PC Games, Computer Games, PC Game Cheats, Computer Video Games

Q&A: SOE's John Smedley on Galaxies' outer limits

Galaxies boss sees only one game around that could possibly humble World of Warcraft. Are you sitting down? Part 2.
By Curt Feldman, GameSpot
Posted Dec 15, 2005 4:40 pm PT

Last week, Sony Online president John Smedley discusssed the motivations and goals behind the recent update to Star Wars Galaxies.

This week, we conclude our conversation with Smedley and ask him to think ahead, not only about the future prospects of Galaxies, but also about the future prospects of online gaming in general.

GameSpot: Because there are so many online gamers in Asia, do you create a product with that market in mind? And how do you deal with the fact that the subscription model in Asia is all but dead?

John Smedley: Well, first of all I would have to say that in Asia, the subscription model is definitely, by far, the number one model. Revenue wise, it's about 75 percent of the market. Look at World of Warcraft, Legend of Mir, Legend of MU...all are very high-priced subscriptions, by the way.

GS: It's a moving target, no?

JS: Yes. The 25 percent that was non-subscription based was 10 percent a year ago, so it's growing quick. And I think pretty quickly it's going to go to 50-50, maybe higher. But subscription is not dead.

GS: Why did the first EverQuest do so badly in Asia?

JS: With EverQuest 1, we learned an important lesson. We put it out in Korea and it didn't do very well. Why? Because it wasn't a Korean game. And we didn't make any effort whatsoever, beyond basic translation, to make it adaptable to that market.

Take something simple: for example, mouse control. When you're playing in a PC Bang, there are people that want to play with one hand--holding a cigarette in one hand and controlling the mouse in the other. They want to play the entire game that way; touching the keyboard rarely.

But we didn't consider that. We learned that that's important after the fact. Another great example: here in the States, when you put something out at beta, people expect bugs. But beta in Asia means the game is ready for release. Beta is really a marketing period where people are just checking the game out for free.

GS: What steps did you take to overcome those early mistakes?

JS: In EverQuest II, we went a step further. We formed a joint venture with a company called Gamania out there that runs Lineage 1 and 2 in Taiwan. We started to, what we call, culturalize, which means we're talking not just a translation, we're doing voice-over. But more importantly, we're putting in Asian quests, we're modifying interface, this is all done by the way, and actually, is live now. And we had literally five to six times the success that we had with EverQuest 1. We're seeing good numbers over there now.

We generated a completely new set of models in the Asian R-style--a much more anime style--for the character models. Gamania did such a good job that we actually imported the characters and are putting them [into the local version] of EverQuest II.

And now we're going to take it to the next level. We have a game in development right now at our Asian subsidiary, which is being completely done for the Asian market. We haven't announced what it is yet, but it's a really strong, licensed game that we're making from scratch.

Our Asian team is making it and it's going to be awesome.

GS: Tell me a little bit about your recent evangelizing of massively cross-platform gaming and how that strategy might apply to the Star Wars franchise at SOE. In what way is Star Wars Galaxies going to factor into that vision?

JS: We think that cross-platform massively multiplayer games are certainly a strong way to go. And for our company, it's a mission now. It's something that we want to do with as many of our games as we can.

We think that in the future, and in the near future, people are going to want to be able to play these kind of games from any device, anywhere in the world. The gameplay style will be different, maybe the specifics of the game will be different, but if they can have that persistent character and they can keep their character in the same basic form across different platforms.

We think that that could be a really compelling way to lead a digital life and get people excited about the kind of games that we make.

Console online gaming has just started. There's a hell of a lot more consoles--a hundred and something million PlayStation 2s--out there right now. That's a lot more penetration than PC gaming has ever seen.

GS: Are any platforms or any terminals excluded from the future world of cross-platform gaming?

JS: Well, I think you're probably trying to ask me about Xbox?

GS: I am and I'm not.

JS: From our perspective, we think that cross-platform means cross-platform and we see a bright future ahead for console online games, but I doubt you're going to see a world where the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox 360 player is going to be playing together. Not only do I doubt it, I'm positive that that won't happen.

