Medical License Revoked

People are lucky I’m too lazy to find my own “told you so” quotes about stuff. You know, stuff like “EA might shut down thanks to SW:TOR”. Because, um… EA might shut down thanks to SW:TOR.

This is the best quote:

“Specifically, initial sales appear to be below expectations, and casual observation of early play is causing us to rethink our churn assumptions,” Mitchell wrote

In other words, even people who just remotely observe the genre can already tell that SW is god-awful in terms of retention. No big deal except that oops, our business model is based on retention.

Sure, certain bloggers told you that in 2010. No big deal. It’s why they make the big bucks (do analysts like that make the big bucks?) and I drive my ‘thanks Darkfall’ Ferrari to attend “how are we going to liquidate Zynga” board meetings, during which meeting I write up posts to entertain the little people (that’s you).

Luckily, EA has figured out, no doubt thanks to a tip from the one Mythic employee still left, that if you disable the ability to cancel an account, it stops people from leaving. I do like the tip to call support to cancel. It keeps with the whole 4th pillar ‘voiced’ content theme all the way to the end. Well played EA, well played.

EA's stock price, or SW:TOR retention rate?

I’m also amazingly entertained by certain people who, just now, are suggesting that, maybe, sandbox MMO design might work better for long-term retention. Where do people come up with such groundbreaking thinking?

Oh and don’t worry, the think-tank over there has already brought up some very valid, very informed opinions.

Personally, I dont actually like the Skyrim-type games. I find that there is just too much to do and get paralysed by choice.

The fact that I might play two or three characters to level cap in three or four months and consider myself ‘done’ with SW:TOR until the next major expansion is a huge plus from my point of view

Neither EVE nor WoW are actually very good at player interaction, because the range of interactions you can have with another player in these games is so limited compared to real life interactions

I feel like the more we ask “how can we increase the longevity of MMOs” the more we move away from “what is fun?”

They could probably ‘Skyrim-ize’ WoW today with not too much effort.

Personally I don’t think a Skyrim type mmo would be successful at all because there is too much. My friends bought skyrim and liked it but stopped half way story-wise because they got overwhelmed with side quests and such. It would captivate you for a good 40-60 hours playtime and then you’re burned out. while I agree some more variety or alternate leveling paths should be in games, you will need to have some linearity or you’ll lose all your 2million subscribers before the 2nd month

The only way to really make an MMO everlasting is to randomply generate the story of the PC. Not the quests he gets, but the story behind the quests, allowing go’n’kill quests as well as those more complex, both morally challening and epic.

Just think, any of the above might be in your next random dungeon group!

25 Responses to Medical License Revoked

  1. Themepark MMOs are not, and likely will never go away. Players don’t want a second job. They don’t want to do stuff so that, months down the road, they can benefit. They want to be rewarded immediately. They don’t want to spend weeks grinding out credits/ISK/gold to buy a slightly better version of what they had before, and then lose it all just because some random Goon decided to just roll up and suicide-gank them.

    Casual, risk-averse players will keep the themepark MMO alive. AND THIS IS A GOOD THING.

    Just as EVE isn’t for everyone, WoW/TOR/STO/DCUO aren’t for everyone. Diversity in the market isn’t to be feared, or unwanted. It leads to competition and (hopefully) bursts of innovation. For example, the fact that TOR is 100% voiced. All the reactions I’ve seen for that are that it increases immersion and makes people actually *care* about why they’re going out and collecting 10 Jawa hoods, or blasting 25 gangsters.

    For folks who don’t care about a presented, professional story, are willing to sink weeks and months into a game, and aren’t intimidated by not having a path laid out in front of them, sandbox MMOs are the best thing since sliced bread. But – and this isn’t a criticism, this is just my opinion – such gamers are and will, for the foreseeable future, be the minority instead of the majority. Otherwise EVE, for all it’s “steady growth” would be the one with millions of players.

    • saucelah says:

      ah another one not seeing beyond what he has already seen.

      Sandbox does not necessitate feeling like it’s a “second job.” Sandbox does not require open, full loot PvP. Sandbox does not require grinding currency.

      Just because these things are current staples of sandbox offerings, does not mean they are part of the definition of sandbox.

      • Solf says:

        Yeah, well, similarly themeparks need not to be full of fail either.

        Or, in other words, technically you’re absolutely correct.

