Marvel Entertainment has inked a 10-year deal with the privately-held start-up Gazillion Entertainment to make massive multiplayer online games (MMOs) using Marvel’s characters. Marvel first announced a deal for an MMO with Microsoft back in 2005 (see “Marvel and Microsoft Team-Up For MMOGs”), only to abandon the project in 2008 (see “Marvel MMORPG Is History”). According to the industry research firm DFC Intelligence, the MMO market is expected to climb from its current total of $5.4 billion in 2008 to $11.8 billion by 2013.
Gazillion, which is backed by leading venture capitalists such as Allen & Co. and Oak Investments, is no ordinary start-up. It has been operating in stealth mode as NR2B Research while assembling a team of highly experienced designers from across the landscape of MMOs, console video games, animation, and technology--headhunting enough key personnel from companies such as Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Microsoft Game Studios, and Pixar Animation to staff four different design studios. In addition to Marvel, Gazillion has also signed a deal with Lego Industries.
Gazillion has also decided to target “casual gamers” to create a true mass-market form of MMO’s rather than attempting to wrest the dedicated online gamers away from their current obsessions such as Blizzard Entertainment’s hugely successful World of Warcraft. As befits this mission Gazillion’s first game for Marvel, which is due out in 2010, is a casual MMO for younger audiences based on Marvel’s stylized Super Hero Squad property (see “CN Adds Marvels Super Hero Squad”).
Gazillion is also designing a Marvel Universe MMO for PC and consoles. It should be interesting to see how the business model of the Gazillion Marvel Universe game differs from the Marvel Universe Online MMO that was announced in 2006 by Marvel, Microsoft and Cryptic Studios (see “Marvel & Cryptic Unveil Marvel Universe Online”) and later abandoned.