Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The rise and fall of western MMO civilization as we know It...

In a previous post, I had taken note of how the market for the MMO has changed. We cannot look back at how MMO launches use to be, and compare the genre today to that happier, simpler time.

Luckily, a comment from that post goes so far as to prove my point even further. (Props to Carson 63000 of Eldergoth, who had this to say...)

"Successful monthly sub games, like EverQuest, Ultima Online, Asheron's Call, Final Fantasy XI, Eve and WoW, do not steadily increase over the first month and then drop off as a proportion of players decide not to pay more to continue.

Successful monthly sub games have more new players coming in than they have players deciding not to continue. Successful monthly sub games have more players after a year than they did after a month.

I agree that Rift seems to be following the predictable curve set by virtually every MMO in the last five years. But this really isn't the only direction a game can go, and it's not one to aspire to, even if a bunch of box sales and a one month "churn and burn" is enough to pay for your development"

I think we can look upon his comment and really note the issue with this comment...

Ultima Online, EverQuest, Asheron's Call, Final Fantasy XI, Eve Online and WoW

1997, 1999, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004

What do we see here? Mainly, these are the launch dates for each of these games. Each MMO listed is 7 years of age or older. Why use games that were in a market dominated by RTS's, Diablo style RPG's or turn based roleplay (Final Fantasy) as a comparison of todays MMO market? If we look at these titles, each was a unique in the field; heck, console games were not even the norm at that time. If an MMO launched, it was something of interest.

Now, we have a world dominated by million sellers being straight console, FPS styled shooters and World of Warcraft or the "churn and burn" MMO, as he calls them.

All MMO's since WoW have not garnered any success beyond several hundred thousand subs, with EvE being the last on that list (besides WoW) to hold on and bring in more subs since launch (that we have any real data for).

No matter the situation, this genre is toasted thanks to WoW. Every MMO from this point on will be compared to WoW. Every game (MMO, I should say) that launches without as much product content as WoW has will be criticized and ostracized for not having WoW's gameplay...period.

Comparing this market now to the market of 7 years ago does not help any argument that "This MMO is fail" due to retention not being WoW sized. Name one MMO since WoW that has continued to grow and is bigger now, than it was at launch (without going free to play...*cough* LOTRO who did NOT expand further until they changed *cough*) and THEN we can talk.

Please note, we never touch on discussions of Asian grinders or Free to Plays, as we cannot get a real data read out of how many are true revenue generators, etc. We are strictly talking the western market and the syndrome of the launch of a AAA title.

For now, just like the console FPS shooters, the PC is flooded with so many MMO's still running or in development...I mean, head to MMORPG.com and just look at their game list. So many to choose from AND many more to come.

Personally, I think any developer that launches an MMO now has several objectives.

First, lets sell the box. We make back our development costs and can continue to develop. Next, retain a good number of subs (as keeps being proven to us by low end games like Age of Conan, Warhammer Online or any other title in the last 5 years). 100k sounds good, but if you have more, why ....thats just peachy keen. Now, work your sales mojo, offer free trials, return trials, develop, fix, stabilize, add content....and hope that as players leave, others come in to replace the slack. If you get lucky, you could get out an expansion and then start the whole cycle again.

Now, as the player, you can, as I keep seeing on every blog, twitter or forum post...try to enjoy the market and games as they are and pray to whatever God, Gods or Spirit you follow that Star Wars: The Old Republic is that savior you hope it is.

Well, why shouldn't it be...so many other IP based MMO's have been major successes in the last 5 years (/snark).

Truly, we need to understand that the words "WoW Killer" is just not a reality, and until something unique and awe inspiring happens in this genre, shaking the very foundation the MMO stands on, we need to look at each MMO release critically without the added..."Is it like WoW?".

If Halo, Gears of War, Crysis, Call of Duty...and...(damn, don't have enough fingers or toes to count the FPS's available) can all co-exist, why can't the MMO market live the same way.


Longasc said...

*pokes* I want to encourage you to write more about Rift than about the Game of Numbers. You got a bit lost in observing trends through the X-Fire game.

Anonymous said...

It's the subs. FPS games are "buy and forget". Subscription based games function very differently, and almost demand monogamy. That changes the dynamic (and the game design) in ways both subtle and gross.

Elementalistly said...

"Subscription based games function very differently, and almost demand monogamy."

And yet, everyone is looking for another fix. Why?
If their monogamy is so intact, why even stray?
I do not believe the genre can be so committed anymore...at least the X-Fire game is proving that with all of the up and downs of the players in general.

Welcome to Next Gen MMO gaming.

Davee said...

Free-roaming Sandbox MMOs are the future I tell you! Lots of them are popping up lately, whether they are inspired by the Ultima Online -formula (like Mortal Online is) or the more detailed and recent full terraforming-games like Wurm Online (partially made by the father of Minecraft). That's my hopes anyway. :)

Right now I'm personally writing down an idea I have about one set in a fictional Western setting.

Take on the role of a settler just arriving from the east - head into the vast uncharted wilderness to explore, hunt, survive, stake some land, prospect for gold, build a mining complex, found a town, build a railroad, get a reputation. In any order. Or join one of the warring factions and help them dominate the lands. Or create your own - with enough support. Or if you don't give a crap about things like that - you just want to look out for yourself - become an outlaw and rob trains, stagecoaches, banks - anything! And take the consequences of infamy and bounties placed on you. All player-driven and regulated free-for-all PvP. And all done in a high-end and technologically advanced game engine (currently looking at CryEngine 2/3 and UnrealEngine 3).
And this is just a small part of it. ;)

I've got some games design experience myself, and I'll be starting out small with the basics. With time I'm planning on doing some recruitment. It'd all be a free "mod" for the engine it's built on, at least for a while.

I should probably have put this in a games design forum instead of a comment in some blog, but I thought you may be interested. And I wanted to get it off my chest! :)