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Thought Leaders in Online Gaming: Scott Hartsman, CEO of Trion Worlds (Part 1)

Posted on Sunday, Aug 31st 2014

The Online Gaming world has changed dramatically over the last five years. Business models have changed. Funding models have changed. Development models have changed. Read my interview with Trion Worlds CEO Scott Hartsman to get a grip of where things are going.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with an introduction to Trion. Let’s introduce our audience to yourself as well as to Trion.

Scott Hartsman: I’m the CEO at Trion Worlds. We bring high-quality core gaming out to the Internet, primarily on PCs. We are a very core, gamer-friendly, free-to-play company. We are in online games. We are primarily in PC games, but we also support consoles. We are at a really interesting time as a lot of what we’re seeing in PC games lately is the business models are all changing, the funding models are changing, and the way people make games are all changing. It’s a really exciting time to be doing all of this with so many of the existing standards being upset. There’s a great opportunity right now for nimble, smart, online companies to do well.

Sramana Mitra: As part of the introduction to Trion, tell our audience what your key games are. What are Trion’s flagship games?

Scott Hartsman: Trion got its start with its first game called Rift, which is a massively online multi-player fantasy game. That was in 2011. Next, it released Defiance, which is a massively, multi-player shooter on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. As we’d like to say, the game is so big it has its own TV show on sci-fi. Then, we released our next alpha for a game called Trove, which is an adventure game that has lots of building and creative user-generated content elements.

Now, we’ve got this technology platform called the Glyph that houses our games as well as redistributes games for our partners. We are now publishing our first third-party game called ArcheAge, which was developed by a company called Excel Games in Korea. The gentleman who’s the head of that company was essentially the founder of the entire online gaming industry in Korea. So we are releasing ArcheAge in our territory of around 40 countries in North America and Europe. Right now, we have one platform, four MMOs, plus distribution for about 10 other digital games.

As we all know, PC games are primarily distributed digitally these days. The latest statistics, which came out of DFC Intelligence, says that 92% are now being digitally sold. We are one of the people who do that. We are positioning ourselves to be the place to go for high-quality, free online games. We’re continuing to extend that platform out to an increasing stable of new partners as well as continue on-going development of our own titles in-house.

Sramana Mitra: I’m going to ask you a bunch of different questions on various things that you touched on. Let’s start with your choice of being a PC gaming company against the backdrop of this huge mobile gaming onslaught. What drives that decision?

Scott Hartsman: I would have to go back to the background for this one, if you don’t mind.

Sramana Mitra: Please do.

Scott Hartsman: PC online gaming has been the mainstay of online games for quite some time. It’s only been growing every year since. PC online is actually growing around as fast as mobile and tablet. A lot of times, people look at PC and console games as a group, and they see declines. When you subtract out single-player and consoles, what you’ll find is that the growth is actually just as solid in this space.

Way back when I started making online games, this was around 20 years ago, online games were this little tiny subset of gamers that were different from what you would call the traditional games audience. What’s happened over time is the number of people playing online games has grown to essentially encompass everybody who plays games of all kinds on PC. Everybody these days is an online gamer in some form or another. Online has actually been growing incredibly steadily through the entire time. That’s where our expertise is.

The other advantage of PC as a platform is that we’re in greater control of our own destiny than we ever would be on any mobile platform. We don’t suffer from the same discoverability problems. We don’t suffer from the same 99 cents price sensitivity problem, and we don’t suffer from the problem of our games getting drowned out in literally thousands of competitors every single day. When we want to release a game, we release a game. We’re not beholden to somebody approving releases. We’re not tied to a single point of sale. That’s always been the characterization of PC online. The rest of the world has just now really starting to take notice because you start to hear phrases like the democratization of game distribution, which has been a factor in PC online for years. In a lot of ways, what we’re seeing is that a lot of the other markets are just starting to notice some of the advantages that we’ve actually had this whole time.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Gaming: Scott Hartsman, CEO of Trion Worlds
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