Origin Targets the Future
When the revolving door of employment starts turning at game companies, people start wondering, who is coming, who is going and why? The revolving door at Origin has been turning with smooth consistency since the beginning of the year, possibly indicating the company's refocused efforts toward online gaming.
According to David Swofford, Director of Communications at Origin, 17 employees have left involuntarily since Jan 1. However, he is careful to note that Origin has more employees now than it did one year ago. "We're actively recruiting people at Origin on our various product development teams," he said. "These comings and goings don't represent anything unusual in our business. The company is constantly assessing and reassessing its position and the status of its products and part of that review process involves analyzing our personnel and how these people fit into the current strategy. This should be viewed as nothing more than business as usual in this industry."
It has been widely reported that Origin is shifting its creative and business focus to online gaming, using renown single-player franchises such as the Wing Commander and Ultima series to leverage the emerging mother lode. Commented Swofford, "Online gaming is a primary focus of the company moving forward. Ultima Online has been a huge success for us and we do plan on moving additional products into the online space in the near future."
What does this portend for the Wing Commander saga? Another online version? Wing Commander: Prophecy Gold continues to be a popular product at retail; however, the episodic release on the Internet in 1998 of Wing Commander: Secret Ops was a successful event for Origin and strengthened the company's presence in the online world. In answer to this question, an evasive Swofford answered, "Wing Commander is very much alive and well at Origin. We will announce plans for the franchise in due time."
Despite a legacy of great single player adventures, one cannot blame the company for its altered state. Ultima Online continues to grow in terms of its subscriber base -- the company is now at 125,000 active accounts in the game -- and the in-game experience. There are new features being added on a regular basis and, according to Swofford, some "extremely exciting news" about the game will be announced in the near future.
In related news, Andy Hollis' group at Origin, which created the Longbow series of games under the Jane's Combat Simulations brand, will be concentrating on an unannounced project at Origin after A-10 Warthog is complete.