Anyone else seeing the irony of SOE making their next EQ game a WoW clone? My my how quickly things change, and am I the only one thinking SOE is going to find a new and creative way to screw this one up as well?
But warm SOE thoughts aside, the EQ franchise going in a straight-up WoW-clone direction does bring up an interesting point; can you make a ‘mass market’ MMO in the post-WoW age without just trying to remake WoW? Or rather, WILL anyone try to make a ‘mass market’ MMO that’s not “here is how we plan to recreate WoW” in 2010, 2011, or 2012?
One would think that with so many titles having already tried that strategy in vain, someone at a big company would take a quick look around and say “hey, let’s not try to re-create what happened with WAR/Aion/LotRO/insert-failed-WoW-clone-here”. That perhaps they would look at the successful smaller titles that have been around for years and instead say “hey, if we throw X millions of dollars at this idea, I think we can expand the concept beyond the 10s or low 100 thousands of users”.
Now I’m not saying that if you throw 100 million dollars to make a AAA version of something like A Tale in the Desert or Darkfall it’s going to result in 1 million+ subscribers. Actually I’m fairly sure it won’t, but then again I’m also fairly sure cloning WoW using $100m and a famous IP gets you WAR, so…
This brings up two related questions: is ANY game capable of WoW-level success, and if so, is the WoW approach (easy, overly accessible, MMORPG-lite) the only way to go? My answer to the first question is no, as I’ve always believed that WoW is an outlier in the genre, a product that came along at just the right time and, due to a social snowball effect rather than any design decision, reached the heights that it reached. But assuming a title could reach WoW-levels of success, it’s interesting to think about the second question.
On the one hand, WoW has shown (reasons aside) that it IS possible for an MMO to attract 10m+ users. On the other hand we have the countless examples of why trying to re-create WoW is a good way to blow a ton of cash, and we also have a title like EVE, which is completely different in almost every way from WoW and yet is arguably the second most successful MMO ever (at least in the US/EU), considering it’s still growing after 6+ years and shows no signs of slowing down.
So if I’m an exec looking at the MMO market, I see two very different things. I see a huge game whose community loves an easy, accessibly, low graphics, solo-based MMO. I then look at the other big success story and I see a game that over the years has slowly built up its user base without sacrificing the original design core but has massively upgraded its graphics and the requirements to run them. A complex and at times arcane game as famous for its terrible lows as it is for its amazing highs (and one that many see as a giant spreadsheet-based bore), and one that has had more ‘famous’ controversies than perhaps all other games combined.
Is there a middle ground? Is there a way to make a broader-reaching EVE, or a WoW-like game that lives up to expectations? And perhaps most importantly, is that what TODAY’S gamer wants? Back in 2005-06 everyone and their mother wanted what WoW was selling, just like back in 2000 everyone wanted what EQ1 was selling. What if that something is not more WoW today, like it was not more EQ in 2004? Is the demand for something today more MMORPG-like, or something even LESS MMORPG-like than even WoW? And if it’s the latter, has the MMO genre’s time come and gone like beat-em-up games, fighting games, and recently music games? Have we come full circle and are back to being a niche genre again, like the ‘good old days’?
Chuck-o-the-day: All of the actions performed by a Chuck Norris action figure are hate crimes.