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Former Mythic boss explains EA split

Mark Jacobs talks past, present and future.

Mythic co-founder and former CEO Mark Jacobs has shed some light on why he left the famed MMO developer following owner EA's decision to merge the studio with BioWare in 2009.

Jacobs, who was lead designer on Warhammer Online and Dark Age of Camelot among many others, told Eurogamer today that he felt there was no place for him in EA's plans for the studio.

"Let me be very clear about this," he explained. "John Riccitiello is the CEO and it's his company. They bought Mythic. JR has the right to do whatever he wants. I will never look at him or say publicly 'why would you do that, bla bla bla?' That's not my job.

"They made a decision on a direction they wanted to go and obviously, as we put out in our joint statement, that wasn't a direction that had a role for me, or at least the role that I wanted. It really is as simple as that. Or at least publicly. Whatever went on behind the scenes, whatever we talked about, I have no intention of sharing that."

While it's clear the two parties didn't see eye to eye, Jacobs insisted that the split was civilised.

"One thing I'll say publicly about EA, they have been very good in what they've said post-departure regarding me. Similarly I've been good about what I've said about them post departure.

"Did I agree 100 per cent with them? Of course not. Did they agree with me 100 per cent? Of course not. If they did I'd still be there."

Jacobs announced his new start-up last week, City State Entertainment, which plans to focus on mobile and social games. According to Jacobs, it's a side of the industry he planned to explore while still at Mythic.

"In my last conversation at EA with my former partner, I told him that I had been racking my brain for weeks on how we could get into a space that I thought was going to explode. I'd seen what Zynga was trying to do, and I could see where the industry was going. I'd spent that last weekend trying to figure out where we could go as EA with Mythic properties.

"Y'know, it's funny. I came up with a really good plan, and then there was my departure. It's ironic that two years later I'm able to do what I wanted to do then - which was to get into this [social gaming] space."

He admitted that he's aware City State isn't the only new start-up looking to get in on the social gaming boom.

"It's a great space for guys who either want to self-fund like I am or who are not as willing to go against all the big boys and compete in the console or MMO space. For us, whether it's iOS or Android, tablet, PC or browser-based - we're looking at all the things that a small team can do, turn around relatively quickly, and if we do our job right, be successful."

They key to making City State's titles stand out in such a crowded field, he argued, will be hard work, patience and perseverance.

"You have to be willing to put something out and - I hate cliches - let it grow organically. You have to be willing to keep up the work even though maybe you're not seeing the return right away.

"Two of the best examples are EVE Online and Angry Birds. When Angry Birds came out it wasn't as if everybody immediately rushed to it and said they had to have it. They didn't.

"The same with EVE. When EVE came out it wasn't considered a success. It barely sold in the US. But the CCP guys did an unbelievable job and kept working on the game and doing the things they need to do, and turned it into a success.

"That's part of what we have to be willing to do here," he continued. "No matter what game we put out, as long as we believe in it, it's okay if it doesn't sell right away. You keep pushing it, you keep doing the things you need to do, you keep working on it.

"If you do that, and do a lot of the viral stuff that I think you can still do on these devices, then I think you have a good chance of success. And I'm willing to take that chance. I'm willing to fund the studio for quite a while to make good games and see what happens."

And what if the smartphone gaming bubble bursts? Jacobs conceded that that's a distinct possibility, but City State would be well placed to weather the storm.

"It's not like all of a sudden people are going to toss away their iPhones and go back to using their phones from the '90s. Same with the tablets. I don't have to worry about the mobile space imploding. Unless people decide to stop using their phones altogether, there will always be space for a developer who can create something that people want. If we do a good job, we'll be successful."

City State plans to release its as-yet-unannounced debut title before the end of the year.

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