Robert Hutter never had much of an interest in gnomes or elves before trying Everquest. A buttoned-down venture capitalist specializing in networking technology and educational software, Hutter checked out the online game in 2003 after hearing it was wildly popular with young, mostly male gamers willing to shell out $13 a month in subscription fees.
Hutter, now 37, soon found himself retreating late at night to his home office to join fellow Beastlords and Enchanters roaming ancient castles on the Plane of Mischief. What hooked him was sharing a camaraderie with hundreds of thousands of fellow adventurers and a near inexhaustible supply of quests to tackle and places to explore.
In 2005 he persuaded his partners at Revolution Ventures in San Diego to shell out an undisclosed amount of seed capital. He quit his vc gig and launched game developer Gazillion near his home in San Mateo, Calif. Armed with more than $50 million in venture cash he's since raised, Hutter has assembled a studio specializing in what are called massively multiplayer online games--never-ending online ecosystems in which players spend years building characters and completing adventures with fellow gamers. Hutter gobbled up four small gamemakers and now employs some 200 developers and designers working on five multiplayer games, four of which are slated to hit the Web by 2010.