Question: Why are massively multiplayer online games particularly popular in Asia?
Jesse Schell: Part of the reason I think massively
multiplayer games are so popular in Asia is partly because the bandwidth
and infrastructure is there. They've had bandwidth and infrastructure
that has been miles ahead of where we've been. So they've had more time
to kind of work on it. There's greater opportunity for an audience.
Then, on top of that, you have situations with copyright over there that
are problematic. The retail game model, the traditional retail game
model, of selling discs in stores has very much been destroyed by
piracy. But a massively multiplayer game is not destroyed by piracy –
in fact, it is enhanced by piracy because the pirates become a network
to distribute the software. The players have to connect online, and
there's no stealing the game because you pay as you play. So I think
that combination, then you also consider the lower penetration of
consoles in Asia is something that kind of has pushed people more to the
PC, and massively multiplayer games work well on the PC.
further, you can kind of take it to kind of a social angle. Some people
would suggest that people in Asia are more likely to work together on
teams. They're more comfortable working that way, and that's what
the... If you're gonna succeed in these games, it's about forming large
teams and working together and succeeding. It's a combination of
things. One thing we're definitely seeing is almost everything that
goes big and succeeds in Asia starts to come over here. We started to
see it happening... We saw it initially with subscription-based games,
then we saw micro-transactions taking off there, and now they're taking
off in America and Europe, as well.
Question: Why are these games so captivating?
Jesse Schell: I think for massively multiplayer games,
it's a combination of things. One of the reasons people like to go to
games at all is games give you concrete achievement. In life, we seldom
get very clear, concrete achievements. Anything you achieve, it's
always like Well, it could have been a little better. But when you've
made level nine [clap] – it's level nine! I mean, there's no you half
made it, or you sort of made it, or someone made level nine better than
you. You made it. Bing! Gold star – there it is. And people like
So you take that factor of the concreteness,
and then you combine it with a persistence. Traditional video games –
you play them, you win them – it's kind of over. You turn it off, and
it's gone. These massively multiplayer games are persistent. You
become level nine and you turn it off for three months – you come back,
and you're still a level nine. You can go to level ten. These can
become something that you do for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years if you
want to. People like that; it makes it more solid, it makes it more
real, it makes it more meaningful.
Then you combine that with the
social interaction where you have a lightweight connection to people –
in other words, you don't have to go through the headache of forming
social commitments, but you still get to do something meaningful where
you work together as a team, and you did something that you all can be
proud of. There's a lot of factors in there that... There's really a
lot to like.
Recorded on June 21, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont