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Bill Roper: Publisher Funding For Largescale MMOs 'Just Doesn't Work'

Talking to Gamasutra, ex-Blizzard and Flagship veteran Bill Roper has offered sharp criticisms of publisher funding models for larger MMOs that are "not sustainab
Ex-Blizzard and Flagship veteran Bill Roper has offered sharp criticisms of publisher funding models for larger MMOs that are "not sustainable". Speaking to Gamasutra in new feature interview, Roper was asked his thoughts about finding funding for large new MMO projects -- having worked with external publishers at Hellgate: London developer Flagship Studios, before moving to Cryptic Studios (Star Trek Online/Champions Online) and now working as a consultant. Said Roper, "I have been talking with people that are going out and are like, 'Yeah, I'm doing a start-up right now. So, I signed a deal, and I've got a royalty rate at 18 percent, and I got this much money up front, and I've got to pay back on my royalty, and the [publisher] owns the IP.' I'm like, 'How does that ever work for you?'" "It's so not sustainable, especially if they're asking you to make a product that they intend for you to support. It's like we're stuck in these boxed product business models and funding structures, but they want you to build something that you never leave. It just doesn't work." Roper sees the need for larger conventional publishers to support a model for funding big online games that isn't focused on boxed product launches -- but instead on providing services to players, and sustaining continued post-launch development of games. "There's got to be something where it's like, 'Look, here's the funding. Here's how much we spend on development. Here's how much we have to spend on the marketing or whatever.' Like, get all the components together. 'Yup, that's the number. Okay, the first X whatever the game makes pays all that off. Then we go to the royalty rate.' So, you start making money the same time the publisher makes money." However, Roper admits that conventional publishers are "going to hate" this idea. He also puts some blame on MMO developers, saying they are not agile enough for today's market, pointing to the rise of free-to-play games as a potential path forward. "And I think that if you're designing games that you know are going to be free-to-play with microtransactions, you're building a different game. You're building a smaller client. You're building a game that has much less stress on the backend, server-wise. It takes less resources. Its cost per user has to be so much lower, and it's easier for you to sustain that game longer," said Roper. The full interview, in which Roper goes into great depth on his insights into the MMO market, is now live on Gamasutra.

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