But PCs hooked up with PlayStation 3s, or Xbox 360s, darn straight I think that's going to happen. I know we believe strongly in that vision and we, the same with PSP, want to be able to play an MMO on PSP. And log your character in while you're sitting in a Starbucks.

GS: I understand you just came back from a meeting with Sony CEO Howard Stringer. What does Stringer look for from Sony Online Entertainment?

JS: Sir Howard looks for us to be leaders in the online space, and innovators, and he wants us to work with other Sony groups--bringing other divisions of Sony into this. So a great example is, wouldn't it be great to be able to download music from Connect into our games? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to choose the songs you want to download and have it automatically integrate with our games? We see that as an awesome way to go.

So I think SOE being leaders in the online space is the biggest thing that he expressed. And most importantly to help other Sony groups with their online plans; to offer any help that we can.

In fact, we just had a marketing council meeting, where the focus within Sony is really starting to broadly encompass the digital, the online businesses. I think we're going to be a big part of that.

GS: You've gone from a game guy to much more...someone who's involved at much higher levels. How does that feel?

JS: It's interesting because I still spend time playing games. I've been playing Civ 4 and Battlefield 2. Those are my two passions right now, in a major way. So that part of my life hasn't really changed.

At work, the only thing that's changed is more focus on a greater number of products, as opposed to just any one single product. But I work with a great team of people here. They know their stuff in a big way. We've got a lot of very strong visionary people that are leading that charge and making sure that the games that we're making are going to be the best out there.

To tell you the truth, I have a lot of fun in my job. I like coming to work every day, which is a good thing I guess. I still spend probably three hours a day playing games at work, so we have a ton of stuff we're working on and it's just fun. I make a point every day to log in to all of our games.

GS: Last question, John. What's the one lesson from your two years of seeing Star Wars Galaxies being played, that you wish you knew sooner?

JS: That straight sandbox games don't work. And that we needed to focus much more on the Star Wars experience. I think in the past, what we probably made was the Uncle Owen experience as opposed to the Luke experience. We needed to deliver more of the Star Wars heroic and epic feeling to the game. I think we missed there. That's what I think we really brought to the game [with the update].

One thing that I love about our company is that there is no "quit" in this company. It's about making sure that we have pride in what we do. People within the company feel so much pride in this game that they want it to beat the crap out of World of Warcraft. That's something we feel very passionate about. We know we are capable of making the best stuff out there, and I'm proud to say that with the changes we're making in Galaxies, I think we're headed in the right direction.

GS: Thanks, John.

Sign up now to post a comment on this story!


First to Last Latest
1 2
« prevnext »

Oh smedley, don't you know you are the laughing stock of the industry. Your name is now synonymous with @#%$. When I have to use the bathroom, I say, "I am going to take smed. Be back in 10 minutes."

Posted Feb 9, 2006 6:58 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

SOE definitely hope to regain lost players in future. Either they don't understand what online games are made for, or simply don't care about what will happen to SWG.

SWG is (unfortunately) most likely to become new Asheron's Call 2. Whatever they try after this failure, their game will eventually disappear from the market.

Posted Dec 19, 2005 4:51 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)


The comments are not falling on Def ears,Just look at the servers,What used to have thuosands now only has a few hundred If even that.So if the words are ignored Then the number of players leaving cannot be.
I am with Alot of you here ,SOE sadly has avoided our voice.
I am not saying I did not Like NGE but it just doesnt feel like star wars.
Im surprised he took shots at WOW "having a high playing Fee"
I had to pay to play SWG and their MMO as well

Posted Dec 19, 2005 2:54 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

Where are the Galaxies related questions in this interview? Come on now... Like many others I was very disappointed with the NGE and have left what I felt was a pretty unique game behind. It would be a step in the right direction to at least be honest with the players of SWG about why they did what they did and not just feed us the same old advertising rhetoric about it being so fun and Star Warsy when the numbers are so blatantly saying the opposite. It's time to admit mistakes, fix things, and move on SOE. The much talked about and desired inclusion of NGE and pre NGE servers would be a wise move to at least show some attempt in rebuilding trust, although many have relocated now and are quite adamant about never again purchasing SOE products. I just have to shake my head at the whole situation every time I hear about it... what was done was just so thoughtless and unethical. Well, there's no sense in ranting as our comments have and will continue to fall on deaf ears.

