The long list of mass market MMOs that everyone is playing

So if you did not pick up on the fact that yesterday’s post was a long-winded setup to tell you that EVE is the best MMO ever, you are either new here or not paying attention. Also if you are someone who likes to dismiss EVE because it’s a niche MMO in a genre full of mass-market MMOs, this should prove educational.

Let’s cover the niche part first though, since it’s pretty easy. WoW is an outlier with millions of subs, so I’m going to put it aside for now. Yes, EVE is niche compared to WoW, but based on that logic GW2 selling 2m boxes is also niche because 12m subs > 2m boxes. Same goes for SW:TOR, LotRO (who had a lovely “come play with millions of others” ad campaign pre-release. How’s that working out for ya?), or… actually any MMO not called WoW in the NA/EU (silly Asia).

So WoW aside, how do the 400k subs (I know I know, it’s just one guy with 400k accounts, and he buys PLEX in-game so even he is not paying anything, but let’s pretend for a moment that somehow magically those 400k subs still somehow count as 400k x $15 per month for the sake of CCP’s revenue) stack up to everyone else? Well no one has 1m subs, so now we are talking thousands rather than millions.

A whole slew of ‘mass market’ MMOs are now F2P because not enough people found them worth $15 a month. SW:TOR, which will soon join the F2P fail-ranks because it could not keep its 500k or bust target, cost more money than any MMO before it, and EAWare famously stated that if you are not spending $300m, you can’t compete with WoW. I guess if you DO spend $300m+, you can’t compete with EVE either. In fairness to EAWare EVE probably cost somewhere close to 300m to develop as well. Well 300m Yen anyway.

GW2 just launched and rewrote the whole MMO formula, including that nagging issue of having to pay to keep playing, because really, who likes paying when you can get the exact same thing for free? Not surprisingly GW2 sold fewer copies than Skyrim though, another “buy the box and play forever” fantasy title. To be fair, Skyrim is in the more mass-market sandbox genre, while GW2 has to carry the heavy burden of being a themepark. Also the NPCs in Skyrim are more helpful and less likely to go poof after a month, and the dynamic events don’t repeat as often. Both games do feature loot piñata dragons, meh combat, and nice visuals. I’ll be kind and not compare the main storylines.

Rift is still a sub-based MMO, and it’s a mass-market themepark. It has fewer subs than ‘niche’ EVE if various data sources are to be believed, and somehow if Trion retained half a mil subs I think we’d here about it. Plus get back to me when Rift has 400k subs at its ten year anniversary. Hey only about 8 years to go, but to be fair when EVE launched it had way fewer subs too, so maybe Rift will grow much like EVE has. Maybe. That said, out of the last few years, Rift is the only major MMO to actually stay a sub-based MMO for a year+, so it would not be totally unreasonable to call it the most successful launch since… WoW?

So I ask, what ‘mass-market’ MMO are people talking about when stating EVE’s 400k subs is ‘niche’? I thought we got over the whole “WoW or bust” thing in 2007? Or are people really still thinking the ‘MMO market’ is 12m strong, and surely the NEXT title is going to hit that mark? Because if you do I’m sure EAWare has a spot for you on the team! Or maybe Funcom. Or Mythic. Wait is Mythic still a thing? No, why, what happened? Didn’t they have that huge surefire IP and mass-market MMO that was going to crush WoW? (I hate you whiteshades.)

And once you realize that 400k subs is not niche, but near the top of the not-WoW market, you can reasonably set expectations for design and market size if you are actually aiming to design a game that is intended to be played beyond the first month. You know, an MMO. Or what the old folks called an MMO before Anet came along and ‘fixed’ it for all of us.

Furthermore, if you can’t make $18m in yearly revenue work for you and your dev team (100k subs for a year, and assuming zero box sale money), you are doing it wrong. Probably to the tune of $300m wrong that leads the head doctors to call it quits because people pointed out that you delivered $300m worth of garbage while helping to shut down a game people loved (which may or may not have had more players than SW:TOR currently has actually playing).

