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Business - Written by on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 20:20 - 2 Comments

Trion World Gaming: Revolutionary or Just a Bunch of Hype?

I’m sure many of the Wikinomics blog readers are familiar with Massively Multiplayer Online Games, but there is an off-chance you haven’t heard of Trion World Gaming. They have yet to release a game, but Trion has been very active in securing funding. They just landed a deal worth $70MM from a consortium of Venture Capitalists, which brings their total VC-take to over $100MM.

So why are they “worth” that much? Well, according to their CEO Dr. Lars Buttler (a former Electronic Arts executive who worked on Might and Magic and Heroes), the reason is two-fold:

  • First, Trion’s goal is to design a MMOG that can truly operate cross-platform. This means that Trion’s games will work across devices ranging from your PC, your gaming console, and web-enabled mobile phones.
  • Second, Buttler is convinced that Trion’s other ace is the premise that he calls “dynamic gaming”. This “dynamic gaming” seems to be a flavour of the traditional server-based MMOGs, but Trion exercises more control over the environment, aiming to give the user a “unique” experience. Here, the game can change overnight, at the behest of Trion’s designers.

Superficially, this “dynamic gaming” concept seems more like an attempt to create a new buzzword rather than provide some tangible, novel technology. But, of course, some very clever investors feel like Trion is a hundred-million-dollar-plus investment. Digging deeper, Bertelsmann, Peacock Equity (NBC’s VC arm edit: A JV between NBC Universal and GE Commercial Finance – Media, Communications & Entertainment. Thanks, Alex!), and Time Warner all have vested interests, and Trion has teamed up NBC to issue games that coincide with a yet-to-be-released TV show on the Sci-Fi Channel. This seems like a MMOG version of Andrea’s last article on LiveHive, a Waterloo, Ontario-based company. So that will definitely be a market-share battle to watch, but their markets are still pretty separate.

So the burning question is: Have those savvy investors misspent their $70MM? Kind of. It’s been two years in the making; HP has firmly backed the server side of Trion’s business for over a year. They have surplus cash, and Buttler has been poaching high-end talent from his former stomping grounds at EA. What’s the hold up?

I too feel that cloud-centric gaming is where the EAs and Blizzard Entertainments of the world will compete for market share. The cross-platform MMOG concept is compelling, but it’s highly unlikely that Trion will be allowed to easily branch out to other platforms given their relationship with Bertelsmann (who shares half of the control of Sony BMG). The PS3 is their first console they’re trying it on. That’s going to make it tough unseating the incumbents World of Warcraft or EVE Online. Am I missing the Killer-App part of the pitch? Maybe I’m not ready to be a VC.


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Alex Gordon
Sep 24, 2008 9:30


Just wanted to point out one error in your post: Peacock Equity is a joint venture between between GE Commercial Finance’s Media, Communications & Entertainment business and NBC Universal, not NBCU’s in-house venture arm. More info at http://www.peacockequity.com.

Wikinomics » Blog Archive » The PR Police – Keeping an Eye on the Blogosphere
Oct 7, 2008 18:11

[...] 7th, 2008, 07:12am Last week I wrote an article about Trion World Gaming in which I made reference to their impressive venture capital backing. [...]

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