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Xbox Veteran Bolsters Trion Third-Party Program

Rift studio Trion Worlds tells Gamasutra that it has hired Xbox veteran David Luehmann as VP of third-party development, as the studio looks outside its own walls to expand its business.
Rift studio Trion Worlds has hired Xbox veteran David Luehmann as VP of third-party development, the online game company told Gamasutra this week. The hiring marks a serious step into the world of external publishing for Trion, as the company plans to further leverage its expertise to support select studios that lack the bandwidth or scalability that Redwood City, CA-based Trion can provide. Luehmann was with Microsoft Game Studios for 12 years as a general manager, overseeing multiple internal studios such as Ensemble, FASA, Aces and Turn 10, and also played a key role in the development of Xbox Live. Luehmann said in a phone interview that he will be developing a program that works with external developers and publishers who can take advantage of Trion's proprietary online platform and technologies, which have been battle-tested in Trion's successful MMORPG debut, Rift. The first in this third-party portfolio is the previously-announced End of Nations, an MMORTS developed by seasoned strategy studio Petroglyph (Universe at War, Star Wars: Empire at War). "You're seeing the success of Rift, how smoothly it's gone and how well it's been received, and the systems that brought that to life are capable of bringing other online titles to life on this platform," he said. "We can really onboard these development partners that just don't have the experience or the internal skills to really scale beyond small-scale multiplayer into this massive-scale multiplayer," Luehmann said. Trion can offer outside developers producers, marketing, sales support, online transaction management and other systems that might not be readily available to smaller firms. Trion has shown that it does have the ability to handle large-scale MMOs. Trion Worlds SVP of publishing David Reid confirmed to Gamasutra that it has officially surpassed 1 million activations (people who've actually bought the game). In June this year, he coyly implied a 600,000-player subscriber base for the game. Luehmann didn't have a specific number of external partners that Trion is currently considering, or any new partnerships to reveal. But he said, "We're looking to find those premium titles out there that don't have partners. ... I think it's finding the right opportunity, that's what we're looking for." Both Luehmann and Reid said that the company is not trying to ink a set number partnerships every year, rather the focus is finding quality third-party party partners. Reid added, "It isn't about a number of projects or number of developers. Trion isn't going to do anything that isn't triple-A, and we don't want to work with developers that aren't as fundamentally, passionately, genetically committed to quality at the same level we are." "... We want to make sure there is enough discipline and rigor in the team to make sure there [the project] isn't just a critically-acclaimed art project, but that it has to have the ability to be a commercial success," said Reid. Internal projects are still underway, with continuing support of Rift and a project at Trion's San Diego studio called Defiance, a first-person online shooter for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC created in a partnership with the Syfy channel that will launch and evolve alongside an upcoming TV show.

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