Executive producer of sci-fi MMO optimistic about head-to-head battle with Skyrim follow-up

WildStar dev on Elder Scrolls Online competition: ‘Go big or go home’

The executive producer of new MMO WildStar is optimistic about the game’s chances against Elder Scrolls Online.

Commenting on WildStar developer Carbine Studios’ challenge of facing up to the existing install base of Elder Scrolls developer Bethesda’s last title, Skyrim, Jeremy Gaffney told PCR: “I think that Elder Scrolls is going to sell brilliantly.

“You’ve got that huge Skyrim crowd out there of 12 million people or something like that – it’s a crap-ton of people who love Skyrim, myself included, or who love the Elder Scrolls series. So they’re going to sell a ton of units, no question. If our game is good, and we get awareness, then we’re [also] going to sell a ton of units, no question.”

He suggested that the games’ attraction to different audiences would be mutually beneficial for both titles.

“Where Elder Scrolls is going to have a market is, no question, where they’re going to pull a whole bunch of those people who love Skyrim into the MMO market for the first time,” Gaffney explained.

“Nobody’s going to compete with them on that.

“Pulling people into the market for the first time is a really hard thing to do. It’s all about having a great IP or it’s about having innovation to lure them in, and that market is going to be theirs. And it’s a great market for them, because you play your first MMO for a long time, historically, if you’re good. You love your first MMO – it’s tough to leave.

“Then there’s the market who have played MMOs before and they’re looking for the next cool thing. That’s the market we’ve got to compete with, and we think we can because we’ve got a cool levelling game, and you’ve got to get in the game and it’s fun, but then when you’re top level you’ve got to have some cool stuff to do.

Gaffney said that the scale of Elder Scrolls Online’s potential install base wasn’t a cause for concern for the first-time developer.

“We think we hold up well, even though we’re kind of the David to the Goliath of that 12 million install base for Skyrim,” he said.

“We’re going to go head-to-head and see what we can carve out on our own from that market as well.

“Go big or go home, man.

“Any business you’re in you’d better be trying to the best – or what the hell’s the point of wasting 16 hours a day scrumming around being second best?”

Gaffney also commented on the legacy of Blizzard’s MMO World of Warcraft – on which approximately 20 of Carbine’s staff had served as seniors and leads.

“They came out with two clear visions, one of which was ‘do anything but WoW’ because they’d just crunched for six/seven years on WoW, and the second vision was ‘do WoW, but do it better’,” he said.

“The end result of those competing mantras has been quite good, which is that we’ve done some stuff that’s been done well before, but done it better, and then we’ve then just done some crazy stuff on top of that that’s never been done before. So it’s a good mix.

Gaffney added that one element of WoW – which was originally released in 2004 and continues to see millions of monthly subscribers – that Carbine was hoping to reproduce was the longevity of the game.

“WoW had a magic to it that has kept people for quite a long while, and new games have come out and by all reports have kind of struggled with that,” he commented.

“They’ve done all sorts of stuff; going free to play or different ways to try and recover that, but most games that go free to play get at best a dead cat bounce. They get a minor bump, but it doesn’t stick.

“So what is it that makes a game compelling enough that people play it for the long haul? For us, a lot of that is the differences, and some of it is the similarities of WoW – making sure you have good, hardcore raids and stuff to do at the top level so you don’t just get to the top level and go ‘what the hell do I do now? Well, I guess I’ll quit.’”

Gaffney hinted at his belief that WildStar could become the next MMO to last over a decade, referencing WoW and EVE Online, both of which were released a decade ago.

“The burden is on you as a developer where your game better damn well be good enough to earn that 15 bucks [in player subscription fees every month].

“I don’t think anyone else has proved how to do that with a new title in a while.

“WoW’s still chugging along, EVE’s still chugging along – there are subscription games out there making a whole lot of money, but what’s the game with the right level of longevity to earn it’s place to stand alongside them?

“That’s what the market hasn’t really seen. But the box sales, they’re there – the market is interested.

The WildStar beta is now open to customers who have pre-orded the game, ahead of the game’s release on June 4th.

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