Jeff Strain from Undead Labs talks games with Gamasutra
Strain, an industry veteran who has been involved with some monumental PC gaming endeavors, has a history of market disruption. He was instrumental in establishing Blizzard as a premiere gaming powerhouse from 1995 to 2000, during which time he turned BattleNet into a critically important multiplayer platform and the only place to play some of the highest-rated PC games ever.
Later, he founded ArenaNet with fellow Blizzard developers, releasing Guild Wars in 2005, which redefined much of what was expected in an MMO. In the subsequent years, Guild Wars saw two chapter additions, a few expansion packs and, eventually, a direct sequel in 2012. It grew to be a compelling alternative to the market leaders and, in many ways, surpassed them.
In fact, Guild Wars followed one of Strain’s core guiding principles:
Historically, you know, it’s not the channel that drives games. It’s the content and the games that drive channels. Steam emerged as a huge platform because that’s where you could go to get Half-Life 2. BattleNet became a platform because that’s where you could go to play Diablo and Starcraft. It’s always been the case that players care about the games more than they care about any individual platform.
We have seen this exact trend play out on many platforms over the years. Where Strain goes so does good content, and the players do follow. “Build it and they will come” holds particularly true here.
When asked whether he anticipates the studio returning to the Xbox online space with Xbox One, he seemed optimistic. While only Microsoft knows Microsoft’s plan for its digital distribution approach, Strain did talk about the possibility of live service models and games as a continual experience rather than the one-and-done standard. One can certainly see “continuous service improvement” working at the core of Strain’s projects over the past 10 years, and we can certainly see it pushing on here, given Undead Labs’ recent multi-year, multi-title agreement with Microsoft Studios.
The possibility of a “shared, consistent experience across both platforms” also aligns with Microsoft’s interest in software-as-a-service and the gaming industry’s push toward games-as-a-service.