Garriott scolds Blizzard for ignoring Casual Games

Richard Garriott is often treated like a fly who won’t stop buzzing around your ear.  The MMO community as a whole can’t stand the guy because he, much like Richard Bartle (maybe it’s the name Richard?), seemingly can’t refrain from making comments that cause people to cringe and then verbally retaliate.  Well, he’s buzzing again.

Garriott’s most recent comment deals with the casual, social and free to play sects of gaming.  Garriott said the only reason he left EA was because EA didn’t want to make MMOs.  Perhaps in his world SWTOR and WAR are not considered MMOs.  He also said he left NCSoft because they decided not to pursue the casual route since they were making too much money off of MMOs and didn’t really “believe in this casual stuff.”

I could just stop there and my point would be proven, but let’s go on.

I completely understand paradigm shifts, but I also understand people who are obsessed with them.  Richard Garriott is one of those people who try to create shifts and becomes agitated when others do not follow suit. The following quote shows precisely what I’m talking about.

“The only reason Zynga exists is because people like EA, people like Blizzard, failed to step in.”

First, EA has put a lot of money into the casual market.  I do not follow it as closely as others, but I remember the acquisition of Playfish as well as a recent shareholders meeting saying something about focusing on that area.  Once again, Garriott is just miffed at people because they’re not shifting on his paradigm.

Blizzard, however, I know a lot more about.

To say that Blizzard has failed to move forward with the concept of casual gaming is truly ignorant.  Blizzard has done more for the casual movement than any other company with any sort of interest vested in MMOs.  Blizzard managed to take what was originally, for years, a “hardcore” genre of complex mechanics and reduce it to the least common denominator.  World of Warcraft is the definition of accessibility and as close to a casual friendly experience as it gets.  With one game, Blizzard changed every game released since.

As time goes on, Blizzard continues to increase accessibility by altering content design.  They’ve added microtransactions, debatably added freemium concepts, and have shown absolutely zero reservation about changing lore or anything that stands in their way.  That doesn’t sound like a company resisting the move to casual.

Given the obvious, Garriott’s problem then can only be with the fact that Blizzard manages to charge a subscription fee and maintain so many subscribers while still being the kings of casual MMOs.  That’s the beauty of the WoW model, and the reason why Garriott is only making himself appear like a has-been.  Blizzard has not ‘failed to step in’ — they’ve chosen not to because they have an alternative that works.

I may not like what WoW has become (preference) or how it has changed the world’s entire understanding of what it means to be a MMORPG, but I praise Blizzard for how they maintain the subscription model, true quality in their work, and manage to stand in stark contrast to people like Garriott who believe that Farmville is our future.  To say that Blizzard should feel threatened by those types of games must only make sense in a world where Garriott is still Lord British and, well, relevant.

Shoo, Fly, you can’t bother me.


  • Anyone who has played Ultima Online (or Asheron’s Call) knows what Garriot was talking about, and I agree with him 200%. And I’m a raider in WoW.

  • @The Merovingian: I played Ultima Online and I know all about Asheron’s Call, yet I have no idea what their relevance is to a statement where one would AGREE with Garriott.

    Garriott is saying Blizzard should feel threatened by Farmville and whatever game he’s making, because companies like Blizzard and EA should have moved in to fill that space instead of continuing with the games they’ve made.

    So you agree with Garriott because you know what he’s talking about… since you played UO and AC? I guess I’m totally confused.

  • Let’s see, who was it who said, after WoW became a huge success, something like you would have to be dumb not to be making MMOs, as they were money making machines?

    And when that failed to come to pass for him, who then jumped on the casual bandwagon after other companies had already succeeded?

    Meanwhile, you might as well scold Blizzard for not making a competitor for letting people steal a march in any other area outside their current genre focus.

    Anyway, once he is finished making ports of casino games, he is going to make a game that will be “more like Ultima Online than people might expect.” Given that I would expect any casual game from his company to be nothing like Ultima Online, I am going to guess that won’t be a tough claim to justify. Just make Lord British the dealer in the casino games and you’re almost there.

