DC Universe Online: Can a Lex Luthor plot get people to pay for Sony’s new MMO?

January 11, 2011

Holy MMO, Batman! Sony Online Entertainment sure hopes DC Universe Online — the splashy new massively multiplayer online game that hit stores today – won’t share the fate of the caped crusaders’ legions of arch-villains over the past few decades.

Fans willing to shell out $59.99 upfront and then $14.99 a month can create their very own superhero and play — on PCs or Playstation 3s — much-loved characters from Superman to Batman and Wonder Woman, in locales eerily familiar to comic geeks from  Metropolis to Gotham City.

Reuters first reported back in 2008 about the arrival of the  world’s first licensed MMO comic book game. Tuesday’s launch is part of  Warner Bros’ and parent Time Warner Inc’s major push to fully exploit the DC brands in video games.

The game looks to tap the “tens of millions of action gamers who have never played massive multiplayer games before,” said John Blakely, vice president of development for Sony Online Entertainment, the division of Sony that produced the MMO pioneer EverQuest.

“When you log on to that server to Metropolis and there’s a thousand people in there working with you and against you, that’s something you’ve ever seen before on your action games,” Blakely said.

But,  Blakely admits: “Our hard pitch is going to be, why should I pay 15 bucks a month for this?”

Blakely believes there is a large portion of people for whom the game is ” really going to click.” But industry watchers are less than convinced it’s going to be a breeze get people, used to paying nothing for Zynga’s CityVille, to cough up $15 bucks every month.

“Good luck,” says Mike Hickey, Janco Partners analyst. “That model is increasingly less relevant to the market to day and people are not willing to pay for a game like that.”

While  the subscription model worked for World of Warcraft, that was six years ago and “back then it was a totally different market,” Hickey says.

Looks like it might yet take some super-heroics to get the gaming world to jump, cash in hand, into the DC universe.

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