        However I’m yet to see ‘sandbox’ which has none of the ‘shortcomings’ James mentions.

        And I agree with James that for a huge slice of the population (perhaps even majority) these things are indeed shortcomings — not features.

    • Raelyf says:

      You’re right that there will always be a place for themeparks, and that this is good. You’re wrong in the assumption that sandboxes *must* have huge grinds, can’t be casual, etc. In fact, I’d argue that a sandbox is the only way to remove grinds, because linear themepark MMOs don’t have enough content to keep players interested without them, while sandboxes can rely on interested players to generate their own content (and content for others).

      Also, not only are there dozens of attempts at creating themeparks many (most?) of them have had budgets to rival every sandbox game launched combined. EVE was built on a shoestring budget, had (and has) almost no marketing, etc etc. In that context, it’s a rather stunning success.

      What those of us who love games like EVE want to know is, if EVE can be made on a shoestring budget, what could be done with 300 million (or 100, or 50)?

      • Carson says:

        Also, if I may submit a piece of evidence to the courtroom: let’s look at single-player games for a moment and think back to the year 2000, when a little title was released that went on to become the best selling PC game in history, and be famous primarily for attracting huge numbers of casual “non-gamers” to play it.

        That game? The Sims. Would you call The Sims a themepark or a sandbox?

        • I would call it hell on this earth… but I am obviously not the target demographic. So point taken.

          Plus I seem to remember playing a lot of something called Sim City back around 1990. At the time, a lot of people were unwilling to call it a game, since it had no obvious “win” state. Sounds like a sandbox to me.

        • Carson says:

          I was going to use Sim City as my example, but I couldn’t immediately find info on how successful it was. Also The Sims I think had more of a reputation for appealing to casual gamers. But certainly Sim City is an excellent example of a sandbox which was acclaimed, successful and spawned a host of imitators.

        • Azuriel says:

          I’m not sure how a single-player game is relevant to the OP’s point. You can do things in The Sims that you cannot do in The Sims Online – breaking the economy in the former is no big deal, whereas it arguably sunk the entire game by itself for the latter.

          I’m largely with James here. It’s nice to speculate what sandboxes with 300m budgets could do, but given sandbox MMOs are doing pretty terribly outside of a singular exception, what makes anyone think a bigger budget would make a difference? Money certainly hasn’t done themeparks any favors.

        • Raelyf says:

          @Azuriel

          Sandbox MMOs are not doing terribly. Think of EVE, Darkfall, Mortal Online, Wurm Online, ATITD, etc. They’re all still online. They’re all, presumably, making a profit. They may not be hugely successful, but considering how cheap they were they can afford their own definition of success. How many theme parks, on the other hand, have outright tanked and shut down? How many cost tens of millions that will never be returned?

          And to be quite frank, most of those games are extremely niche and/or horribly broken. They shipped with problems (bugs, balance, etc) that would have tanked any theme park MMO in the first couple of weeks, and yet still people play them.

          “…what makes anyone think a bigger budget would make a difference? Money certainly hasn’t done themeparks any favors.”

          Actually, the jump in terms of cost and success from EQ1 to WoW was absolutely unprecedented. Money was an enormous part of that. Further, the issues sandboxes have had are largely directly related to cash: bugs, art/graphics, poor balance testing, shipped before ready, etc.

  2. Professer says:

    I think a lot of us saw this coming.

  3. steelhunt says:

    Wait wait wait, I want to whore on the killmails too!

    “My particular deal-breaker is arguably a reason why I should not be in MMOs anymore: EVE seems particularly hostile to single-player gameplay” http://inanage.com/2012/01/19/grains-of-salt/

    • Kobeathris says:

      In fairness, I get what he is saying. I don’t think he means “I just want to play by myself and be left alone,” I think he means “I don’t want to play a game where I can’t freely make my own choices about what to do when I sign on”. Of course, that is not a problem with Eve (or any other MMO for that matter), that’s a problem with setting boundries and choosing the people you play with wisely (and something Gevlon would jump all over).

      In addition, I do agree with the CSM in one regard in the quote above that. It makes no sense for a frigate to have 10 times its value in mods while a battleship has like half its value in mods. I disagree with the CSM that the answer to this is making battleships more like frigates. I think frigates should be more like battleships.

    • Azuriel says:

      Kobeathris is correct.

