GDC Online Q&A Part 2: Gordon Walton, Matt Firor

GDC Online is officially under way, which makes it the perfect time to share the second part of our interview with BioWare's Gordon Walton and ZeniMax Online's Matt Firor.

Game Developers Conference Online  kicks off today at the Austin Convention Center, which makes it the perfect time to publish the second part of our interview with Gordon Walton, the vice president and co-studio general manager of Bioware Austin, and Matt Firor, the president of ZeniMax Online Studios. We sat down with these two members of the convention's advisory board to talk about the themes that will be featured throughout the week at GDC Online.

Be sure to read the first part of the interview, and then head back here to find out what these two industry veterans are most looking forward to at GDC Online this week. You're also welcome to watch live streaming coverage of GDC Online featuring ZAM's Mike B. aka Fony! It's the next best thing to actually attending the convention.

(Editor's Note: This is the second and final part of our interview with Gordon Walton and Matt Firor. The first part can be found here.)

ZAM: You both mentioned micro-transactions and subscription-based models. And of course there's the free-to-play model as well. Where do you see these models going? Do you see one becoming more prevalent than the others? Do you have a preference?

Gordon Walton: I prefer anything that lets me build games.

Matt Firor: The payment mechanism may vary, but the games still need to be fun and interesting, as well as attract a community of gamers who are willing to pay for them. At that level, the mechanism at which you charge the players is basically immaterial.

Gordon: I think we're all for any mechanism that lets us monetize the audience appropriately and lets the investment you make in the game pay off. That's how you get to build new games. Our business is a 95%/5%, if not a 98%/2%, business. There are very few hits, and a lot of games don't quite make it. In the end, the hits have to pay for continuing the medium.

ZAM: I was looking at some of the trends at GDC Online and noticed that a lot of publishers will be talking about their foray into 3D technology. I doubt we'll see this technology utilized anytime soon in MMOs, but what are your thoughts?

Matt: That is something that isn't completely on my radar since I don't think it's going to happen for a few years. But I think with any new technology, some of it is going to trickle into every part of the computer experience, including MMOs. It might be years and years and years. It's not something I'm thinking about now, but I'm sure it will be someday.

Gordon: I'm with Matt. Most technology plays are more blow than go in the big scheme of things. The proof is in the pudding. When there's an installed base, that's when we get interested. We're not really chasing the technology with online games, we're chasing audiences. If it's only the earliest possible adopters, there's a market there for particular people to chase. But Matt and I are looking to reach more people, and the way to reach more people is to not chase the technology. It doesn't mean there's not a place for it, because you've got to start somewhere to get to a place where it has an audience.

ZAM: Good point. You don't want to base your whole MMO around a technology that's not going to stick around.

Gordon: Matt and I are pretty jaded about technology trends (laughs). We've chased them and been burned multiple times.

Matt: We spent a good seven years making games for the Internet when the Internet wasn't ubiquitous, and that wasn't as fantastic as it could have been. Right now there are so many people with strong broadband Internet connections that we don't have to worry about that anymore, but it wasn't so long ago that the Internet was the 3D of its day. We've been through that.

ZAM: Let's jump into the GDC Online Awards. This is the first time you're hosting these awards, and it seems like a great way to showcase online games. How did it come about?

Gordon: I think it was just time. In previous years we shied away from it because there are so many awards out there, but it feels like the other awards aren't really covering the online space that well. We thought it was time to step up to the plate. We're basically the second-largest show in all of North America for the gaming business, so it felt like it was time to take this on.

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