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How One Startup Aims to Revolutionize Online Gaming [INVITES]

This post is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark as a new part of the Spark of Genius series that focuses on a new and innovative startup each day. Every Thursday, the program focuses on startups within the BizSpark program and what they’re doing to grow.

By Sarah Kessler February 03, 2011

Since 2006, gaming startup Trion has accumulated more than $100
million of funding and a staff of about 300 people for a project that
will introduce a distinctive game platform to the Internet. The
company’s first game, Rift, will be released next month.

The world in Rift will differ from that of other massively
multiplayer online (MMO) games in that it will be constantly evolving
and users themselves can influence this change. For instance, if players
fail to save a town that is being attacked, it will still be burned to
the ground when players log in tomorrow. Developers can also make small
changes as they learn how people are using the game.

Another game in the works takes advantage of the dynamic platform in
another unprecedented way: by aligning its story line with a television
show that SyFy is producing using the same world. If an event in the
television show changes the world’s landscape, those changes will be
reflected in the game world after it has aired.

“We have changed the experience dramatically, Trion
founder and CEO Lars Buttler says. “A traditional video game is played
in your machine, in your local console, and is a static experience…the
game does not evolve and it’s also not really social because you cannot
play with all of your friends against the environment that is created in
the video game.”

Massively multiplayer online (MMO) games have long been dominated by World of Warcraft, a game that surpassed 12 million subscribers
in October. In 2009, the game’s subscription fees represented a 58%
share of western spending on subscription MMO games, according to research from media analyst Screen Digest.

But Trion, and its impressive list of investors
(Time Warner, NBC Universal, and Bertelsmann included) think the MMO
gaming world is ripe for new domination. Mashable recently spoke with
Buttler about how Trion plans to incite a revolution in MMO games.

A New Kind of World

The constantly evolving worlds that Trion is developing for its new
platform have more advantages than being always fresh. Zion can change
games in response to player activity.

“Just like companies like Zynga in the casual games are constantly
measuring what people do and improving their games in the casual space,
we can now do this for video games,” Buttler says.

Being able to tweak the game also opens a more diverse range of
opportunities for advertising within games or creating virtual goods.
Trion plans to release games across every genre — role playing,
strategy, and action games are already in the works — and every game
will have a different business model.

Aiming to Be Zynga for Video Games

Before people played casual games
on Facebook, they downloaded them from sites like Yahoo Games. Before
that, maybe they played them on their Game Boys. The genre evolved to
become more social and dynamic.

“The same is happening to video games, and we are really leading this
transition where we make games that have the quality of traditional
games, that have very different genres like role playing strategy,
action, but they are also completely dynamic and live and incredibly
social,” Buttler says.

Trion’s games allow hundreds of players to collaborate at once, and encourage users to work together for higher rewards.

Unlike social games on Facebook, however, the market for video games is expected to bring in $70 billion by 2015.

“Imagine you could do something similar [to what Zynga has done with
casual games] to the much bigger category of premium video games,”
Buttler says.

Working With TV

Trion’s third scheduled game release, currently going by the title Syfy Action MMO will have a television component produced by the SyFy Channel.
The show will tell a character story within the game’s world. If
something happens in the show, it will be reflected within the game
world. Likewise, if a player does something heroic during the game, they
might find their feat being discussed on the show.

The partnership will help the SyFy channel connect with its audience
in-between episodes and seasons. Trion’s main motive in joining the
partnership is to introduce the MMO genre and its game to geeks who
might not otherwise be online gamers.

“we want to branch out,” Buttler says. “We want people to have the
opportunity to get familiar with it a little bit. For example, by
watching the show and then jumping into the game and maybe being a
little more of an observer at first.”

If you’d like to be part of Trion’s Rift beta testing event, follow @RIFTgame on Twitter and retweat this article. Trion will DM 50 Mashable readers with invite codes.

Filed under Media Coverage.