The Sorcerer of Sony

The hottest properties in cyberspace are virtual worlds. Meet the man who’s making magic — and millions of dollars each month — by developing the Net’s newest boomtowns.

On any given day, you can find John Smedley smiting the odd necromancer or brandishing his sword alongside wood elves who want to kill the emperor of the snakelike Shissars. Sometimes, though, he just strolls around observing his fellow citizens. To you, they might look like knights, wizards, and ogres, scuttling across a three-dimensional landscape of castles, caves, and dank swamps.

But to him, they must look like money.

Smedley, 33, is the chief operating officer of Sony Online Entertainment, where he’s master of the virtual boomtown known as EverQuest. Once a destination for the fringe Dungeons & Dragons crowd, the online role-playing game now has 433,000 paying customers who generate $5 million a month for the Japanese entertainment giant. Given the 40 percent gross-profit margins, and the fact that this world practically runs itself, the dragon-slaying business is looking pretty good these days.,1640,42210,FF.html

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