Fallout and the Cost of a Modern MMORPG

Back in the day, I played a little PC RPG called Fallout. It was a game I thoroughly enjoyed, and I must have spent at least 50 hours going through the story the first time. Speaking of which, it was a decent story too.

Several years later, I was dismayed to hear that Fallouts developer, Interplay, was closing its doors.

Fast forward to December 2006. Today. I was doing my usual trawling through various news sites and I came upon a link to a document on the US Securities and Exchange Commission web site. It appears that Interplay is not as dead as it appeared to be, and is currently seeking investment to produce a Fallout MMORPG.

My first response was one of deep interest. The Fallout style of post-apocalyptic science fiction, as far as I know, hasn’t been made into a MMORPG. Fallout offers a fairly rich world as well. One well suited to an online game. As a Sci-Fi fan, I’ve always lamented that Sci-Fi takes a back seat to Fantasy, why, I’m not sure.

As I looked further, some interesting facts began to emerge. The revenue model that Interplay would be using is a subscription based model. No surprises there, subscription models are the most used models in MMORPGs. There is speculation that the MMOG market will grow to 13 billion dollars by 2011. That’s nearly half of the current 30 billion dollar computer game market. Lotsa cold hard cash!

What gets my interest most though, is that there is a budget for the development of the Fallout MMORPG listed in the document. This budget is broken into three components.

The pre-production budget of five million dollars. The production budget of forty million dollars, and the release budget of thirty million.

Pre-production would be all about setting up the facilities. The purchase of development hardware, setting up server facilities, and getting an office set up. There’d be a lot more involved here in the set up though.

Obviously, production is all about the development. From what I understand, WoW had a similar development budget, so it looks like Interplay are not going to cut corners on this one.

The Release budget would be for setting up the servers, the data center, possibly the support center. Some of that might even go into the development of the first expansions. Since this is three quarters of the development budget, I’ll hazard a guess and speculate that Interplay are planning a lot of servers.

So. With a great licence, and a boat load of cash, are Interplay preparing to take on the 800 pound gorilla of the MMORPG industry? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Three years is a lot of time in some ways, World of Warcraft could go from strength to strength and become even more dominant, or other games could start to put the pressure on. In three years, Interplay could be entering a market with a substantially different landscape.

We’ve got a lot of time to speculate on the Fallout MMORPG. According to the prospectus on the SEC site, development is not planned to start until January 2007, and the game is not slated for release until 2010. I doubt we’ll hear very much from the developers from now until 2008 or 2009. If you have the patience, it might be worth keeping an eye on.

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