Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

A Timeline of Western MMO Development

Posted by Ben Zeigler on February 7, 2010

Update: I modified the chart below based on feedback from various emails and forum posts on QT3. Original is available here for comparison.

The recent layoffs at Red 5 Studios lead me to think about the often convoluted history of subscription-based MMO development studios in America and Europe. How many MMOs did EA release and then kill? How did other studios consisting of Ex-Blizzard developers fare? Where did BioWare Austin come from? What’s up with European MMO studios? Seeking to document the answers to those questions and others I started Googling press releases and booted up a copy of Dia. I then produced the possibly useful Timeline reproduced below.

Rectangles indicate company events such as formations and closures, while ellipsoids indicate game releases or closures. The position on the X axis indicates rough time ordering, corresponding to the years below. Solid connecting lines indicate official developer or publisher relationships, while dotted connecting lines indicate migration of key development personnel. For example, the dotted line from UO to Sony Austin basically represents Raph Koster.

I used the internet for sourcing everything, so I make no absolute judgments with regard to accuracy. The dotted line connections are mostly based on press releases that mention key developers being from another studio. If something sticks out as being incorrect, either leave me a comment or send me an email. I’d be happy to forward the Dia file along to anyone who asks for  it.

A Timeline of Western MMO Development

  1. EA has launched 5 MMOs and quickly killed 3 of them.
  2. Ex-Blizzard MMO studios appear to be batting about 1-in-4.
  3. Rich Vogel from BioWare Austin has extensive MMO experience on both SWG and UO.
  4. CCP and FunCom have historically been isolated from the rest of the western MMO development community.
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3 Responses to “A Timeline of Western MMO Development”

  1. Why is there a box titled “R5S Closes”? It doesn’t sound quite like that yet. Otherwise, your graph is awesome, although a bit light on Austin studios. 🙂

  2. JZig said

    Aye, you’re right about R5S not actually being closed. I’ll fix that, and add a few other things I missed. I’ll add some more stuff, but the limiting factor is definitely graph space at this point 🙂

  3. Andrew said

    Wow, impressive chart. Certainly interesting seeing the sheer numbers on a linear scale – and there’s a lot of MMO’s I’ve never even heard of there! 🙂

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