It's so early in development that it doesn't
have a name yet, but I'm already quite intrigued by the new massively
multiplayer online game from the creators of Neopets.
Adam Powell and Donna Williams struck it rich with Neopets,
an online virtual-pet site that grew so popular with kids and female
gamers that the pair sold their creation to Viacom in 2005 for $160
million. Now, as founders of a startup called Meteor Games,
they're working on something markedly different for an encore: A new
MMO game that blurs the lines between traditional massively multiplayer
games, social networking and casual gaming.
"We're World of Warcraft players ourselves," says Powell,
"and we wouldn't want to compete with them. The game is really more
casual -- we want players to be able to play it for five, 10 minutes at
Imagine sitting down for a game of chess inside the 3-D virtual
world of the MMO. Your opponent is a real live person, but they're
playing the game in a simple Flash browser window, without all of the
fluff around it. Or imagine playing a version of the classic cellphone
game Snake, but at the end of the game, the snake comes to life in the MMO and starts attacking enemies for you.
Williams and Powell readily admit, is often seen now as a child's
pastime. But that game's original target audience was an older set --
teens and young adults. After the pair launched Neopets in
1999, the game took on a life of its own and became so popular with the
younger audience that the twosome didn't want to sacrifice the
intensely lucrative market.
The goal of their unnamed new project is to capture traditional
gamers. The art style is going to be cartoonish, certainly, but unlike Neopets
it won't trade realism for saccharine sweetness. Instead, Williams and
Powell are drawing inspiration from a litany of sources near and dear
to children of the 1980s.