Improbable’s plan for rescuing the MMO genre from ‘nuclear winter’ involves a crapton of money

Have a melon.

Improbable keeps popping up in news stories relating to MMOs lately — that’s thanks to SpatialOS, what the company is calling a “distributed computing platform for building large virtual worlds for gaming.” The platform is now in use on MMOs from Identity and Worlds Adrift to Chronicles of Elyria and Metaworld; its most recent partnership was announced last week with RuneScape studio Jagex, and it’s already working with Google to bring the tech to “hundreds” of developers. has a great interview out with Improbable CEO Herman Narula today that illuminates what the team worth over a billion bucks (an extrapolation based on the fact that Japan’s SoftBank’s half a billion dollar investment bought less than a 50% stake in the company) is focused on. It turns out it’s mostly video games — but it’s also bigger than video games.

“Our long-term objectives, and it is long-term, is to literally create other worlds,” explains Narula. “Not just in the context of gaming, but in the context of being able to solve really important problems. This core problem of massive distributed systems and engaging large-scale virtual worlds, is as important and significant as AI or space travel. It is just as important for the future of what our experience will be like as human beings in the world, and how we are going to solve some of the most pressing problems that we have. […] A lot of people just can’t believe that we think games are important. They are incredibly important and they’re going to be more important. Hypothetically, one day, if 100m, or 1bn, people entered simultaneously into a virtual world, that would cease to be a game, that would be a country.”

But the real reason MMORPG gamers should sit up and take notice is that Narula believes in the power of online virtual worlds and the MMO genre specifically.

“I want the industry to believe in online games again. We went through a bit of a nuclear winter, with MMOs in particular, and part of that was technological, part of that was gameplay and part of that was consumer expectation. But now the time is right to revitalise the notion of worlds where actions can be meaningful and where we can create these experiences that we’ve dreamed of. I am hoping that with us having this cash and having this stability, it’s going to make people excited about investing in that.”

Narula believes that now, “there is a much larger market of people who want deeper immersive experiences,” but the tech to make that happen has proven risky and expensive for all but the biggest studios. “What we are hoping to do with technology like Spatial is make it possible for people to do that a lot cheaper and a lot quicker so they can take experiment more,” he explains. “And maybe we will start to see some of the vibrant innovation that we have seen elsewhere. […] We are not in this to flip the company or make a quick buck. We did this because we want to play the things that people are going to make on top of Spatial. I will consider it mission accomplished when I can enter into an immersive world and feel like that experience is as meaningful as the real world.”

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