SEE buys Planet Calypso for $6 million, talks with Massively for an encore

For $6 million you could buy a heck of a lot of tacos -- or one virtual planet. Wisely, SEE Virtual Worlds went the latter route, snapping up Planet Calypso from MindArk and saving itself massive heartburn. The sci-fi-themed Planet Calypso operates under the umbrella of Entropia Universe and boasts 950,000 registered accounts since coming online in 2003.

As part of the deal, SEE Virtual Worlds also acquired all of the assets of First Planet Company, a former subsidiary of MindArk, which has been transformed into SEE Digital Studios. Under this reorganization, SEE Digital Studios is now responsible for developing and operating Planet Calypso, Planet Michael and Universal Monsters. The company is expected to hire on additional team members for these projects.

Fresh from the champagne celebration, SEE Virtual Worlds President Corey Redmond sat down with us to discuss this deal and the future of these three titles. Hit the jump to boogie with Michael Jackson, scream in terror at the Wolfman, and navigate the economy of virtual worlds.

Massively: Was MindArk struggling financially or having difficulties funding Planet Calypso?

Corey Redmond: MindArk has spent over a decade developing and investing in the technological advancement of the Entropia Universe Platform, providing a unique opportunity to transform new and existing IPs into interactive entertainment. With SEE Virtual Worlds' acquisition of Planet Calypso and First Planet Company, MindArk can focus their efforts, as they have long intended, on fine-tuning their business model as a platform provider in 3-D interactive online entertainment. This was a strategic move on MindArk's part.

How will this acquisition benefit the players of Planet Calypso?

Planet Calypso will continue to be run by its established and experienced team. Joining the SEE family has presented us with a great opportunity to invest more human and financial resources in development and we are looking forward to a very successful year for Planet Calypso.

Is the age of Planet Calypso a concern in regards to making SEE's money back on the deal?

The Entropia Universe and virtual worlds in general are extremely lucrative. Calypso alone has had over $428 million processed in player-to-player transactions in 2010.

What plans are in store for the future of Planet Calypso?

We have big plans for Planet Calypso -- however we are not prepared to talk about it at this time. SEE Virtual Worlds and SEE Digital Studios are working together very closely to deliver new, cutting edge content for 2011 and beyond.

Is SEE Virtual Worlds positioning itself to be a strong competitor on the MMO stage?

Absolutely. SEE is dedicated to creating quality games within the MMO space that are tied to licensed entertainment properties. We are essentially bringing the world of themed entertainment to the virtual space. Planet Michael and the Universal Monsters game are just a few examples of our commitment to the virtual worlds industry.

Does Planet Calypso's strong RMT business model mean that we'll be seeing the same with Universal Monsters and Planet Michael?

Yes, all planets within the Entropia Universe will share the same real cash economy.

Any further news on the development of Universal Monsters?

SEE Virtual Worlds is currently in the development phase for Universal Monsters.

What about Planet Michael?

SEE Digital Studios is in the early stage of development for Planet Michael.

Everyone loves origin stories. How did SEE come up with the idea for Universal Monsters and Planet Michael?

The idea for Planet Michael arose from the premise of uniting fans and gamers in a world where they can pay tribute to Michael Jackson and his ideals, especially his desire to "Heal the World."

Planet Michael encourages gamers to not only enjoy their time in the world, but also to donate to causes that were closest to Michael's heart. Both SEE and the Estate view Planet Michael as a social environment where gamers can continue to support Michael and contribute to the causes he worked so hard to support. There is no doubt that Michael was interested in building such a world, especially with these very personal additions. SEE and the Estate are completing this journey we believe he began.

The theme for Universal Monsters is to revive the horror genre for the 21st century by introducing timeless film franchise characters onto an interactive platform.

Are there plans to cross-promote Calypso, Universal Monsters and Planet Michael?

Absolutely. Avatars within the Entropia Universe are portable, meaning they can travel from planet to planet. We fully intend to encourage all the Entropia Universe players to experience all of SEE planets in order to get the most out of their interactive online entertainment.

Who is leading the development team for SEE Digital Studios?

Marco Behrmann is responsible for managing and overseeing all development projects for SEE Digital Studios. With over 15 years of industry experience, Behrmann joined MindArk in 2002 as the Lead Game Designer responsible for Planet Calypso's game system and rules. In 2008, he was appointed CEO of MindArk's former subsidiary, First Planet Company AB, with a clear focus of making Planet Calypso one of the top online interactive games.

Will there be a continent in Planet Michael based on his Moonwalker film?

It's a little early for us to let you know what music, video or content licenses will be incorporated in the game, but rest assured that we know that no Michael Jackson environment would be complete without the sounds, actions and images that so represented the man and his music.

With Jackson's death in 2009, are there any worries that the fan base for him and his music may be waning?

Michael Jackson is such an iconic pop figure with an incredible and dedicated fan base and we are very excited to be working closely with the Estate on this project.

Thank you for speaking with us!