From there, Smedley turned toward a couple upcoming or recently launched games, namely DC Universe Online, The Agency and Pirates of the Burning Sea.
As is usual with a game that technically hasn't even been announced yet, Smedley had little to say on DC, their upcoming comic-book licensed MMO out of SOE Austin. He did say that later this summer - likely E3 - he hopes to show the first version of DC to the media. But in general, how does he feel about its progress?
"We worry about the competition all the time, but not with this game," he boasted with a grin. He's confident, very confident in the sheer fun factor of the title, which has been in development for a number of years and will make its debut much later in the development cycle than many of their past games have. He noted that famed comic book artist Jim Lee (no relation to Stan), who has during his career drawn the likes of Superman, Batman and the X-Men, lives very near their Austin studio and works two to three days a week in the office on the game.
With The Agency, Smedley seemed almost relieved they had the time to really polish their project. He was pleased with its evolution, but noted that in the past they as a company had been focused more on profit than polish and as a corporation they now had the ability to reverse that and make solid games. The Agency will be one of the first to benefit from their refined philosophy. He believes as a result, SOE will have the first truly next-generation games on many platforms.
Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) launched last month, and Smedley was pleased with the smooth roll-out and strong sales. Developed by Flying Lab Software, the game is part of their platform publishing label and has also added value to their Station Pass, which allows access to all their titles for one fee.
PotBS is a traditional subscription based MMORPG, which for years has been the staple of SOE and most other North American companies. This, though, appears poised to change.
"We don't think the future is all subscriptions," said Smedley. "We think it's a mixture of different models."
To that end, they have taken baby steps into peer-to-peer marketplaces, first with Station Exchange and now with Live Gamer, a third party provider. Both are limited to two EverQuest II servers, but to date, have been a success. Smedley noted that as of today, there are actually four people who have made $100,000 or more in the two years since Station Exchange launched and they've done it solely from sales of EverQuest II related items and characters on the Station Exchange.
As they move forward, they hope to combine business models in each of their new games to ensure the consumer has several choices. While obviously retail likely isn't out for SOE - they do plan to launch The Agency and DC Universe on the Playstation 3 as well as the PC after all - even that won't power each game. FreeRealms, for example, is a free-to-play, free-to-download, micro-transaction and ad-supported MMO aimed at younger girls.
It is an interesting time for the traditional big MMO developers. Over the last while, the traditional marketplace has become more and more congested and as they try to compete with an influx of new ideas and models from around the world, it takes some fresh ideas. Say what you will about Smedley, SOE and their often controversial past, but for better or worse, they see the changing landscape and have plans to tackle it.