Destination : Korea
EA aims gun at foot and squeezes trigger
When Electronic Arts cancelled their planned sequel to Ultima Online and all but closed down the Origin studio just days before former designer Richard Garriott's non-compete contract ran out, it was widely seen to be shooting itself in the foot. After all, they had handed Garriott an entire game design team on a silver plate just as he came out of a year-long rest from the gaming industry. And it gets worse - EA's decision directly led to a deal between Garriott's new Destination Games and Korean behemoth NCSoft, who run the biggest massively multiplayer role-playing game in the world.
"Our plans for Destination Games began quite modestly", Richard Garriott told RPG Vault in a recent interview. "Robert and I planned to hire about five to 15 people for the entire first year. We expected to pay for the first year out of our own pockets, and to get enough ground work done to then go look for a bigger financial partner."
Then came the mass redundancies at Origin, which proved to be too much of a temptation for Destination to pass up. "We were suddenly presented with a deluge of extremely talented, first rate personnel that we didn't want to let slip away. This new opportunity radically advanced our time schedule for needing a financial partner. About the same time, Jeremy Gaffney, lead programmer of [Ultima Online 2], had posted on a fan site that the entire UO2 team was available, and Jake Song, creator of Lineage, found the post and flew down to Austin."
The rest, as they say, is history. NCSoft's Korean hit Lineage has more subscribers than western frontrunners Ultima Online, Everquest and Asheron's Call combined, and they are now working with Destination to try to bring that same level of success to America, and to create entirely new games. It could just be the perfect match. "NC dominates in Asia. They have 40%+ market share, they employ most all of the top developers available in that territory. To continue to grow they need to figure out the US market, how to make Lineage work here in a territory without game rooms and the business model and social model they imply. Likewise Destination Games has expertise in making successful games in the US and the west, yet Ultima Online has a very tiny number of subscribers in the territories where they have two million."
EA may have helped to create a massively multiplayer monster...