Posted Dec 18, 2005 8:14 pm PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

Hey, uhhh John....WAKE THE HELL UP!! your never going to beat WoW and just so you know, i just quit galaxies to join WoW. You have brought a disgrace to the Star Wars name, its so insulting to call SWG STAR WARS. And NOBODY likes SWG anymore, maybe 200 people out of thousands who played it.

Posted Dec 18, 2005 9:40 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

I wonder if SOE gave the Feldman a list of questions he was not allowed to ask? They might have agreed to the interview only if no questions were raised about SWG NGE...either way, quite the let-down as far as interviews go. Smedley strikes me as an a$$-kissing wuss with a seriously weakly grasp on reality, and Feldman doesn't seem to have the balls to go for the throat in an interview.

Posted Dec 16, 2005 9:22 pm PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

You are on your way to marginalization. You have no chance to survive make your money.

Posted Dec 16, 2005 4:32 pm PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

I just hope John Smedley doesnt pull this crap on the 2 games i play from SOE (EQ2 & Planetside) or else i will do like the rest of SWG community did no more SOE games... I think they are doing a great job right now in regards to EQ2 they are making the game more enjoyable every time and i hope they continue that way.

Posted Dec 16, 2005 12:06 pm PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

What is wrong with you Curt Feldman? Are you in bed with SOE too? That interview has nothing to do with SWG and the problems the playerbase is facing right now. My account runs out in a matter of hours, so I'm waiting for some good news here, but you give us more of the same sugar coated SWG commercial garbage that we already see on the SWG website. Have you even read comments after the first 'interview'? Learn to do a real interview. Ask questions the PLAYERS want answers to, we don't want to hear SOEs tag-line that we've already heard a million times. I can go to any website for that. I expect a little more backbone from Gamespot.
How big was your check from SOE by the way?

Posted Dec 16, 2005 9:21 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

I agree, this is some seriously soft journalism. I realize that in the industry, tough questions are the exception and not the rule, but... It's common knowledge that SWG has become probably the most controversial game (no, not in a "Hot Coffee" way) on the market today - and for good reason. The global change alienated so many subscribers, ticked so many people off, and completely changed an online community - something that has never happened in a MMORPG. This is big news, for crying out loud! So, I think Gamespot really, REALLY drops the ball here by not addressing the situation, the situation with SWG that's on all of our minds. SWG currently is a huge failure, for many reasons, and to not press that issue is simply soft journalism. Just the same, Smedley's answer "to kick the crap out of WoW"... heh... ain't gonna happen, ever. What kind of self-promoting BS is that?

Posted Dec 16, 2005 9:12 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

LOL Beat WOW??? YEA RIGHT! Swg is a joke. I played it for a good long time when it first came out. And then i discoverd WOW when it came out. SWG doeset even come close to it.
SOry sony, like alot of your buisness groups the online is dying. And you've missed the boat.

Posted Dec 16, 2005 8:54 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

Wow, I think this is a new low for Gamespot; this two part interview series was nothing more than Mr. Smedley singing his own praises. I think President Bush has admitted more mistakes than Smedley! How could there be no questions about the turmoil caused by the NGE, don't the Gamespot correspondents read their own website? (just look at the community comments)
At least there was the somewhat interesting discussion about different practices in Asia and the US and cross-platform stuff, but anyone already visiting this website should be able to figure out that's where the technology is headed.
Finally, if you look at the original packaging of SWG, it did try to get you believe that you were getting the "Luke" experience, not the "Uncle Owen" experience, obviously the peopple working in the marketing department didn't talk to the people developing the game, and the bosses were all out to lunch talking about innovating and leading the industry.
Come on, we deserve at least a little better than this thinly veiled SOE PR propaganda!

