File this one under “Dark Humor”, but Mark Jacob’s (former Warhammer Online lead designer) now-dead blog was called “Online Games Are a Niche Market”, a title that at the time was used as a joke because Mark believed MMOs had ‘made it’ and were mainstream because of WoW. What Mark has now learned, and at some point people like Tobold will realize, is that the MMO genre IS a niche genre, and taking one pop sensation and trying to pretend that’s the actual market size is well… a good way to merge servers after a few months and a quick way to get fired.
Which is not to say that as a niche the genre can’t be hugely profitable, just ask CCP or Turbine. What’s not profitable is looking at one outlier and thinking your great idea is enough to draw that population in, a population that NO MATTER WHAT is not interested. They do a good job of pretending to be interested, sure, but the sooner you realize they are not, the better (for your game and your job security).
Sadly games like WAR, Aion, and soon enough SW:TOR don’t seem to understand this, and the aftermath can/will be brutal. The one big question I have is; does Blizzard understand this? Is their next MMO aiming to replicate the EVE model of slow but steady growth over 5+ years through superior MMO design, or will they go even further than WoW has and remove even more of what makes an MMO an MMO to appeal to the far larger but fickle non-MMO gamer segment? Are they prepping Blizzard’s take on sandbox MMO design, or a highly polished Mafia Wars?