Game Development Reference
Interview with Richard Garriott: The Three Grand
Eras of Gaming—cont'd
to talk to a few major distributors. They would talk to some of the big-
gest companies like EA and the biggest aggregators of other products.
That meant a relatively small company, like Origin, was always in the
top ten but usually at number ten. Target would say, “We don't want to
talk to the tenth largest company; if you want us to carry your product,
you have to sell it through one of these other distributors.” Suddenly that
was the writing on the wall for, “We're in trouble.” That means margins
start getting cut. EA and others try and muscle you out and start buying
end-caps, making it harder and harder to let the small people in on
purpose. It's just business. Ten years of growth of opportunities then ten
years of squashing that down into a handful of key distributors.
Now you look at the MMO space from around 2000 to around 2010. It
is only ten years, but the same cycle, first five years lots of new compa-
nies. Origin was one of the very first. Blizzard did not come out with their
first MMO until five or six years after Ultima Online . They are the last
big company that joined the fray and after that began the consolidation.
A lot of companies were either bought up or pushed out of the distribu-
tion capability. We started in about 2010 at the start of this new social and
mobile phase. We're already a few years into it.
An argument can be made that if the second era took half as long as
the first, this era might take half as long as the last, in which case we are
already halfway there. We are already at the beginning of the consolida-
tion phase. You look at it and the earliest movers, like the Zyngas and
Playfishes of the world that started a little before 2010, many of them have
seen billion-dollar evaluations, which no MMO company has ever saw.
A lot of them have already been bought up. Playfish was bought by EA
and now newer companies like ours are looking at a distribution pinch.
A user might say, “The Internet is the great equalizer; all you have to do
is put something up on the app store and it'll do great.” This is not true.
The ability to be in front of the users' eyeballs is still a foundationally
limiting problem that requires marketing or distribution. It's a different
form of marketing and distribution just like the previous era, but we're
already now at point where we are trying to scale quickly.
When people talk about the great new open field, compared to MMOs
and solo-player games, there's certainly tons of opportunity in this space,
but compared to three years ago, it's already reducing quickly.