MMOs do mature, but how many people care years after they walked away? It's a conundrum all MMOs face: how to tempt people back? Age of Conan has an enviable solution: a Hollywood movie.
Conan the Barbarian airs this August with Jason Momoa as the titular (in more ways than one) lead. To coincide, Age of Conan will launch a Savage Coast of Turan adventure pack. This opens a new outdoor 'playfield', a Tier 4 raid and group and solo instances. You'll meet characters from the movie 20 years on, unravel epic storylines and loot some of Age of Conan's most powerful equipment.
Is Age of Conan, three years on, ready for a second coming? Eurogamer put executive producer Craig Morrison in the chair.
Eurogamer: Can Conan the Barbarian (the film) save Age of Conan?
Craig Morrison: First of all I'm not sure we need saving! We wouldn't still be running the game with the size of team and the operation that we have if the game wasn't perfectly viable, profitable and doing well. We still have a sizeable team working on the game, we are still adding new content - we've added as much new content this year already as any of our other competitors and we're only going to do more for the rest of the year.
We invested a lot of money in upgrading the technology for Age of Conan last year. We had a gap at the end of last year after the [Rise of the Godslayer] expansion launched, up to January this year; we weren't really pushing out as many updates because we were focusing on upgrading the Dreamworld technology that underpins the game: the server technology, the infrastructure, the stability and the performance of the rendering engine, and making things more accessible for a wider variety of hardware.
"Jason Momoa plays Conan really well, and it fits with Howard's original stories."
We really feel that 2011 is an opportunity to grow and get customers back with the attention from the movie and the new content and changes. We are in a position to take advantage this year. We've never seen it as saving the game but as an opportunity to push the game.
It's well known there was an awful lot of people that tried Age of Conan at launch that probably haven't tried it since. It makes sense for us to invest so they can see how far it has come in the three years since it launched. It's definitely an opportunity.
Eurogamer: Have you seen the film?
Craig Morrison: We saw a version about a month ago that was only about 60 per cent done. I really enjoyed it. What pleased me the most was the brutal feel, the fantasy realism we aim for in the game. I saw so much similar art direction.
They've been trying to make The Conan movie for many, many years. It was actually first mentioned to me before I worked on Age of Conan some five years ago.
Eurogamer: Is Jason Momoa a better Conan than Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Craig Morrison: That will be an impossible question to answer! It's going to be subjective for people of different ages and different types. I'm going to sit firmly on the fence with that one. Jason Momoa plays Conan really well and it fits with Howard's original stories. They've done a really good job of translating that feeling onto the big screen.
Eurogamer: Whose idea was putting film content in Age of Conan?
Craig Morrison: It was always in the plan, so as soon as they started filming we started talking to Paradox. Once they confirmed they were looking at the fall of this year we started on production. We were provided the script by Paradox and found how we could tie it in. It's a challenge given that our game is set some 20 years after the events in the movie.
We're working with Lionsgate closely to do as much cross-promition as we can. When there's a Hollywood movie coming out you want to get as much attention for the game as you can. Even just having the movie out there and a huge advertising campaign behind it - it does great things for the game.