Richard Garriot, creator of the famous Ultima series, has started a new social games company called Portalarium. Portalarium will be creating a social games platform that will allow games to increase their production quality and be easily publishable to various social networks. The company’s focus is on publishing higher-than-Flash quality games, and Portalarium also has interests in “open learning, open health, open science/environment, open government and more”.
Judging by the focus on the platform elements of the initial offering, it seems that Garriot is attempting to assemble a social gaming network, where game makers can easily publish their game. There have been several companies who have attempted to create this type of platform. Heyzap and J2Play have not yet built up the critical mass of audience necessary to be a vital part of a game developer’s publishing process. Portalarium hopes to change this by providing game developers with high-quality tools that will apparently make the current Flash social games seem primitive.
They will also be creating games to demonstrate the power of the portal, with their first game being a far cry from Ultima: Sweet @$! Poker is a social poker game available on Facebook. This part of their larger strategy, to kick off their games suite with casino games (similar to what J2Play and Bunchball did), and the game certainly has high production values. The question is whether players will be put off by having to download the “Portalarium Player” when they install the application. Funny to note is this little note that you get when downloading: The Portalarium Player is “a small plugin that provides more powerful graphics and better performance than all Flash-based Facebook games.”
Richard Garriot’s most recent position was with Korea’s NCSoft, creators of the hit MMORPGs Lineage, Lineage II and Guild Wars. He left on bad terms with the company after his first multi-million dollar game, Tabula Rasa, did not live up to expectations. In fact, he is suing NCSoft for $24 million in stock options, claiming that they had breached their contract.