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Originally published Monday, May 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Game development is hot here

John Smedley believes there's a huge audience waiting for what's to come to the MMO world — and he hopes some of that audience is female.

Here are a few excerpts from an interview with John Smedley, the San Diego-based president of Sony Online Entertainment. It was Smedley who bought a local startup to establish a studio in Bellevue in 2004.

Q: Does Seattle have enough game-development talent to support the growth of your studios and others in the area?

A: That is a great thing about Seattle. Microsoft has been an excellent source of great resources. Microsoft hired a lot of smart people over the years and after a while some people want to jump ship. That's how we formed that studio.

Q: How are sales of "Pirates of the Burning Sea" (an online game developed for Sony by Seattle's Flying Lab Software)?

A: Good launch, doing OK. I would say that it's kind of for an audience that's really excited about pirates. It's probably not as big as "Everquest 1" or "Everquest 2" but it's actually doing terrific.

Q: Does your Seattle studio have enough capacity to support "The Agency" and develop another game?

A: We're trying not to distract them.

Q: Does the realignment of your group, from Sony Pictures to Sony Computer Entertainment, mean that you're going to try boosting PlayStation 3's online network with your MMO [massively multiplayer online] games.

A: I think MMOs are going to be a real strong selling point for the PS3 long term — there's going to be some great ones on the PS3. You're not going to find "The Agency" on the [Xbox] 360.

Q: Have MMOs reached the mainstream yet?

A: I would say they're getting more mainstream. If I were characterizing it, I would say think of the video-gaming industry five years ago. That's kind of where I think we're at. ... Five years ago, do you think "Grand Theft Auto IV" would have done $500 million [in opening-week sales]? To me, video games are just reaching the real mass-market now. That is going to translate to the MMO side of the business.

Q: Do you think everything will be an MMO in the future?

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A: I don't. I think it's just like in the single-player or low multiplayer; it's just about the individual games. We think there's a huge, hungry audience waiting for that to come to the MMO world. It doesn't mean everything's going to be an MMO. I'm sure there's always going to be single-player games.

Q: Where will MMOs be in 15 years?

A: Right now it's about 85 percent male. I think it's going to be 50-50. You're going to see a lot more big name brands in it, including ones we're building. These games are as big as hit movies are right now.

— Brier Dudley

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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