Darren over at Common Sense Gamer had a bit of news today based on a quote from Codemasters, with the basis of it being that they want to release one MMO per year. Being the ever lovable doom and gloom guy that Darren can be, he then references the dot com crash and relates it to the MMO market of today, his main point being that he thinks the MMO market is not as big as most assume it to be.
First off I think Codemasters publishing one MMO per year is entirely feasible. They did not say they are internally developing one MMO per year, simply publishing one. They had little to do with the development of LoTRO, they just handled the marketing and publishing in Europe in exchange for a cut of the profits. As more developers jump into the MMO space, and we expand beyond the traditional fantasy setting, the market will support more frequent releases of top-tier MMO games.
More publishers getting involved with MMOs can only be a good thing, as it means more competition to acquire the rights to new games, thus raising the overall standard and giving developers more places to sell their game. When SOE, EA, Codemasters and others compete for the rights to publish a game, the winner ends up being the developer, and the consumer in the end. Like the free agent market in sports, the more teams bidding, the higher the payout for the player. The player in this situation is the developer, and with more money, they will be given more time and resources to craft better gaming experiences.
In addition to this, I think that the MMO market is only as big as the next great game. If someone ships a Sci-Fi WoW-like game next year, who is to say that won’t get 5 million or more subscribers, many of which might never have bothered with WoW because they don’t care for fantasy games. Or perhaps Warhammer will live up to it’s hype and deliver a truly groundbreaking PvP game, which might attract a large portion of the console and FPS crowd, a segment that previously might have ignored MMOs.
My point is that the MMO market is only limited in size based on what products are available. There is no magic ‘cap’ that once hit will result in a stable base of players who jump from one MMO to the other, without bringing in new players. Like the console market in the late 90s, the more competition we saw, the larger the market got. Each year we heard how this was the year the growth would stop, yet the videogame market as a whole continues to expand, going from a ‘nerd’ industry to something that is now more mainstream than most movies or music, an industry were Halo is bigger than any blockbuster you see over the summer, or any CD you have purchased this year.