different set of rules to be successful, have different business models, management issues and development cycles. It is only natural for EA to try and force their prior efforts into their successful model and kill them as a result.

Very few companies can operate with two distict cultures inside one organization, though it is sometimes possible to seperate the two organizations enough to allow this to happen. Maybe EA will be able to pull it off, its certain that they are going to try, but it will be a difficult task for both EA and the folks at Mythic. I wish them all luck.


Arnold: "DAoC was never as successful as EQ, but it was clearly the #2 choice, and did very well for itself."

DAOC was never second. When DAOC launched, UO still had I think 250-400K subscribers worldwide. At its peak, without knowing internal numbers of course, I don't think DOAC ever broke 500K subscribers.

Final Fantasy XI broke a million. It's over three years old and still has over 500K subscribers. Guestimating, WoW currently holds the most US subscriptions, then FFXI, then CoH/CoV or SWG.

SWG broke over 600K subscribers in the States alone.

Spur & others: "If thats the most important aspect, perhaps they should make a Sims online game instead. Oh, wait... :)"

The difference between the Sims and Warcraft franchises going massively multiplayer versus Warhammer is that the Warhammer development team, Mythic, has a proven track record. And guess what? That track record makes them a B developer at best. Their games don't sell.

As for the franchise itself, all genres included, Warhammer has never produced a million+ seller. Every Sims title and every Warhammer title has been a million+ seller.

Folks, to say, "oh, we have no idea it will do well," is false. We have the numbers.

TSO was an aberration, statistically. Looking at it from a design perspective, it's painfully obvious why it failed.

Looking at Warhammer from a design perspective, it sounds viable. And you could probably say the same about every other Warhammer title to date. The reality is, when consumers are standing at the retailer, Warhammer is the RC Cola of fantasy franchises. It may taste the same, but people still prefer Coke.


Just FYI, in case anyone didn't notice: Mark Jacobs visited Scott's blog and posted the following:


# MBJ says on June 22nd, 2006 at 11:38 am:


Just wanted to drop by and say a few things:

1) EA is unbelievably commited to WAR. There is almost 0% chance of it getting cancelled, changed, etc. unless we screw up at Mythic. Frankly, the only reason it is not 0% chance is that I don’t believe in either 0% or 100% chance of just about anything.

2) I know I’ll be accused of spinning things but if Rob and I didn’t believe that WAR will have a better chance of being a better game than it was with Mythic being independent, we wouldn’t have done the deal. I know that comment will be meant with a ton of skeptical laughter (at the best), outright howls and possibly tons of rotten fruit, all I ask is that you give us a chance to prove it.

3) The quote from me regarding protecting Mythic and its employees was and remains true. That’s why we did this deal now and never did a deal in the past 12 months with anyone else. We turned down even higher offers for Mythic because of the commitment that EA made to my teams, Warhammer and Rob and myself. As I’ve said elsewhere, we are not contracting Mythic anywhere but rather, expanding it.

4) In terms of Dgate, I took back DGate a little while back and Darrin and I are running it free of charge to the players.

5) Again, I know that nothing that I say here (or elsewhere) will be believed by everyone but just give us a chance to show that we knew what we were doing.



to Hikaru:
DAOC was 2nd at its release in US+EU market. Not for a long time, about half a year until SWG came out. UO was about the same that time. SWG never hat that much subscriptions - their best was 300k, daoc 250k.
SWG current: ~170, DAOC current: ~130, UO current: ~140 (50% from Japan)
If you have different sources, plz share.

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