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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BigWorld licensee Slipgate becomes part of Gazillion Monster Publisher

from the You didn't read it first here dept.

San Mateo-based studio 'Slipgate Ironworks' came out of hiding of sorts today with a massive industry lash of all things online and a name change, including the announcement of a mammoth ten-year licensing contract with Marvel to deliver MMO games based on the comic book and movie franchise's properties.

This is a truly mammoth deal encompassing multiple satellite studios working on significant online content - studios include Romero's own Slipgate Ironworks, newcomers Gargantuan, NetDevil who are building again a Jumpgate title as well as a Lego title. Ben Fritz's excellent Variety interview and article notes :

" has four major MMO development studios under its umbrella and eight projects either planned or in the works:

-NetDevil, which Gazillion recently acquired, already has "Lego Universe" and "Jumpgate Evolution" in development, along with an unannounced MMO. The Lego Group controls its eponymous game and will handle publishing. But Gazillion got the rights to "Jumpgate" when it acquired NetDevil and will co-publish it in the U.S. with Codemasters, which is handling retail distribution.

-Gargantuan, a studio founded by Gazillion, is making "Marvel Universe."

-Slipgate Ironworks, started by id co-founder John Romero, which Gazillion has quietly been involved in from the beginning. It's producing an unannounced original MMO.

-Amazing Society, another existing studio that Gazillion has quietly been working with from its inception, is developing the "Super Hero Squad" MMO and two unannounced titles.

Rob head shot Founder and CEO Rob Hutter (left) knows that MMOs are a huge risk. But in a down economy when traditional console publishers in particular are struggling, he sees it as the biggest opportunity, particularly when combined with licenses.

"We saw the meteoric success of 'World of Warcraft' and now more casual titles like 'Runescape,' 'Club Penguin' and 'MapleStory' are proving the format really has traction," he explained. "The missing piece is bringing worldwide dominant entertainment brands into the space in a way that delivers high quality MMOs with properties that have a tremendous amount of recognition."

Rob Hutter, CEO of Gazillion continues,

"Licensed MMOs are only a winning proposition if you can convince folks to spend time for six months and beyond," Hutter affirmed. "That long-term relationship means your audience is a check on quality. It's very different from a one-shot retail sale where you're just going off the marketing of another property. The safest strategy for us is a high quality title."

Read more at Variety, and here, in Virtual Worlds News, and in Edge and here (Korean) or here (French).

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