I just saw on Yahoo News where Disney has plans to release a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) called Pirates of the Caribbean Online, based on the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl. Needless to say, as a fan of both pirate movies and pirate fiction, not to mention a student of the Golden Age of piracy, my interest is piqued.
The game is currently being developed by the Walt Disney Internet Group's VR Studio. It will retain the flavour of the movie, complete with humour and plenty of swashbuckling adventure. Not only will players be able to make their own characters, but they will also be able to form their own pirate crews! As in Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl, players will be able to fight other pirates and the undead (I have a friend who claims Pirates of the Caribbean is "the most historically accurate undead/pirate movie ever made..."). The game will be suitable for anyone 12 and over. They have yet to decide if any of the characters from the movie will appear in the MMORPG. They also have yet to settle on pricing for the game. Right now they are looking at a release date in summer 2006, roughly coinciding with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl).
Of course, Disney is not the first company to start development on a pirate game. Flying Lab Software has had Pirates of the Burning Sea in development for years now. The game is set in the 18th century Caribbean. Players will be able to serve in the navy as commander of a ship of the line, get a letter of marque as a privateer, or simply "go on the account" as a pirate. Players can even create their own content, making their own 3-D models and textures and submitting them for approval for inclusion in the game.
Pirates of the Burning Sea sounds very interesting to me. Unforutnately, from reading the system requirements it looks like I would have to get a brand new, top of the line PC just to play it. The games requires very high resolution and either a DSL or cable modem connection. Those of us with standard dial up modems cannot even play the game! Anyhow, Pirates of the Burning Sea is sitll in development and no release date has yet been announced.
Another pirate oriented MMORPG is The World of Pirates, this one from the WOP-DevTeam. It is set in the 17th century Caribbean. The emphasis in this game seems to be on strategy, construction, and trade. The player can operate as a pirate or even the governor of a province. He or she can own cities, engage in diplomacy with other nations, and, of course, experience swashbuckling on the high seas. The World of Pirates seems to take the opposite approach from Pirates of the Burning Sea. The graphics are strictly 2-D. The World of Pirates is currently in beta testing.
I'm not sure that The World of Pirates would interest me that much. It sounds almost like an online cross between two Sid Meier games--Pirates and Civlization. Now I have always enjoyed such strategy games myself (I've spent literally hours playing Civlization), but a strategy game is not exactly what I want out of a MMORPG. As to the graphics, if I am going to play in a MMORPG, they had best be 3-D and as a high a calibre as my PC can handle.
As to whether any of these games will be successful, that is hard to say. With the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl behind it, I am guessing that Pirates of the Caribbean Online will be fairly successful. I imagine that the general public, especially children, might well flock to it. As to whether serious MMORPG players will find it to their liking, that may be a different matter. I have no idea if Pirates of the Burning Sea or The World of Pirates will meet with success. With regards to the former, I am thinking that its system requirements might limit its potential subscriber base. As to the latter, I am not sure that most MMORPG players are going to want a 2-D strategy game. At any rate, I do think that there are enough people interested in pirates that a pirate themed MMORPG could be a hit.