Gartner, a well-known (at least here in the states) IT research and advisory firm, had a pretty amusing April Fools joke. They announced a new magic quadrant which was literally focused on magic. (Thanks to Xyd for sending me that link.)
But this got me thinking about applying the Gartner Magic Quadrant idea to the MMO industry.
Gartner divides up industries into grouping around specific technologies or foci and then rates all of the players in that industry based on two criteria: Ability to execute and completeness of vision.
I would show you the chart for my industry, IVR Systems and Enterprise Voice Portals, except that it would cost me $2,000 to get a copy from Gartner and I am pretty sure they wouldn’t let me just post it on the web.
But making it onto the chart at all, especially if you are a smaller company, is a big deal. It means you are considered a player in that market space and need to be taken seriously. And to arrive in the magic quadrant, the upper right hand corner, is practically money in the bank as you will be invited to bid on projects at big companies.
Of course, the irony here is that with many projects with big companies like, say, Dell or Wal-Mart, you are lucky if you break even. Projects with small to medium size companies have the highest margins because unless you screw up, they tend to be happy and rarely ever call support.
This also does lead to more than a bit of the tail wagging the dog. I have worked on more than a few features that were thrown in because it was felt we needed that for our Gartner review. There was Gartner driving vision rather than measuring it. And more than once I have pointed out to the marketing people that we have new feature X in our latest release only to hear that we told Gartner we had that a couple years back.
But I digress. Let’s just say I have had some experience with prepping for Gartner.
And the standard Gartner chart looks like this:
The four quadrants are defined as:
- Leaders score higher on both criteria; the ability to execute and completeness of vision. Typically larger industry developed businesses with vision and potential for expansion.
- Challengers score higher the ability to execute and lower on the completeness of vision. Typically larger, settled businesses with minimal future plans for that industry.
- Visionaries score lower on the ability to execute and higher on the completeness of vision. Typically smaller companies that are unloading their planned potential.
- Niche players score lower on both criteria: the ability to execute and completeness of vision. Typically new additions to the Magic Quadrant, or market fledglings.
And the magic of the whole thing is how they score companies and place them in the different quadrants which is based on two criteria.
The first is ability to execute. Can the company in question do what they say they are going to do and do it well. That one is not so tough to figure out, at least in hindsight. Funcom for example, not so good on the execution side of things with Anarchy Online and Age of Conan.
The second part is a bit tougher to judge because, for those of us who follow MMOs, “Vision” is a loaded word. But vision is not what we are looking for, but “Completeness of Vision.” Sigil Games, pre-Vanguard launch, laid claim to a lot of vision, but at the same time was clearly staking out too much territory without being able to explain how they were going to get there.
The vision we are talking about here is less the that of a wonderful future with flying cars than that of company both knowing what they want to do and being able to explain how they are going to do it. They can make a game that is both fun as well as polished and keep it going.
They end up publishing something like this.
Success, as much as anything, seems drive you to the upper right quadrant, since that is seen as a validation of ability to execute and completeness of vision.
So if I were the Gartner analyst for MMO companies, I would surely put Blizzard in the Leaders category. You can argue against that, but you’d better be able to pull out something better than “WoW sucks!” because they have the biggest claim to success currently.
Trion Worlds, with how they have done with Rift so far, would be squarely in the Challengers category. They have shown they have the ability to execute so far, but are still too youthful to be able to prove their completeness of vision. SOE would be there as well I think. I think they have fallen out of the leaders quadrant for now.
There is a temptation to put Aventurine in the niche category, but I think they might just squeak into the visionaries quadrant. They started off there, but seem to be working towards a more complete and sustainable vision.
I have no idea where to put CCP. People call them niche, and they have certainly fumbled the ball when it comes to completeness of vision (features that end up not working as planned and are left to die on the vine) and ability to execute (maybe the root cause on the feature failure, plus a lot of down time and that UI), which could leave them candidates for either the challengers or visionaries quadrants. On the other hand, they have seen steady growth over time, something that sets them apart from most MMO companies, so you could make the case for leadership.
But maybe you should be the Gartner analyst instead of me.
Who else should go on the chart and where should they be placed?