Evolving Industry, New Responsibilities
Rowe began the discussion by raising the distinction between "virtualization" and online gaming and traditional console gaming.
Said Christensen, "I think that distinction is going away, but the big difference is play balance and controller versus keyboard and mouse."
"It#DY#s not just a port," Ferrari agreed.
Added Buttler, "Also, the difference between virtual worlds and games. It#DY#s much easier to monetize a theme park than a park. The virtual worlds don#DY#t have a good way to monetize today."
Said Daglow, "Sometimes people are first drawn in by the game, and then they stay for the people they meet there. In Neverwinter Nights, we got a letter from a woman who was abused by her husband and was a virtual prisoner in her own home. Her player friends who she opened up to encouraged her to get out, and she made it to a shelter, and then sent us a letter about how the game and her friends hand changed her life. The social power is the real power beyond what we create as designers even though we might like to think differently."
Bernstein believes the evolving industry has new ramifications for a game company#DY#s commitment. "In a box product, your commitment ends at purchase. Don#DY#s story indicates the power and responsibility you have in an on-line title. I#DY#m pretty sure at least three of us here have policies for suicide threats and our operators."
The Ad Question
Rowe asked the panelists about how in-game advertising is playing out in the online space.
Buttler doesn#DY#t think it#DY#s a big factor today. "It#DY#s more like product placement than advertising today," he clarified. "In the future, you can have brand advertising as part of two-way exchanges in a game."
"Look at Lord of the Rings Online," said Ferrari. "We can#DY#t put a Nike logo into it. But we could put advertising up before you get into the game."
Suggested Bernstein, "It#DY#s really more #DY#out-of-game advertising#DY# in some ways. Hellgate London is set in 2038, and much of the interaction is in the tube station. Anyone whose been in one knows thats a natural placement. Myth is a free-to-play game, and we cant put ads into a sword-and-sorcery environment, we#DY#d get pilloried by our users. But because it#DY#s free to play, we can do advertising before they get into the game."