Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Is the MMO viable now?

In a previous post I discussed numbers using the Xfire methodology of study.

It has been noted (several forum posts actually) that if you use an average of the player numbers listed in Xfire and multiply times 30 you can get a rough average of North American players for an MMO (use WoW for example to see about 2.9 million which is pretty darn close to stated numbers by Blizzard...for WAR we get about 143k, and their overall numbers were at about 500k scrips..and note this is a weekday average. This can go up on the weekends.)

It is not hard science, but helps us get the trend of the state of MMO's. And the numbers seem to jibe quite well.

Why did I decide to do this, as someone questioned the reasoning..

Simple.

Is the MMO really worth a companies time and effort now?

2008 would prove that if someone is still deciding on entering this market...they may wish to think twice.
We do know some companies are dedicated to MMO's. Mythic as an example, Turbine, etc. What else would they do?

But, what about Funcom or Codemasters? Two companies who have single player games which have done well in the past.

Is is viable for EA to continue to pursue this market? What about Bioware? Bethesda?

Look at Microsoft who has touched base multiple times on making an MMO, only to falter, and say..."Forget it".

Why is it that hardly anyone can say anything bad about EQ2 (besides the hate of SOE which is another matter...), yet EQ2 rates lower than a lesser quality title like Lineage 2 or Age of Conan?

As I continue to play various single player RPG's and see the fun, I wonder about the MMO still.
Witcher was a small indie production, yet has sold a million copies. They should have had a great return on this.
But, look at Tabula Rasa. How much of a loss are we looking at here?

So, I am being selective in my list, and for good reason. From hype, to major advertising to word of mouth...
Why even bother making an MMO now when WoW dominates the market so.

Ok...more on this later, and for now...cheers.

7 comments:

adingworld said...

It sounds that you are you are expressing a bit of current frustration with MMOs :)

While WoW may be the biggest player for Western subscription-based MMOs there are of course room for many others.

An MMO may have lots of nice features on paper, but more features does not make a game more fun. And MMOs also depend a lot on how the communities of players can interact with each other.

Now, what is an MMO really? At what point is a game an MMO and when is it something else? And does it matter?
There is no clear definition that everyone can agree on.

I think if a game enables some kind of game world experience where people have have the ability to play and socialize with each other, then it has the MMO spirit at least.

I think MMO-type games are quite viable, but may have to rethink the focus in the game design in some cases.

For starters, loose the idea that the games have to keep people occupied for as long as possible. Loose the idea that your game is the centre of the universe and the only game in town in that view.

Embrace the idea of communities and that games are participating elements in communities, not that communities are isolated bubbles hovering around certain games.

Openedge1 said...

For us as the player, this is a great sentiment.

The issue lies in what is delivered in these current systems.
And for the Developer, Distributor, etc....how does the bottom line look.

Can Vanguard which took years to develop really be making any type of cash for SOE? The Matrix? Star Wars?

What about Funcom, who has had two MMO's dump on them, see a viable future in developing for their MMO's?

And based on the current crop of games, can any developer look at an MMO and say "Hey, we should put our time into making a really good one of those...cause so many people play such a variety of these games..."

A variety of maybe 5% or less of the market play different MMO's, the other 95+% plays WoW.

I may be a disgruntled player, but I have good cause with such a dearth of oh so releases lately.

I keep saying all I need to see is one other MMO hit a million or more subscribers, and then I will think an MMO is worth putting more than 30 days into...

Otherwise, lately they are just barely worth the price of the box.

Melf_Himself said...

I would have trolled all over this post a year ago.

However now I'm starting to believe that for the majority of developers, it's just not going to be worth it. I've seen too many MMO's come and go, usually ending in a spectacular blaze of fail.

You have to have something new you're bringing to the table. No, you don't count the crap you put in the marketing slogans, the stuff that you actually know in your gut as a designer is new and revolutionary.

If you don't have something like that, you really shouldn't bother, unless you're awesome.

(Read: ArenaNet, Blizzard)

I'd include BioWare in that list, but I kind of don't want them to make SW:TOR in a way, since if it fails their already flagging company is apparently not looking in good shape.