  • “Perhaps in his world SWTOR and WAR are not considered MMOs.”

    Are they in yours?

    Kidding (but not really) aside, taking the words of someone who seeks to ‘add’ to the fulfilling gaming space that is casual games seriously is pretty impossible. What’s next, Zynga providing me the definition of an MMORPG?

  • @Wilhelm Arcturus: He’s a walking contradiction.

    @Syncaine: They’re MMOs, just not MMORPGs. 😉 How’s that for splitting hairs?

  • We can talk Ultima all we want, but TR was even more ground breaking: setting the stage for W:AoR’s pq’s, Rift’s invasions, GW 2 and whatever follows.

    Garriot’s a genius. But we need to understand the difference between him being a visionary and him wanting to get some press.

    His WoW comment is firmly in the latter category. And kudos to him, it worked. Now just give me a finished TR.

  • World of Zynga! The next gen MMO!

    Gringar has started a raid! He needs 39 more friends to click his raid link on Facebook and the raid will be a success!!

    (This is the future, all other MMO’s are dooooooomed!)

  • “He also said he left NCSoft because they decided not to pursue the casual route since they were making too much money off of MMOs and didn’t really “believe in this casual stuff.””

    That’s an odd way to say he was fired because Tabula Rasa is among the most publicized crashes in MMO history.

  • Why even bother Keen this guy is increasingly becoming a professional internet troll.

    “”The only reason I left NCsoft – or, more complexly, the only reason a whole group of us left NCsoft- was because we started a casual gaming portal called PlayNC. We had built a whole suite of products for it and NCsoft said, ‘You know. We’re making so much money on MMOs, we don’t really believe in this casual stuff.’ “”

    Yea were you developing that while you were supposed to be working on TR?

  • I think you’re a bit harsh on Richard here. Yes, he has a style of discussions that not everybody likes, and yes, he can be a bit full of himself at times. But we should remember that he as been extremely influential on a whole genre of games during his time, and he still has important stuff to say from an outsider position every now and then. He just has a bit of this “professor hubris” that’s common with people who have been in such a position for some time.

    What? Garriot? Ah, forget about him, I meant Bartle, of course.

  • I have to wonder if this is a problem with word usage. “Casual” can mean different things to various audiences. I would bet most people agree with you Keen that WoW has adapted for a casual gaming demographic, but it still isn’t a Zynga level of accessibility. Maybe he is means ultra easy social distraction games? I am quite sure that we could list a handful of past MMO’s and start a pretty good flame war over which were “hardcore” versus “casual”.

    BTW I really liked TR other than it was broken; a sweet ride left blocks…

  • This seemed important to me:

    While Portalarium has worked on casual casino style games, Garriott assures us that one of his upcoming projects will be right for the core gaming audience, and will provide an experience “much more like Ultima Online than people might expect.”

    Let’s wait and see before we judge him. He may have some surprises up his sleeves. I didn’t forget he’s the guy who made the Ultima series and Ultima Online, and who wanted to make UO2 (and started on it), but was shut down by EA. So all he says in this article makes some sense to me.

  • I get plenty of spam on my facebook page from the Sims social game so EA definitely made a move into that realm. I guess there is no social WoW on facebook meant to suck your friends into whatever task you need help with, but I wouldn’t doubt if someone were working on it.

  • UO will always remain the standard by which I judge any MMO. It sucked me in so hard, I couldn’t do anything but think about it night and day. Determine on you own if that is a good or bad thing…

    Got to agree with @Jim and @The Merovingian. UO was a virtual world, mimicking reality with a fantasy twist, unlike today’s theme park “MMOs”. People who experienced that for the most part hate and/or despise theme parks MMOs. The only reason I play them is to game with my friends. Unfortunately, to create a AAA virtual world MMO would be way to risky in today’s current economic environment. I still hold out hope that someone will eventually see this void and attempt to fill it.

    What I find funny is UO was super hardcore. I guess one could casually play a crafter, but I doubt they would find much success.

    Garriott for some time now has been focused on browser-based games. He finds more potential in bringing online gaming to the masses.

