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Five Reasons Why We'll See a Command and Conquer MMORPG

By AgmLauncher - 22nd September 2009 - 17:45 PM

1. Command & Conquer 4 is not the end of the Tiberium Universe as a whole
For those that do not know, Command and Conquer 4 - soon to be released by EA - will be the conclusion to the Tiberium saga. That is right kids, Command & Conquer 4 may be the last Tiberium-based RTS game you will ever play. That does not mean, however, that the Tiberium universe itself is going to end (nor the Command and Conquer franchise for that matter). GameSpot recently landed an interview with Samuel Bass, one of the designers of C&C 4, which alluded to the Tiberium universe moving away from RTS:

While we can only really speak to Command & Conquer 4 at this time, it is safe to say that the conclusion of the Tiberium saga is not the end of the Tiberium Universe as a whole.

...And what will happen after that? Snipers, I told you, snipers! Who's going to walk my dog if they get me?
Source: GameSpot

So the Tiberium arm of the Command and Conquer franchise will continue, but more than likely not in the form of an RTS.

2. EA needs a Massive-Multiplayer Online game
MMOs are enormous cash cows (As World of Warcraft proves every time the executives at Activision-Blizzard dry themselves off with $100 bills after they get out of the shower) and EA desperately needs a cash cow. Warhammer: Age of Reckoning does not really count since its subscriber population was below 300,000 as of March this year.

Given EA's recent financial trouble and the relatively poor sales performance of the Command and Conquer franchise (thanks, pirates!), EA needs a better way to make money off the PC market than its typical retail box model.

Selling games via retail boxes is going the way of the dinosaurs. Everyone knows this and EA has been slow to adapt because nobody can sell games the 'traditional way' better than EA. MMOs are simply an excellent revenue model for changing consumer habits.

3. Tiberium is the only 'universe' EA has
If you look at EA’s entire lineup of IPs (intellectual properties), the only franchise you could possibly build any semblance of an MMO out of is the Tiberium universe. Think of what makes World of Warcraft so successful: it is an entire world of fantasy and fiction. People do not play MMOs based on reality because they play MMOs to escape reality. Imagine a Need for Speed, Medal of Honor or Madden MMO? They just would not work. You need something very distinct and separate from the real world in order to make an MMO addicting. Addiction is what keeps people forking over part of their living every month.

What in the EA arsenal could make a better MMO than the Tiberium universe? There is no limit to what you can do in terms of classes/items when you have mutants and aliens that are part of the fiction. If you do not have access to magic and fantasy like Blizzard does with Warcraft, your next best bet for nearly limitless gameplay possibilities is sci-fi. As far as the environments are concerned, just imagine sweeping vistas of Tiberium-ravaged landscapes or towns and villages inside yellow zones. You would get to see what 'everyday life' is like in a world of Tiberium in an intimate and personal way that you could never get with the traditional nature of an RTS.

4. EA seems to have been planning this for a long time
It is a commonly known fact that major companies like EA do not just produce games on a whim, they actually have a product roadmap that extends a few years into the future. If you look at what was done in Command and Conquer 3, and now what is being done in Command and Conquer 4, there are many signs that point to the existence of plans for an MMORPG.

For starters, EA spent quite a bit of money to get students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop an entire science to describe what Tiberium is and how it works. You simply do not add that kind of development cost to a single title, nor do you worry about that kind of detail in a game that inherently will not make very much use of that information anyway. There was also quite a bit of concept art and videos that pointed to a far more detailed depiction of the universe than was necessary for the macro-perspective offered by an RTS. EA also introduced a major new dimension to the fiction: alien technology. Sure the RTS franchise desperately needed a third faction anyway but that new faction conveniently paved the way for what an MMO needs to succeed: something that heavily expands upon the relatively limited possibilities inherent with any game based on conventional physics.

Now we look at Command and Conquer 4 and its heavy focus on making the franchise as social as possible. Complete with persistent RPG-like elements such as profile leveling, it is easy to see how useful that would be in priming the market for a proper MMO.

5. EALA has new management
Sadly, one of Command and Conquer’s long time allies has moved on. Mike Verdu - the former general manager of EALA - is now working for a different company and is no longer in a position to safeguard Command & Conquer’s roots as a PC RTS franchise. Mike had always allowed EALA to stay focused on RTS despite the genre’s overall struggling popularity in this brave new world of mainstream gaming. Now with new leadership and continuing, enormous pressure to make piles of cash, it is highly unlikely that EALA will be focusing too heavily on further RTS development for Command and Conquer.

Looking to the future
As bleak as all this might sound to the die-hard Command & Conquer RTS fans among us, there is some potential for silver lining. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Starcraft 2 is coming. What you may not know is that the game has been in development for many years. What do you get out of many years of development? A freakishly high quality product, which is something that EA has not been able to deliver with their equally freakishly short development cycles. The real question though is where you could obtain the money to fund such a long development cycle? The answer for Blizzard is World of Warcraft and the answer for EA could be its own Tiberium-based MMO.

If the franchise were to begin generating a massive revenue stream via an MMO, it might finally allow EA to have the resources they need for extended development cycles. It may even give them the money they need to develop a next-generation game engine that will finally put SAGE/RNA to bed. The result will be higher quality RTS titles which - hopefully - Starcraft 2 will prove can still make money!

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