Openedge1 said...

Bioware? Flagging? That is news...
Or do you mean EA?

I think Bioware is their saving grace, and Mythic was their mistake (ever wonder why the EA/Mythic disappeared before release of WAR?)

Every Bioware game I know has been a hit in one way or another. I know of no major failure (except maybe MDK2, which was still a sleeper hit in some ways...cult status)

Can you maybe point me to evidence of the Bioware issues?

And everytime I touch anything Bioware, I see the quality, so I do not believe there will be another AoC or Tabula Rasa, etc..

I think you don't want to include them so you don't jinx them...hehe..

Then there is Bethesda...can THEY pull off a unique MMO...and do they even want to after the thrashing the current ones are getting?

Time will tell

adingworld said...

AoC may have done ok financially just based on the fact that is was pretty hyped and a lot of people bought the game initially. If I recall correctly the game cost around $25 million.
Assuming Funcom at least got half of the price for the initial games sales (700K+) they already got most of that money back.

Also, part of the investment in AoC was for the game engine which they are reusing for The Secret World MMO, presumably then a lower investment needed for that game.

That is the same for a number of the other game companies also - the initial 1-2 games might or might not do well, but after that they intend to be better and faster and producing new games.

Vanguard is probably making money for SOE, depending on how much they had to pay for the game. Given the shape of the game when they bought it they probably did not have to pay that much. The same goes for Matrix.
It certainly may not have been profitable for the initial developers though.

But this only shows that people still do need to have a clue about what to do in the area, not that the market area as a whole is not viable.
It is not an automatic money printing machine, but still viable to get numbers in black for companies.

What I think will decrease is the 4+ years, huge budget games being developed. A select few may still do that, like Blizzard. But I think we will rather see more MMOs with smaller budgets and shorter development times.

That is less risk overall and probably no smaller chances of turning into profits.

Copra said...

The way of the world is that the small and versatile make the innovations and the large and capable use those innovations to make money. Clever small ones sell their innovations in time, dumb ones stick to their babies till they drown.

WoW holds the crown for the reason that there is something for everyone playing MMO's. With high quality and predictability.

What current MMO's are lacking the most is the polished social systems. EQ2 has a lovely and working guild system and housing, which WoW is lacking. Still the social tools in both of them are below adequate.

I enjoy most in game when I'm chatting the night away, laughing my butt off and later I realize I didn't achieve anything. But I had fun, all the night through.

That's what really counts, IMO.

Copra

Brendan said...

At this stage of the market, I think what we are seeing are a lot of developers and publishers trying like heck to compete with Warcraft and not really pulling it off. In their own way, each of LOTRO, AoC and WAR were trying to pull people from Warcraft, and each of them did to a certain degree, but ultimately not to the degree that any of them initially hoped. The reason for that is that it is very, very hard to compete with the polish that Blizzard has put into *that* kind of MMORPG. Even if you bring killer graphics (AoC), great storylines (LOTRO) or more PvP (WAR), ultimately each of these games was missing something that WoW provided to its players, while offering the same "basic design" of quests, levels, and primarily instanced PvP.

There is a *lot* of room for innovation -- an MMORPG does not need to follow an EQ/WoW model, or even be about swords and sorcery. There's room to be creative, like EVE Online was, for example. What it will take, however, is a developer and publisher who are willing to take a risk, and willing to work on a much smaller budget in the hopes of attracting people who are not looking for another WoW, but something different.

You'd have to know on the way in that you wouldn't be getting a million subs. You wouldn't spend the kind of money that is justified only if you are swinging for the seats in terms of sub numbers. And you'd have to be quite happy to take on a good amount of risk. But it can be done, with creativity and qualiy design and programming.

I doubt we see this anytime in the near future, however, due to the economic conditions overall. I do think that publishers and developers are taking note that the efforts to go head-on with WoW are not really working out out very well. Whether they continue to make games that try to "dethrone WoW" by becoming the next 1m+ MMORPG remains to be seen. But I think it's definitely a very challenging proposition right now for people to be trying to compete directly with Warcraft.