If you've been reading Massively over the past few weeks, it's likely you've heard us mention Gazillion Entertainment. They're a company that seemingly came out of nowhere and revealed that they've acquired NetDevil (thus Jumpgate Evolution and LEGO Universe) and have two MMOs based on Marvel Comics IPs in development; Super Hero Squad is geared towards kids while Marvel Universe is aimed squarely at older comic fans.
Our parent site Joystiq managed to get some face time at GDC 2009 with Gazillion's VP of Marketing Paul Baldwin who explained a bit about the company and their plans for the MMO industry.
True to their corporate moniker, Gazillion's funding is substantial. We know they're not sitting around smoking cigars made of $100 bills or drinking blended Benjamins. They've got at least six titles in production right now, Baldwin says, including one unannounced game in development at NetDevil which targets 'core gamers'. Among those titles is another unannounced MMO in development at Slipgate Ironworks, and an original IP with "big client, high production quality -- World of Warcraft-like production quality" says Baldwin.
One of the first reports we had on Gazillion dealt with their relationship with NetDevil. Baldwin addresses how their NetDevil acquisition affects Jumpgate Evolution's development and publishing. He says, "Keep in mind that with Jumpgate we acquired the developer, Codemasters is the publisher, and Codemasters actually controls 100% of the marketing and PR, so we're in a support role there. So whatever happened prior to us coming on board, we can't really control."
The other NetDevil-developed title they've got big plans for is LEGO Universe, an integral part of Gazillion's strategy to bring MMOs to an audience beyond the hardcore gaming community. Baldwin says:
"Each one our our studios, the majority of people on the teams have worked on MMOs... One of our goals is to make games for the mass market, and so we have people from Pixar, from Disney. Certainly we have people from the console space as well as folks from the MMO space. The idea is this kind of unique group of people with talents from jut outside the hardcore gaming community will make games that not only resonate with the hardcore, but also games like Marvel Super Hero Squad, Lego Universe... can also get MMOs beyond just the hardcore."
Super Hero Squad (in development at The Amazing Society) will tie-in with a Cartoon Network show and an action figure line, appealing to a young generation of budding MMO gamers. For the more traditional comic fan, development on Marvel Universe is being done at Gargantuan Studios in San Mateo, California, part of the Gazillion family of game studios. (Although it's unstated in the interview, the existence of both titles could very well create a situation where younger players who like Super Hero Squad 'grow into' Marvel Universe.)
Factor in that Gazillion's SmartyCard studio is also expected to deploy their kid-centric virtual rewards technology ("learn, earn, and play") across multiple Gazillion titles and you've got a real industry powerhouse in the making.