  • It’s still under development. Some might even say alpha stage development because core features are still being implemented but Xsyon still looks like a promising game I have kept my eye on. They have technically “released” the game and I don’t really blame them. They’re a small team and most likely are low on money.

    What they are building is a world. When you cut down a tree it’s gone and doesn’t respawn, instead new trees can grow and be planted elsewhere. Bringing lots of supplies from one place to another will involve traveling with a cart.

    I haven’t seen any sort of free trial though, yet. I think I would really need a free trial to try out the game. I’m just too low on money myself at this point.

  • @JJ: UO is the only reason I care about what Garriott says. If he was just some random guy, I would have ignored him.

    Don’t make this about UO, though. I’ve played in virtual worlds since the day the terminology was first used. That does not change the fact that Garriott has turned a 180 on his past accomplishments and now chastises others for not following.

  • @Keen: Garriott doesn’t like the trajectory of AAA MMOs and I’d tend to agree with him. He just speaks his mind and doesn’t care about hurting feelings. From a leader that is not a bad quality. Now I hear you about him maybe holding a grudge against others. He clearly feels the major-market gaming community has turned its back on him.

    Regardless, the crappy casual things Garriott is working on now doesn’t seem like anything many people here find very interesting or exciting. But, maybe in time we will.

  • @JJ Robinson: I don’t like the current trajectory of AAA MMOs either, but Garriott isn’t providing any solution to that problem. Read what he’s saying. He’s saying that AAA MMOs in general are not the way to go anymore.

    Garriott wants Blizzard to make social-casual games like Farmville and chastises them for having not done so already.

    He’s not saying that themepark MMO’s are bad and we should return to the ways of Ultima Online. He’s saying we should have already embraced the ideals of facebook gaming. Ironically, then he mentions making a game like UO. Everything he says is a contradiction. EA doesn’t make MMO’s, NCSoft should abandon MMO’s because they make too much money, he’s making casual-social games and porting Casino games but says he making a game like Ultima… it’s bs.

    Thankfully the major-market gaming community -has- turned their back on him. The day the major-market gaming community embraces social-casual games is the day I’m done with gaming and will start blogging about something else.

    Let social-casual games be for the facebook masses. They’re a larger market than us anyway. I hate the idea that we all have to conform to that methodology.

  • I think trashing Richard Garriott and/or Richard Bartle like they are know nothing fools is gruesomely short sighted to the point of ignorance.

    Do they have perfect knowledge or perfect understanding of the industry? Of course not. And I doubt either one of them believe they do either. I’ve met Dr. Bartle many times and Mr. Garriott once, and in none of those occasions did they come off as arrogant jerks who think they know everything and everyone else knows nothing.

    Like it or not, these men are GIANTS in this industry. MUD effectively created the entire concept of online RPGs. Ultima Online was the graphical MUD that kick started the MMORPG revolution. And those are just 2 of their biggest accomplishments.

    Even Tabula Rasa, that people here have enjoyed trashing, was a game with a lot of awesome ideas and it was actually a helluva alot of fun. It is probably the MMO I miss most of all right now – more so even than ones that still exist yet I’ve stopped playing.

    When the guys share their opinion on the industry, their words bear listening to and thinking about. Even if they are not 100% right, or even 50% right, there is probably some aspect of what they are saying that is worth thinking about and considering. Even when they are wrong, they are going to be wrong in ways that are at least very nutritional food for thought.

    I’m sure its fun for a bunch of people with ZERO accomplishments in the game industry (and for some, in life at all) to sit around and have a laugh trashing people with huge accomplishments. I bet it makes them feel good. But the sad truth is it just makes them look ignorant, small minded and petty. Also, people who do that are simply cheating themselves of a possible learning experience.

  • “The day the major-market gaming community embraces social-casual games is the day I’m done with gaming and will start blogging about something else.”

    you dont see that coming ? really does not matter what the gaming community wants. what we want in the end does not matter. its about what they can make the most money out of.

    my mom is 62 she got in to facebook games a year ago. since then shes got my 3 sisters hooked too. my mom and sisters dont see a problem spending a few dollars here and there on facebook games. i know for sure they will spend more on them they i do in a mmorpg.