      I enjoy sandboxes quite a bit. I even agree (and always have) with Syncaine that other players are the “content” in MMO endgames – I didn’t stay subbed through a year of ICC because of all the novel, in-game fun I was having.

      The difference is in methodology, in the social sifting mechanisms. I prefer the drive to be social to originate in wanting to share experiences, rather than rooted in need. If not joining a guild/corp/etc is simply dumb or suicidal, if you are constantly beset on all sides by a hostile universe, then grouping is required, then social obligation is usually required to maintain consistent grouping, and then suddenly you’re canceling activities with people IN REAL LIFE because missing this raid/war-dec/etc could fuck you over for months with drama (“Where were you, man?!”).

      In other words, the benefits to group should (IMO) be because you like these people. Not because it’s safer, more efficient, only way to see the true endgame, etc. People as Ends, not Means.

      Of course, without social obligation, people are less likely to log in at predictable times and/or have many opportunities to do things together. Hence, a desire for meaningful, engaging single-player activities in the meantime.

  4. bhagpuss says:

    Well if they’re in your random dungeon group their opinions won’t matter because you will never speak to any of them and even if you did you’d never meet them again so who cares what they think?

    • SynCaine says:

      Yes but what if the drool hits the wrong key and they miss a step in the dance???

      Wait nevermind, still get rewarded for failing. All good.

  5. Mobs says:

    Im so happy. Fuck EA. SOPA supportin bastards.

  6. Mara Rinn says:

    Ah, now the true reasoning behind George Lucas quitting the Star Wars franchise is revealed :)

    I just hope that my Star Wars fan friends will not be too disappointed by TOR and feel that they actually got their money’s worth.

  7. Carson says:

    “I do like the tip to call support to cancel. It keeps with the whole 4th pillar ‘voiced’ content theme all the way to the end.”

    Oh great, you made me spray my screen with my drink. Luckily it’s only a work computer.

  8. Two questions:

    When will the big retail box price cut come? I might try the game for 30 days if it were $24.99. There could be that much single-player value in the game.

    How soon until we get a “Downfall” parody with Hitler as an EA exec being given the bad news?

    • SynCaine says:

      When is the next big Steam sale? I’d listen to this for $5.

      • With all that voice work in the can, could they create SWTOR: Audio Book Edition?

        • saucelah says:

          I’d listen to it in the car.

        • eudaimonean says:

          I personally hold out hope for the TOR:Actually Singe Player Edition. I know, I know, all the reviews have been saying that the best thing about TOR is that it’s a great single player experience, but from what I read it’s only a great single player game _compared to other MMOs_. All the things that make MMOs terrible solo experiences (grindiness, the necessity of robust “balance” preventing too much player flexibility, grindiness, character model congestion, grindiness, inability to save/explore different character paths in one playthrough, grindiness, grindiness) are still present in TOR as it exists today. But as a consequence of its design, TOR didn’t actually gain any of the advantages that differentiate MMOs from single-player games. Grindiness actually serves a useful, fun-promoting purpose in the context of a massively multiplayer game with high player interaction. But it serves no purpose in a single-player game where I just want to go for a ride on the patented Bioware plot-train… other than to pad out the playtime and force me to stay subscribed.

          In other words, even though my goal is just to enjoy the single-player component of the game, TOR’s not going to do it for me. I want to pay $60 and get 30 hours of densely packed SRPG goodness, like KOTOR. I don’t want to pay $30 and get 70 hours of padded-out SRPG mediocrity, like TOR.

          So yeah. I used to hope that TOR would fail modestly enough so that I could take advantage of the price drops and ride the single player theme park experience. Now I hope that TOR fails so massively that EA will shut it down and tweak/re-release the game the single-player game it was meant to be.

  9. Wyrmrider says:

    “I do like the tip to call support to cancel. It keeps with the whole 4th pillar ‘voiced’ content theme all the way to the end.”

    Haha, well played sir.

    I think trying to rush out the 1.1 patch before the end of the free month was a huge mistake. If you felt the combat was a little clunky before (as I did), it’s VERY clunky now because it’s difficult to tell when cooldowns are available without mousing over them. If you liked PvP, your queues are now longer and Ilum is borked.

    I guess it’s a good patch for clickers who rushed to endgame and have beaten all the current raid content?!?

  10. theJexster says:

    I will never, in my life, shy away from having more choices, content and options, but then again I guess I can “handle” it.

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