Remember that post about how to make it big in blogging?
I present you with exhibit A.
Well played Ravious, well played.
Today’s post is somewhat of a continuation from yesterday, because what I’ve heard/read is fascinating in so many ways.
According to more than one commentator here, the themepark side of the MMO genre is doing just fine, and all but Blizzard would wish they had the problems SW:TOR has with its ‘1.4m subs’. Also the fact that WoW is declining was both expected and still OK.
On the other hand, you have certain analysts and bloggers calling the recent events surrounding SW:TOR and 38 studios as the death of the genre as a whole.
Jester believes the problem is that $15 a month per player is just not enough to make the business work, while also believing that the market for MMOs is indeed 10s of millions, rather than the hundreds of thousands that every game but one has managed to retain.
Unrelated but related, Jester also believes EVE’s growth problem (a growth ‘problem’ I’m pretty sure every MMO would like to have) is that the game is not attracting new players, but rather that vets just keep buying more alts. At the same time, we have Mittens talking about how there are too many soft noobs in EVE, who just now are potentially ruining the game with their carebear noobishness. Luckily we have the goons working on that problem!
And you would think that SW:TOR impaling itself on the 4th pillar would put an end to that nonsense, yet TESO devs are selling us a 100% solo-story for their upcoming game. Oh and it will have PvP. And be a themepark that looks like WoW. Yup.
So yes, opinions vary. Interesting stuff to be sure.
And I still contend that if you can’t make $18m in annual revenue work (100k subs), you are doing something wrong, but that’s a different post.
MMOs are a niche genre in gaming. They are games that require additional ‘work’ beyond just loading something up, and to really get the most out of them you have to put in that ‘work’ consistently. They can also be very expensive or absurdly cheap depending on how much you play, and overall the barrier of entry and when the game ‘clicks’ is far longer than most other genres.
In 1997 Ultima Online came out and did far better than anyone expected. Stronger than expected sales, plus the ability to collect money after the initial sale in the form of a subscription, meant a LOT of money was being made from an unexpected source. Those with the ability jumped in as soon as they could, and most games did well if not very well (EQ1) in the MMO niche. You had to try really hard (AO) to screw up an MMO, and even if you did you still survived.
Then in 2004 WoW came out and suddenly a niche genre was flooded. Some called them tourists, others believed the genre had finally ‘made it’. Most importantly, Blizzard was printing money faster than anyone else, regardless of the genre. No matter how awesome Madden X was, after EA got your $60, that was it, and that always somewhat limited the earning potential of games. Not so for MMOs, and with WoW subscriptions toping 10m, the market was no longer collecting $15 a month from a niche crowd.
If UO encouraged others to give the genre a shot, WoW basically forced companies to do it. WoW’s profits made all other genres of gaming seem inept, and hey, how hard could this MMO thing be anyway? Grab an IP, toss a bunch of cash at it, and bam, 10m people throwing $15 a month at you forever!
A few problems.
The first being that 2004 WoW is not the version of WoW being cloned. WoW 04-06 built the foundation for the juggernaut, and the mistakes of WotLK and especially Cata were not realized until recently. The reason? MMOs snowball. Once you have a certain number of people playing, it’s difficult to piss them all off fast enough to boot them all out instantly. Even when you try (NGE), it still might not work.
The second issue is that for most, WoW was their first MMO. You always like your first MMO more because hey, it’s all new to you. That newness only happens once, and even if you perfectly clone the correct version of WoW, you can’t replicate your game being someone’s first MMO. This aspect can’t be underestimated, both for initial impressions and retention.
So you have MMO ‘noob devs’ cloning the wrong version of WoW, and not only that, but you have a fan base that is rather confused. True MMO players hate casual themepark games because they are MMO-lite, while the millions that made WoW such a huge hit say they are looking for more WoW, but time and time again they move on much faster than the previous title; and in a space where retention and collecting $15 a month is king, that’s an issue.
Is it really that surprising that AAA themeparks have sold well and retained so poorly?
The reason I take such pleasure in watching SW:TOR fail is because that game is the very definition of the above, only magnified to such an extreme that even the most casual observers are coming to the correct conclusions (mostly). And if the casuals get it, at some point devs and publishers will as well.
The truth is that the MMO genre is not dying. Not even close. MMOs like EVE or Rift are doing well. MMO-lite titles like SW:TOR and current-day WoW are not. This is very good news for MMO players, who for years have seen the vast majority of resources wasted on AAA themepark failures. Yes, not all of the money will flow into real MMOs, but we don’t need all of it. Just some, and some will most definitely find the right people due to the fact that real MMOs are making money. It’s hundreds of thousands of subs money rather than millions, but the MMO genre never contained millions of players. Just a solid core, and a whole lot of tourists mucking everything up.
In a year from now the story won’t be that the MMO genre is dead. Actually there won’t be a story because who writes about niche stuff anyway? But outside of the spotlight, we will be talking about some pretty cool upcoming games, and how EVE continues to be awesome, and how Rift is still getting content added like crazy, and how GW2 (maybe) feels so fresh and yet so familiar. That will be nice.
