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MMO in Tights: Will DC Universe change console gaming?

SOE boss John Smedley speaks out.

Eurogamer That's one difference between the two games - are there others?
John Smedley

Most of the differences are very minor. We let you do some key rebinding on PC that actually you could technically do on the PlayStation 3, too. The differences mostly have to do with the interface. But gameplay? No, there are no differences - we made sure of that.

Eurogamer To clarify: is DC Universe cross-platform - can PC gamers play with PS3 gamers?
John Smedley

Technically speaking it is. However, the servers are separated, and largely they're separated for business reasons. Practically speaking, on the PC, you have to have a Station Account. On the PlayStation 3 you have to have a PSN account. Things are separated mainly for those reasons. Actually, up until very recently, internally, everybody was playing on one sever together and it's actually quite fun.

Eurogamer Why has it taken this long for a console MMO to appear?
John Smedley

Well I mean they're a lot of work! We had the headstart in that; we already did this once on the PlayStation 2 [EQ]. We did one that you actually patched to a memory card, so it was a heck of a tough job technically. It's just hard. We've got a lot of experience in this space, and that's given us the ability to stick with it and get it done.

Eurogamer Could a third-party publisher enjoy as much freedom on PSN as you, given your Sony affiliation?
John Smedley

It's funny because a lot of people get the perception that that's the case. But actually we submit just like every single other publisher to get tested - we have to go through the same QA every one else does.

What helps us is that we built the PlayStation Network in the first place. That has given us some advantages in knowing how a lot of the innards work. But all those things are available to the outside world.

Eurogamer Paying a monthly subscription to play a game will be a shock to the PS3 audience. How will you convince them?
John Smedley

The game has to attract them. A PS3 owner can put this [game] in, and if they don't want to make a commitment they don't have to. They can decline to the commitment after 30 days. If they like it they get to continue and subscribe.

With that kind of choice in there, that is going to turn a lot of heads. People aren't used to this kind of game, and we have to convince them, and I think it is harder to convince people with this sort of game than with a standard console game.

However, they're also going to see the advantages of a game like this: instead of DLC you get patches every few weeks and every few months you get big patches. And you get a lot more content than you do with a standard game where you might get DLC once or twice a year. You're going to be getting things every single month, and major content updates.

This is a game we intend to have live for, you know, five, ten years. Some of our games have been running for 12 years. We're in this for the long-haul, and we're there to support our customers.

Eurogamer Isn't that an old argument, that subscriptions pay for MMO patches and maintenance?
John Smedley

The question's relevant because this is going to be new to a console audience. We respect that. Just like the PC gamers, once they see the amount and level of content they're getting compared to a normal game with bits and pieces of DLC, they're going appreciate this a lot more.

This is a community, this is a vibrant thing that we need to continue to grow, and grow at a level that keeps people interested and paying us each month. At the end of the day the customer is paying our bills, and if we don't keep them happy then they don't.

I believe very strongly that it's the right tools for the right game; the right business model for the right game. You have to look at each game on its own. DC Universe is a triple-A MMO that had a triple-A budget - I can't exactly reveal what that is.

It will command that kind of subscription because we've got enough content in there, we've got enough features, that it can do that. This is a triple-A MMO and I think it does deserve that subscription level.

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Robert Purchese

Associate Editor

Bertie is a synonym for Eurogamer. Writes, podcasts, looks after the Supporter Programme. Talks a lot.

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