radarScreen-719485Over at We Fly Spitfires, Gordon weighs the pros and cons of Cryptic’s upcoming Star Trek: Online release, which has received a tentative confirmation for the first quarter of 2010, not that far from now.

If there’s any MMO out there that has flown way under the radar, cloaked better than a Klingon Warbird, it would be this one. This is interesting in a variety of ways – for one, Cryptic has an MMO that just released that’s currently taking up its spotlight in Champions Online. Even though the hoopla for that title wasn’t as large comparatively to other MMO releases, it’s still that development team’s first major project post-City of Heroes and has garnered a lot of attention. The fact that Cryptic may soon be dividing resources between two live games is interesting, to say the least.

The other is that this is the Star Trek IP. Comparing this to, say, Star Wars: The Old Republic from Bioware, the amount of exposure the two games are getting is like night and day. Despite being cautious with their detailed info, Bioware’s PR storm has been far more prevalent than anything cooked up for Star Trek: Online. It’s a bit intriguing considering that Star Trek could be compared to Star Wars in terms of being well-known and famous in the sci-fi and geek world – yet the hype for this upcoming title has been next to nothing.

I can’t say that the strategy is one that is detrimental by any means, even if you take into account that this blog is always sunshine. The reason I say that is that many MMOs have been burned by the searing light of hype, expectations, and buzz without real detail. They’ve gotten a lot of attention only to be hurt by people quick to judge it as not meeting the needs of the MMO community. Where Star Trek is going appears to be a different approach – build the playerbase from the ground up as opposed to from the skies downward, offering a title that may have some initial problems but which could get a dedicated playerbase enough to spread the word. Star Trek’s famous aura in terms of sci-fi supports this kind of careful approach. Aside from Star Wars fans, Star Trek fans are among some of the most analytical and rabid I’ve ever seen in the years I’ve been moderating forums, and a game based upon that is going to need to be careful where they tread lest the community burn them at the stake.

It’s possible that being so cloaked from the community might end up being more hurtful to Star Trek: Online than helpful, but I can’t help but wonder if the title is planning on being a sleeper, moving in quietly to secure those disillusioned by the current crop of MMOs to offer a more realistic experience that isn’t “this game was hyped to x but didn’t meet the expectations because of y”. It appears that Cryptic has less to lose in this regard – and the fact that I’m writing about a title that only a couple months ago we heard almost nothing about shows that the strategy is somewhat working.