Game Development Reference
Interview with Richard Garriott: The Three Grand
Eras of Gaming—cont'd
I do not remember there being too much debate on whether that would
be the hurdle that killed the game. We already had so many people think-
ing the game dead for so many other reasons that would have been one
of many. When the game finally did launch, very few people complained
about the subscription fee. Afterward, it seems like the obvious right thing
to do because it sold so well. People subscribed for a short amount of
time, but the churn rate in these games that are popular is about nine
months. People are willing to pay six months to a year to sustain these
characters in these MMOs.
Q: As eras of gaming have evolved, how has the role of the designer as it
relates to game monetization evolved as well?
A: I look at it as a natural evolution to quality continuous engagement.
You look at the difference between a good book and bad book and a good
movie and bad movie. You can imagine the story of Lord of the Rings
could have easily been made in to a longer movie. First off, it was a phe-
nomenally long movie, but you could have easily made it two or three
times longer and it could have been very draggy. Some people that are not
as big of fans could argue that it was still very draggy or that the direc-
tor's cut is draggy and carries on for too long. Any story can be told in a
way that continuously keeps you engaged or fails to completely continu-
ously keep you engaged. The same story but told by two different direc-
tors. The director that is keeping you engaged constantly is doing a better
job. That game, movie, or book will do better, even though they are telling
a similar story.
If each of us is going to write the same Lord of the Rings solo-player
game, the one that did a better job of continuous engagement would
ultimately sell better and dwarf the others. All this new era of continu-
ous microtransactions does is let us know that you have continually
kept someone engaged. It is a better feedback loop into the same result.
I believe it is giving the designer better tools to understand engagement,
which as a result, is closer to the monetization path. You have better vis-
ibility on user engagement.
What I find most interesting about this data-driven era is when you
talk about engagement, there is no question that these tools are all bet-
ter. When I hear people critical of our thinking or challenging us on our
thinking, they are almost universally challenging us on: “Good game