PS: It’s tough to judge 38 Studios in the above. If Copernicus was yet another WoW-clone (it sure looked like one), then the studio closing down was just an acceleration of the inevitable. If the game truly was an EQ1-clone, it’s a sad loss and further reason to shake an angry fist at management.
And I’m hoping that ‘death’ arrives with SW:TOR. If even half the crap about that game is true, it’s going to be an E.T., bury-copies-in-the-desert-sized disaster. Nothing, and I mean nothing released about that game has interested me in the least, and the very basis for the game (dev-driven story) is a joke when you consider what MMOs are all about. Yes, please spend 300m+ creating a Dragon Age-like Sci-Fi game (at best) with a monthly fee that you expect me to replay over and over with a different class to hear all of the sound-bites and sure-to-be-awesome MMO-game plots and stories (that, lets be honest, they will vary only slightly, with the majority of the stuff repeating exactly like in DA:O). THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT. Oh and Starfox-based space combat, that too! – God’s gift to blogging
While you wait for a real post about 38 studios and EAWare, I highly recommend looking up all my posts tagged with SW:TOR. I may not have been as ahead of the curve as former MMO blogger “EVE is dead in 2012” Tobold, but 2009 is a decent start right?
Also it’s cute that so many bloggers are reposting my 2010-2011 stuff, but much like cloning WoW, you are doing it wrong people.
Can’t stress enough how good of a value this is if you enjoy strategy games.
Have dreams of running a kind-of-a-big-deal blog with awesome amounts of traffic and comments? Here’s how!
1: Blog about the hottest MMO currently out or in the peak of its hype cycle. WoW, SW:TOR (before it died), and most certainly GW2 right now are great examples. Niche MMOs = niche blogs, don’t waste your time.
2: Keep the blog entry short. Most readers don’t have time to read long entries, and long entries will also cause issue with some of the items below.
3: Keep the topic positive, and easy to understand. Offending people drives them away, and most don’t care/understand complex topics. There is a reason WoW dungeons can be finished in 15 minutes by facerolling; do the same for your blog if you want to make it big.
4: Use pictures. They are easy to understand and allow someone to ‘read’ an entry in just a few seconds. Think of pictures like welfare epics; if you want to keep people happy, you need to give them shinies. Don’t worry about whether the post needs a picture or not, even if it adds zero value, a popular meme gif will make people feel like they ‘get it’.
5: Make it easy to comment. Complex topics that require previous knowledge are hard to comment on, and will drive people away. Everyone can tell you their favorite race or starting zone, it will only take them a few seconds, and they will feel like they are contributing.
That’s it. Follow those five simple steps and you too will soon see massive traffic and have a thriving ‘community’ of fans.
(Granted, the above will get you a soulless generic blog with no real lasting value that only entertains the lowest common denominator, but TMZ is not winning humanitarian awards either, and they get tons of traffic/comments!
Plus niching blogging is hard, yo.)
One of the more well-known challenges of living in a wormhole is the dynamic nature of the space and what it provides. The only guarantee of our hole is a low-sec exit, and while we can roll that exit if the low-sec system is not to our liking, it’s entirely possible that we roll a bunch of holes and never get what we are looking for, or get it too late in the night to really take advantage.
Last night was not such a night.
During the day our scouts picked up an exit into null sec space, and during the early evening the scouts not only scanned down a 8/10 Angels site, but a C3 entrance to an abandoned hole, with that C3 containing a good number of anom sites as well as mag/radar sigs. As this info was posted early, we had a good crew already online by the time I got on, and we needed all the help we could get to clear out all of the content, so it was very much a ‘more the merrier’ situation.
The 8/10 complex site was interesting, especially compared to the Sleeper sites we have become accustomed to. Each individual ship was much easier than a Sleeper, but the final room had more than 60 enemy ships all attacking us, without switching targets like Sleepers do. In what is now somewhat of a tradition for us, one member lost a ship due to scrams and the heavy incoming DPS. But in a true sign that it was our night, the other C3 also had an exit that was just three jumps from Jita, and he was able to quickly buy a replacement and rejoin us.
The final enemy in the complex was actually a structure with incredible shield and armor regeneration. As our volleys hammered it down, it would quickly recover before we did too much damage to its structure. This yo-yo would continue for a while, but when it finally hit 0 structure a real surprise awaited us inside; a Macharial BPC worth about 900m ISK. Not a bad reward for about 30 minutes of shooting, especially when you add up all the bounties and salvage.
Once that site was finished, and the Mach BPC was safely transported back to our WH POS, we jumped into the C3 to clear its anoms and sigs. The nano-ribbon gods were on our side for once, and we ended up hauling out just under 1b ISK worth of loot from the C3, despite not fully finishing every site due to time constraints.
The above, and some favorable spawns inside our own WH of late, means we are in line for a rather nice payout once everything hits the market this weekend. Just in time for our planned PvP roam.