But seriously, $18m a year is not peanuts, and I don’t think retaining 100k people for a year is asking for the moon. Hell, maybe would call that hyper-niche and laugh while they go back to their 1m+ subs MMO not called WoW, so it must be easy! And look, if EQ1 got 500k people back when you had to use a rotary dial to login, I’m pretty sure a team of devs can make something today to get 100k. Or 50k and try to survive off $9m in revenue. The horror.

Or you know, keep pumping out those ‘mass market’ MMOs all the kids are talking about. The ones just crushing it in terms of numbers like… WoW. Release in 2004.

Yea, those!

62 Responses to The long list of mass market MMOs that everyone is playing

  1. corehealer says:

    I guarantee someone will come back on this with the words “spreadsheets in space” at some point. Doesn’t mean it’s not all true and plain for all to see, or at least people who bother to pay attention.

    I wonder when World of Darkness will come out…

  2. Jester says:

    You’re pretty dismissive of F2Ps, but I suspect CCP would love to have Tanks or LoL numbers.

    • corehealer says:

      Numbers like theirs aren’t everything. But I agree, F2P is plenty viable and in other genres not indicative of failure but just another way to provide content.

      In MMOs however it’s like SynCaine says; it’s a financial model used to squeeze a pittance out of failed 3 monthers and themeparks who don’t have the staying power of real MMOs like EvE. F2P could work for proper long term MMOs as well if done right but at the moment it’s just used to shore up a deeper problem.

    • SynCaine says:

      True. Or Madden, or Halo, or Fifa, or CoD.

      Now, back to the MMO genre.

      (And no, WoT is not an MMO, come on people…)

      • WoT is not an MMO? really? I thought MMO stood for Massive Multiplayer Online, whic WoT is massive, is all multiplayer (it’s all PvP all the time) and is online, so explain to me how it isn’t. WoT is in fact a MMOFPS and arguably the most profitable F2P game on the market.

        Now, for all you EVE lovers, I have played it several times and to tell you the truth, it’s boring. You mine, run cargo, or kill rats. I think they have 10 quests they recycle through out the game. The only real plus it the PvP but unless you really know the ins and outs of setting up your ship, you will get raped and with the cost of replacing all your items, that can leave some to stay in high sector space and lose interest.

        Personally I want to see a game with planet side action like WoW, but space action like EVE. Combine the two with a dynamic story line and a super huge universe and you will have a winning game.

    • Antivyris says:

      Honestly, I’d think the popularity of F2P has more to do with economy and less to do with quality. When all you can afford is free, you’ll settle for most any quality.

  3. Mekhios says:

    I truly loved reading that post. Very entertaining!

    So to sum up we should all move over to EvE Online? Even the people who have no interest in space combatey thingies, spreadsheets, PvP, or anything resembling a decent storyline?

    Wishing the market to develop more games like EvE isn’t going to make it happen. The market needs to cater to all types of players. Hence all the other MMO’s you love to dismiss.

    Oh here is a nice little statistic for you. World Of Tanks (which likes to class itself as an MMO) makes $10 million a month. I bet those Russkies devs are swimming in vodka every night!

    Maybe EvE online needs to develop tanks in spaaaaccccceeeeee …..

    • You didn’t say the magic phrase, “spreadsheets for sociopaths.”

      Oh, and your you have the reading comprehension skills of a salt marsh harvest mouse. The message here had nothing specifically to do with EVE Online, except that it is a game that budgeted correctly to support a user base willing to play a monthly subscription fee.

      You would be equally wrong in summing up that we should all move over to Rift, since that was the other non-WoW example.

      Coincidentally, the two MMOs I have been playing recently are EVE and Rift. And World of Tanks. Wow, you really surprised us all by bring that up… after it was mentioned twice in the comment thread already! But that really isn’t an MMO in the classic, shared persistent world sense that I think was meant.

      Still a good game though.

