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Massively interviews Adam Mersky on Turbine's E3 no-show

Shawn Schuster

As you may know, Turbine is becoming quite a force to be reckoned with in the MMO development industry. They began with their own titles (Asheron's Call 1 and 2) and have branched off into two of the biggest brand name IPs out there: Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons. Recently, there have been three large chunks of news to erupt from the Turbine PR volcano. The first of these being the fact that they received $40 million in investment funding from Warner Brothers for some unknown project. Now as you can imagine, the reason this news is so big, is because Warner Brothers owns the rights to many titles which could make very interesting MMOs. The most obvious of these would be Harry Potter, yet nothing has been confirmed or denied on that topic.

The second chunk of news is the fact that they're not attending E3 this year. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be big news at all, but with the recent ESA takeover and radical format changes of the once-popular electronics expo, we couldn't help but speculate on the trend of game developers looking elsewhere. The third piece of Turbine news is perhaps the largest with their recent confirmation on their development of an MMO for the console market.

So we had a chance to sit down with Turbine's Director of Public Relations, Adam Mersky, for a short interview to address these hot topics. We were both eager to set the record straight once and for all. Keep reading below the break for the complete discussion

Turbine has been successful in securing two of the top IPs with Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online. Are there any plans to expand this with other well-known brand names being turned into MMOs?

Adam Mersky: While we started out with our own IP, we've certainly made a name for ourselves as this branded entertainment where we're taking established IPs and creating persistent online experiences for people in those worlds. I wouldn't rule it out that we may look at other licenses, because I think we have a unique skill for doing that. With LotRO we've gotten a lot of credibility for how we've been able to interpret that license and keep it legitimate and credible and authentic, but we have nothing that we're talking about right now as far as specific IPs, whether they're original or licensed. But I think our CEO's pretty clear when we announced our funding a couple of weeks back, and one of our lead investors in that round was Time Warner, and clearly one of the benefits with being with them, in addition to the great experience they bring to the table, is they have a broad portfolio of IPs, some of which overlaps with some of the IPs we already have rights to, so that clearly is an opportunity.

That actually touches on our next question, with the fact that there was $40 million in equity financing that was secured recently by Turbine. Is there any other information you could tell us as far as plans for this money?

Well, it comes down to the fact that we haven't gotten real specific, like it's going towards "X" game, and I get this question a lot where people want to know how much of this money is going towards LotRO, versus DDO versus Asheron's Call versus title-to-be-named. It's going towards a lot of things. At a higher level there's sort of a three or four prompt vision here; one is that we're looking to go cross platform, we've already confirmed that we're in development on a console title. We're not talking about what it is, whether it's an existing property or a new one, but clearly we're looking to make the first successful MMO on a console. It's something that we see a huge market for. Clearly with the success of LotRO, with the success of World of Warcraft, the MMO genre is legitimate. We just think there's another opportunity to expand further by going to consoles, so that's a big part of what we're looking at.

Another big part for us is going global. We've already been deep in the process of localizing our game. We launched it across Europe and North America at the same time, and we're in Japan now. We just kicked off our open beta for LotRO in Korea, and that's going really well. We plan to be in China late this year. Early next, Russia, then a whole bunch of other markets that we're going to start rolling into, so globalization for Turbine is another thing that the money goes towards, and those are two huge investments right there. There's a lot of other stuff going on that we look to, what we call internally here, self-evolving worlds, but really looking into technology that will allow not just user-generated content, but to give power to our players to have an impact on parts of the world that we create for them. So it has to be the right fit for the IP, you can't have jet-packs in Middle-earth and things like that, right? But giving more control to players to help develop content for other players in the worlds we build, whether the ones we already operate or ones we'll make in the future, that's a big technology investment. And the other one that people are starting to see a more immediate effect on that we're in-testing is figuring out a way to get players into our games a lot faster.

All these themes go back to one word and that's accessibility. Right now we put a lot of content into our games on a regular basis. Arguably as much, if not more than everyone else. The downside to that is if someone were to buy the product at retail, now a year plus after we were retail, they have a lot of patching. So we've made some big strides with the technology of how you, the player, are going to get into the game with the goal of you clicking on a link and downloading the product and being in the game in minutes. Or you're buying it and you're bringing it home and you start playing in minutes, not an hour or two hours or sometimes several hours depending on peoples' internet connection speeds or what version of the product they're installing. Meaning if they bought a retail client that's still the original product, and don't have book 9 through 13 in it, they're going to have a couple hours of patching. The way that works is basically everyone patches everything in first and then you can start playing. You don't need the whole world in there when you're just starting to play, so how can we do that to give you what you need to start playing right away, while the rest is downloading in the background. There's a lot of technology there.

So those are some of the big things that we're doing with the money, and it all fits back to the people who invested in us, right? Our existing investors were there, but Warner Brothers brings us a huge operation with connections in the industry, and as an entertainment company, a good fit for us. GGV Capital, which has offices in the Silicon Valley, has a huge presence in Asia where our market is very big, and we want to continue to improve our footprint over there and have the ability to take our games over there and even bring their games over here.

That's the vision for Turbine over the next 5 - 10 years, and this is where we want to take the industry. It's like it's not as simple as we're just making a console title or we're just going to make a new title, but really we want to look at the inside and out. One is yes we want to make new games, two is we want to keep evolving the games we have, and three is we want to make sure that anybody, anywhere on any platform can experience our worlds easily and in a good experience.

Now for the inevitable question: Why is there no Turbine presence at E3 this year?

We had a small presence at E3 last year. Two years ago at the last big E3 we had a huge booth and we were there in full force. We had just launched DDO and we were just starting to show LotRO for the first time. Last year we went just to show some quick demos in a meeting room. I was there, it was two of us, and this year, based on the timing of the stuff we're doing, and what we need to talk about, and how we go about talking to our audience, E3 just wasn't a fit for us. There's no bigger story here or Turbine's not a member of the ESA. We're not one of the stories you'll hear of us walking away from E3 or anything, it's just that it doesn't fit our plans. We're actually focused more intensely on GenCon and PAX here in North America. We'll be at Leipzig as well with our partners Codemasters and certainly at the Asian shows with our partners over there. GenCon and PAX are better shows for what we have to talk about in the next few months as far as Moria launching this fall and things we're doing across the franchises.

Thank you for your time, sir.

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