Peter Molyneux is up to something. What’s next for the man behind Fable, Black & White, The Movies, Magic Carpet, and Populous? The answer is sure to surprise you.
Earlier this year, Molyneux took his leave from Lionhead Studios, the game company he created, to tackle new challenges at a startup called 22cans. This new company’s self-described philosophy is to create “truly innovational and experimental ideas leading to the release of a new form of digital entertainment.” A new form of digital entertainment, huh? Pretty lofty goal. But then, Molyneux’s been innovating and experimenting his entire career.
22cans’ first project is called Curiosity (or rather, it was until a certain Mars rover came along; Molyneux is currently brainstorming for a new name to avoid any confusion), and it’s not really a game. Not in the traditional sense. You see, 22cans’ plan of attack is to build up to the release of their first big game (still several years away) by releasing a series of experimental apps over the next few years. Each one of these experiments will be focused on a single concept.
The title formerly known as Curiosity centers around a ginormous virtual cube made up of tinier cubes, which exists in a single, massively multiplayer instance and can be accessed by up to a million players at once. You “play” by mining the giant cube, making it ultimately disappear, one tiny cube at a time. And did I mention these tiny cubes number in the tens of millions?
What, that doesn’t sound terribly compelling to you? Well just wait, there’s a twist. At the center of the cube, Molyneux and his team have planted a secret. A secret that only one person will find. And it’s not some silly, made-up secret like the meaning of life being the number 42. Curiosity‘s secret is a good one. A really good one. Molyneux — who’s no stranger to hyperbole, mind you — has described the secret as “life-changingly important.” He says the secret is “so amazing, I think it will appear on news reports.”
What kind of secret could Molyneux possibly have up his sleeve that can live up to that hype? Personally, I’m thinking it must be the AllSpark. Robots in disguise, people!
But there’s more. Curiosity is expected to be a freebie when it drops for iOS, Android, and PC next month. But there will be in-app purchases that will help you chip away bigger pieces of the cube at one time. File this bit under “B” for bat-crazy: the biggest and most exclusive of these in-app purchases is a diamond pickaxe, which will cost the one person insane enough to buy it: $50,000. Uh-huh. That’s what I said. (Come on, you know some idiot out there with money to burn will actually buy the thing.)
Molyneux ain’t saying what “single concept” this experiment is about, but it seems to be focused on a kind of social competition. Or maybe it’s about seeing just how deep the human need to uncover secrets goes.