The questions that most executives have been asking about PW proposals and projects are generally the same ones they have used with success in evaluating the viability and progress of standard retail games:
What are we selling?
To whom are we selling?
What will the game cost to develop?
How long will the game take to develop?
What will it cost to get the game on the shelf?
How much money is the game likely to bring in?
As more than a few publishers and developers found out the hard way in 2001, those questions are not nearly comprehensive enough to gauge the viability of a PW proposal. The questions list should look more like this:
What are we selling on the gameplay side?
What are we selling on the in-game community side?
What are we selling on the out-of-game community side?
Which of the three main player profiles are we primarily selling to?
Are my developers experienced in PW games?
What will it cost to develop the game?
What will it cost to perform scaled testing of the game?
What will it cost to deploy the network operators, hardware, and bandwidth at launch?
What will it cost to ramp up and deploy CS and community relations personnel?
How long will all this take?
What will it cost to get the disc on the shelf?
When do I amortize the service costs?
How many months of service before I see a return on the investment?
Which expensive consultants should I hire to tell me if the answers I get to these questions really are the right answers?
These are only the basic considerations. The more you know about PWs (also known as massively multiplayer online games or MMOGs), the better and deeper the questions you can ask. If there are good answers to your deeper questions, they will tend to be more complex and inter-related than answers to the simpler questions about simpler games. Yet, you have to do this digging, especially if you're considering plunking down several million dollars. There is a difference between leaving your footprint on the Sands of Time and leaving a splatter pattern on the pavement outside David Letterman's studio.