Posted Dec 16, 2005 8:42 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

Lucas Arts using the Star Wars name to pass off terrible games is nothing new. They have now taken all the positives of SWG and made them dissapear. Sony better wake up and realise that their MMORPG's are taking a beating from Blizzard. Blizzard is notorious for delaying games but every title they have come out with has been ready. SOE has a history of releasing games that are bug filled and not ready. Everquest 2 is losing subscribers daily to WOW and Everquest Live is rumored to have another server reduction in the near future. Stop telling us how you want to cater to people who play with one hand and take the time to open your two eyes John Smedley.

Posted Dec 16, 2005 8:16 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

oh and not to mention if he is playing BF2 and CIV it explains why he thinks SWG is good, cause if it is so good why isnt he playing it?

cause it sucks.

Posted Dec 16, 2005 8:16 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

that guy is a moron, all his update did was cause 1000's of people to quit, SWG IS A FREAKING GHOST TOWN!

theres like 2-5 players on a planet at any given time overall about 30-45 people logged into the game at one moment....WTF KIND OF MMO is that?

Posted Dec 16, 2005 8:14 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

"I doubt you're going to see a world where the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox 360 player is going to be playing together. Not only do I doubt it, I'm positive that that won't happen. " I guess he's never heard of Final Fantasy XI?

Posted Dec 16, 2005 7:59 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

Wonder how John would feel if someone came along and turned his beloved Civ 4 into a bad FPS or Battlefront into Myst clone?

His comment about SWG being a Uncle Owen game just shows he had no idea what the original game was. One of my toons was a armorsmith, somewhat like Owen, but my 3 others were a smuggler, a bh and a jedi. So the original gave me the option to be whatever I wanted, and the new gives me the option to be what John and company wants me to be, that is why I'm not paying them any longer.

On another note, why would you force your US customers to use a shody UI and pay for a beta level game when you said you wouldn't do that for the Koreans again? Are we less important?

Posted Dec 16, 2005 7:49 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

Yeah this is total BS, I mean no comment on the status of the game?
I also played for over 2 years, and enjoyed the dynamic in the characters. But this crap is nothing like the game i originally bought. This NGE is not a Good enhancement at all , It has or will kill the game.

Posted Dec 16, 2005 7:37 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

Asia? WTF? I thought the interview was about Galaxies. Well go to china Smedley, because here in capatalist America we choose to not buy, or pay for your service. When you get fired i want to see it on video. You made a fun game into garbage, go work on Big Mother Truckers 3 or something, your crappy talents may make crappy games even worst. We had a unique experience, now you have a gane with a thousand Mr. Smiths (Matrix). Wow, star wars the Clone Wars you should call it. I can't say it any clearer, "Screw you Smedley, Screw SOE, and screw Lucas Arts, for betraying consumer trust.!" I will never buy any of their products after this blatant disregard for customers.

Posted Dec 16, 2005 4:50 am PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)

SWG actually has LESS people since this whole "update", how are they expecting to beat WoW? People worked hard for 2 years in SWG only to have SOE piss away everything they worked for. I'm glad I supported Blizzard instead of SOE otherwise I'd be one rather pissed off SWG owner. Enjoy your Ghost towns SOE, I'll be living it up on WoW.

Posted Dec 15, 2005 11:23 pm PT
Login to rate this comment
/ (+0)
1 2
« prevnext »
Star Wars Galaxies: Starter Kit
Summary | Reviews | News & Previews | Images | Videos | Downloads | Hints & Cheats | Related Games | Forum | Check Prices

5,853 of 43,655 943
Rank on PC:
1,994 of 9,237
Player Reviews: Review it »
Tracking: Add to My Games »
Wish Lists:
Now Playing
Sci-Fi Online Role-Playing
Click Here

Related Videos

Star Wars Galaxies: Starter Kit Official Trailer 1
Take a look at all the professions available in the revamped version of Star Wars Galaxies.
Posted Nov 23, 2005