It’s the end of the world as we know it. The MMO genre is dead.


Have you heard this argument before?

Over the last week or so, a massive wave of pessimism has swept the blogosphere carrying everyone in its wake.

The recent crop of bad news has been jumped on by skeptics as final proof that the end is nigh. Even firm believers fear for the worst.

However when I survey the plethora of titles simultaneously coexisting in the MMO market today, as viewable in Syp’s excellent MMO timeline, it’s clear that a game doesn’t need 1 million subscribers to continue. People are still playing Ultima Online, Everquest and Lineage today.

When I reflect on SWTOR’s 6 months since launch, I see 2.3 million sales to an enthusiastic audience that enjoys multiplayer online games and was hoping for the next big thing. If we take a read through the complaints on the official forums and other places, you find that most of them focus on quality of life issues – PvP balance, the ability to move servers, the ability to easily group up etc.

This doesn’t tell me that story is a lost cause in multiplayer games or that themeparks are on their last legs.

Of course there have been bumps on the road.

Not every MMO has the right business model, or can differentiate itself sufficiently to get traction with an audience.

Many will have to evolve to meets the demands of the market.

Some will fail.

But as long as there are players willing to pay for these games, there will be developers eager to make them and investors willing to finance them.

About bernardparsnip

Gamer, Blogger, Poet
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4 Responses to MMOpocalypse

  1. ctmurphy46 says:

    I am ready for more artisan mmos. Building Ye Ole WoW-Like with the intention of pulling into 5+ million plus is just insane, even if you are in charge of a major gaming IP and fully believe that everything WoW did is “core to the MMO experience.”

    I mean, I suppose some developers think they can make the sequel to WoW the way WoW was the sequel to Everquest (as far as advancing a specific kind of game), but what most people don’t realize is that WoW is the sequel to WoW and even the threequel.

    If you want to challenge it, you’ve got to innovate everything well.

  2. But as long as there are players willing to pay for these games, there will be developers eager to make them and investors willing to finance them.

    Where is the audience willing to pay for “these games”. I see an audience paying for WoW, and an audience willing to try out expensive games with high production values.

    On the other hand, I don’t see investors willing to put money behind these games. In fact, I’ve seen investors tune us out because we did mention MMO. It’s getting to the point where we’re thinking of developing something besides an MMO just to get funding.

    ctmurphy46 wrote:
    I am ready for more artisan mmos.

    Here’s the challenge: where does the money come from? Indie MMOs aren’t exactly taking the world by storm, as I pointed out in my blog post. Investors are gunshy. Publishers won’t fund something small, if they’ll fund anything at all. Kickstarter doesn’t appear to be a reliable way to get funding for an innovative concept. So, where does the money come from to keep the lights on?

    • “Where is the audience willing to pay for “these games”. I see an audience paying for WoW, and an audience willing to try out expensive games with high production values”

      Brian, naturally this is an area where you have more experience, but I will share my humble opinion.
      I put the link in to Syp’s blog because it reveals a multitude of games that have found sufficient ‘stickiness’ in the market to keep going. It appears that RMT shops have helped many MMOs to turn their fates around and I do believe that we should be looking at success stories like Minecraft and World of Tanks as well as to WoW/EvE for future inspiration.
      I think the fact that a tech demo for Pathfinder Online managed to raise $150k is indicative that crowdsourced funding can work in some circumstances but I agree it is not the panacea to all MMO fundraising challenges.

      Regarding the audience willing to try expensive games with high production values, I have seen many blogs condemning them as ‘tourists’ and ‘locusts’, however from my perspective they are just customers that want to play a good game. They are not spending $60 with the objective of having a poor gaming experience or having something new to moan about on the internet.

      EDIT: Corrected the Pathfinder tech demo $.

      • Re: Pathfinder Online: A few problems here. First, the goal isn’t clear. They call it a “sandbox fantasy MMO” which means it’s potentially going to be a tremendously expensive game if they do it in the style of a typical MMO. Think EVE Online mechanics with all the (expensive) demands of fantasy art and animation. That means that $150k is a drop in the bucket compared to how much they will need. Second, they are obviously banking on the Pathfinder name. Pathfinder is huge for talbetop RPGs. It is selling better than D&D, which is a first in the entire history of the tabletop RPG market. Note that they were able to raise money without even giving any access to a digital game to the backers. This isn’t something someone else could do just as easily. Finally, there’s some doubt about if they can even deliver; Spinks thinks they won’t be able to get full funding to make a game. So, I don’t think you can hold Pathfinder Online up as an example of how Kickstarter can help MMOs get made quite yet.

        As for people only trying out expensive MMOs, my point is that the majority won’t touch other MMOs. If the audience continues to demand high production values, the cost won’t come down, and we’ll continue to see the same problems we’ve already had to deal with in MMO development. Nothing will change, and we’ll be having these same arguments 10 years from now as we had them 10 years ago.

        My further thoughts.

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