Underway at Redwood City, Calif.-based Trion: Its first game, a fantasy-based online RPG, and a development deal with the SciFi Channel.
What’s Trion? Think of it as the gaming equivalent of Google Docs, and the rest of the game industry as Microsoft Office.
Trion’s server-based games platform only needs a tiny piece of software to play games on a computer, video game console (Trion has a deal with Sony for the PS3), mobile phone, set-top box, etc. Trion’s servers do most of the heavy lifting; your device just displays the graphics. One advantage of server-based gaming: They can make massive changes to the game without needing to push out an update download to everyone. In theory, this means a SimCity-like game could potentially follow real-world weather or news events. One disadvantage: You need an Internet connection — the faster, the better — to play. So not much you can do on an aeroplane, for example.
Plenty of server-based gaming already exists, but most games are lo-fi, casual games. Trion’s first title under development: A yet-to-be-named, fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), being built by Jon Van Caneghem, creator of the Might and Magic and Heroes franchises. It’s also building a game with NBC U’s SciFi Channel, which will simultaneously share storylines with a TV show, also under development. Trion is mum on details, but SciFi tells the LA Times that “it will be set 80 to 100 years in the future on an Earth that looks very different from today,” and should launch in two years.
Trion is led by former Electronic Arts (ERTS) Online exec Lars Buttler; investors include Time Warner (TWX), NBC U and GE (GE), Bertelsmann, Rustic Canyon, DCM and Trinity Ventures.