MMOG developer and publisher Trion World Network just closed a $70 million Series C round, which brings its total raised since its inception in 2006 to over $100 million.
This might seem like a staggering amount of money for a company with two games in development but none published yet. It’s trading on the name of its founder, Jon Van Caneghem, of Might and Magic fame. But it’s not that much money if you realize that games are now being made on movie-sized budgets, and MMOGs are exceptionally expensive to develop.
Dan Hunter had an interesting piece on the Terra Nova blog last year regarding the financials of MMOG development, based off an Interplay prospectus for an MMOG based on Fallout. That cited a cost of $75m, including a launch budget of $30m, which presumably includes marketing, manufacturing, and server deployment.
MMOGs are not efficient beasts, and by their nature, they are also prone to flash crowds and highly variable capacity needs. Most scale in a highly unwieldy manner, compounding the basic inefficient utilization of computing capacity. Utility computing infrastructure has huge potential to reduce the overbuy of capacity, but colocation on their own hardware is nigh-universally the way that such companies deploy their games.
Nicholas Carr estimated back in 2006 that an avatar in Second Life has a carbon footprint equivalent to a Brazilian. Last year, I heard, from a source I’d consider to be pretty authoritative, that an avatar in Second Life actually has a carbon footprint larger than its typical real-person (usually an affluent American).
This is why Internet data center providers drool at MMOG companies.