Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard has fired a shot across Sony’s bows by describing their popular free-to-play currently PC-only MMO Free Realms as “insipid” and lacking a certain “joie de vivre.”
Speaking during his keynote at, you guessed it, Develop, the man behind the monster hit RuneScape commented on how, at one point in time, the prospect of going up against Free Realms was a serious concern for the studio, Sony’s financial and industry weight something the Cambridge-based developer felt would be extremely hard to compete with. He states:
“I’m probably going to upset people from Sony. There was a short period when Free Realms was slated to launch that we went, ‘Ooh, ah, this could be scary for us.’ And scary because in 2005, Sony nearly invested in our business. Instead, [SOE’s] John Smedley said, ‘I can do this myself.’
We felt they’d looked up our proverbial skirt: they knew the business model, develop plan, everything – inside out. And with the mighty budget of Sony we would have some serious competition. The thing that saved us was that Free Realms was perfectly designed by committee.
Gerhard goes on to describe the game as trying to please all but failing to resonate with a particular crowd. “It was neither fish nor fowl,” he said. “It didn’t have any identity. It was, I guess, largely insipid.”
Free Realms still managed to go on and attract over 10 million registered users and has been deemed a success by its development studio, Sony Online Entertainment. The free young-person focused MMO (with payment models available if you want to get deeper into the game) is still pencilled in for a PS3 release at some point in the future.