  • I believe that social-casual games will cause a gaming industry crash similar to the one from the 80’s unless the world accepts that casual-social facebook type games are not the same thing as video games.

    A line will be drawn and the two markets will diverge or else it will be forced. Either way, I believe that social-casual games will never take over the true video game industry. A new industry will and should be created. I have no objections to social-casual games existing; I just have no desire to acknowledge them as video games.

  • Keen,

    There will never be a gaming crash like the 80s crash. Back then, games were a niche market. Now games are bigger than the movie and music industries combined, and almost twice the size of movies.

    72% of US households play video games. Games are the dominant form of entertainment in our country, but they are new enough and came along with enough of a stigma that people aren’t shouting it from the mountain tops yet.

    Games are an evolution of all the forms of entertainment that came before it. Nothing will stop gaming from growing except an entirely new entertainment medium that replaces it just as gaming is pushing tv, movies, and music into a smaller, book-like, niche role.

  • Allow me to correct my previous statement to say “MMO crash” not gaming in general.

    I’m fine with evolution in this industry, but let the evolution split off into another industry — form its own industry — and leave my games alone.

  • Good distinction. I almost hope for an MMO crash. What we are getting right now is pretty damn pathetic. I am excited for SW:TOR, and I know some people working on it that I think are brilliant designers, but when I read its “WoW with light sabers and a better story” I am pretty darn worried.

    I am to the point now where I wonder why I should have to pay a monthly sub when its not an actual virtual world that is being actively maintained by staff who run events and let player actions demonstrably and significantly affect the world permanently.

    If its just grinding through quests and gathering loot, there’s basically no need for me to store my character in their vault. There’s no need for me to be beholden to their server uptimes. There’s no need for them at all really. If its just quests and loot pinatas, I should be able to download the whole game, perhaps do co-op multiplayer via LAN or tcp/ip, and have at it.

    There’s simply no need for all the overhead of it being an MMO, and in fact everything structural about an MMO is actually an impediment at that point.

    Right now in WoW, those 3,000+ other players on the server just get in the way now. They don’t add anything positive to the experience any more. They kill mobs you need for your quests. They cause lag. They reduce your client’s performance. They harvest your resource nodes. You can’t really buy anything from them since all the “good stuff” is bind on pickup. You don’t have to build any kind of relationships or reputation any more, because the Dungeon Finder matches you up with people even if you are the biggest asshole prick on your server. And being cross server, the dungeon finder might as well just be a tcp/ip matchmaking lobby.

    WoW made the MMO obsolete because there’s nothing about the game any longer that is truly a virtual world. I really, really hope SW:TOR didn’t blow $400 million to just copy the same sucky model and polish it up with a ton of voice acting.

  • I am sure Blizzard could knock out a quick, money-spinning, browser-based “casual” game but I kind of respect that they don’t because Blizzard has set itself very high standards delivering very polished, AAA games “when they are ready” and not churning out facebook and iPhone nonsense.

    Maybe they could do it under a different brand name or something if they wanted to pull in yet more money without harming their excellent track record.

    While I also feel the latest WoW expansion looks to be a step towards the casual end of the spectrum but I very much hope traditional video games industry and Farmville-a-likes are kept separate.

    Economic reality might mean some companies are forced to use such casual games to fund proper games. I know the industry is massive but I’m thinking of startups here.

  • I think the days of Blizzard’s delays being about quality died when they hired Bobby Kotick. He brought his food packaging management style with him, and you can even see it in the market. Remember, he famously said he wants to take the fun out of game design. Hell, he’s taking the fun out of games.

    You see it in WoW, but you really see it in Diablo 3. Lack of LAN play. Lack of offline play. Lack of tcp/ip multiplayer. Forced play. Real money Auction house (destroyer of any hope of a community where people would otherwise share or help each other out).

    Most of D3’s delays have been strategic as D3 and SWTOR played chicken.

  • Yes Keen, but there is one nugget of truth in what he said.. Farmville *is* our future.