Interview: Acclaim CEO Howard Marks and Free-to-Play MMOs

Dana Massey | 27 Dec 2007 19:51
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In total, Marks says that Acclaim has five-million registered accounts across all four of its games and they have gone out of their way to make sure people travel between them. All of them share a universal currency - Acclaim coins - and operate from one account.

While 2Moons experiments with in-game advertising, all of the games utilize the coins for in-game items. Marks was less specific on how many of the roughly 500,000 active players actually buy things, but believes firmly that the hurdle is not the concept of the purchase, but the convenience.

"Right now it's fewer than 10% who are buying things, but as we add more payment options, it goes up," he said. For example, kids obviously don't wield credit cards and it's tough for a young one to convince their parents to buy them a virtual sword. Right now, Acclaim also offers purchases through cellular telephones that go right on the bill and pre-paid coins cards people can pick up at Target.

Aside from 2Moons, Acclaim also has 9Dragons, a fully 3D martial arts MMORPG, their first major offering; BOTS!! is a casual robo-transformer online battle game that appeals to a younger audience and Acclaim's most popular title; and their latest title DANCE! Online, a competitive dancing MMO. They're also the company behind Top Secret, a community designed and developed MMO project headed directed by David Perry.

"9Dragons is doing really well as a niche game," Marks told us. He noted that it is the most popular martial arts MMO in North America, but did not give specific numbers. "Our strategy with 9Dragons is to really corner that kung-fu martial arts niche."

BOTS!! - with not one but two exclamation points in its official title - has between two and three million registered players and is a far more casual experience. Marks noted that in general they find the average player spends about half as much time in BOTS!! as 2Moons.

DANCE! Online
DANCE! Online

"It's a great way for people to learn MMORPGs. It is an MMORPG, but it's a little more casual," he explained. "It's not the type of game you play six hours in a row."

With DANCE! Online - that of only one exclamation point - they currently have 300,000 registered accounts and growing. Marks is especially proud that this game boasts over 50% female players and only half-joked that many of their male account holders cross over "as they try to meet girls."

"It's a little bit of a new concept, a little bit like Guitar Hero two years ago, people didn't get it, but now it's huge," he added.

The four games are a scattershot across the online game genre. There is a game for young people, a game for girls, a game for Kung-Fu enthusiasts and a traditional swords and sorcery MMO aimed at an adult audience. And according to Marks, they've cast this wide net quite intentionally.

"We decided we're not going to be a company that satisfies one kind of need - the MMORPG and that's all we're doing - we're going to be a company that satisfies many kinds of needs," he explained.

In the coming weeks, Acclaim will announce new titles, this time aimed at the browser market. To date, all of these games have required a download and install, but Marks knows there is a market for people who just want to click and go and doesn't want to lose them either. "If they can play 10 minutes they'll be happy," he said of his next target group.