      • Mekhios says:

        Why would I call EvE players sociopaths? I spent two years in a great Aussie EvE corp. No one that I knew in EvE was a sociopath. But my original point still stands. EvE Online and its financial model (or lack thereof) is not the solution to all MMO evils.

        Most online game players have about as much interest in a hardcore PvP space MMO as a .. “salt marsh harvest mouse” .. shall we say. ;)

    • SynCaine says:

      Not to pile on, but honestly, other than embarrassing yourself, what was the point of that comment (I’m assuming blatant and weak trolling was not it)? The post asks for people who call EVE a niche MMO to name a title not called WoW that displayed the mass-market, and you bring nothing but WoT…

      And why WoT instead of LoL? LoL dwarfs WoT and they are in the same genre.

      • Mekhios says:

        I am not trolling. But your “I hate the whole MMO industry” posts could be considered trolling.

        As for commenting on games I’m only commenting on the titles I have actually played.

        Hopefully you can return to your EvE Online combat posts soon. I enjoyed the wormhole exploits. These generic MMO industry posts have run their course methinks.

        • SynCaine says:

          What MMO titles have you actual played that lead you to believe EVE and it’s 400k sub base is niche? You keep saying it, but can’t seem to name a single counter-example.

        • Mekhios says:

          @syncaine
          LOTRO would be one that immediately comes to mind. It still has a strong playerbase and is financially viable. Granted I have not logged into it for over a year now so the population levels may have dropped off. I would also strongly dispute your 400K figure for EvE Online as I mentioned in an earlier post. Duplicate accounts and actual paying players need to be taken into consideration.

        • SynCaine says:

          LotRO is F2P. How is that an example of an MMO doing well when they had to change the business model and start selling gear in the cash shop? LotRO was also covered in the post itself, and on Xfire it’s below EVE in activity…

          As for 400k, are my three accounts paying less than 3 people paying for one? If yes, valid point. If no, who cares how you collect 400k worth of income?

  4. Mekhios says:

    “If yes, valid point. If no, who cares how you collect 400k worth of income?”

    In purely profit terms of course I agree. But for bums on seats not so good. Would you agree the EvE playerbase is stagnating? They aren’t really bringing in brand new people into the game. A game that does not grow isn’t necessarily the “best MMO ever”. It’s the best MMO for the 150,000 or so people actually playing it.

    My own corp struggled for over a year to bring in new players and in the end we realised all we were really doing was poaching from other corps. That is not a sign of a healthy game. My point is you shouldn’t be using EvE Online as the banner game of success within the MMO genre for your arguments. It simply isn’t.

    • Mara Rinn says:

      The Buddy Invite system says that I have introduced about one new keeper a month. I use all 10 invites every month, so obviously I need to put some effort into getting these folks to stay around.

      So I dispute your claim about not bringing new people into the game. The subscriptions are climbing, and I know that some of them are genuinely new players rather than new alts with a free 51 days for 1 PLEX. Sure, growth is not exponential, but how many people are out there looking for a science fiction MMO revolving around ruthless PvP?

      • Mekhios says:

        Out of interest where did these new players come from? Personal friends?

        • mararinn says:

          None are personal friends. Most are people who contact me through gmail (not through EVE) or people I contact on Twitter after they have expressed an interest in the game.

          Some of these people are entirely new to the game, a large proportion are looking to establish second accounts after having old ones expire long ago: for these people having 51 free days after paying for one month is a nice way to safely test the waters again.

          I only wish I had enough personal friends to be able to use all 10 invites ever.

        • Mekhios says:

          @mararinn
          Out of the whole two years our corp existed I think we brought in no more than 3-4 brand new players who had never played EvE. Maybe the incentives are a lot better now. We lost a lot more than that and eventually the corp folded due to lack of interest. We couldn’t even drum up interest into funding a POS. CCP did us no favors in offering incentives for new players back then.

        • mararinn says:

          @mekhios “drumming up interest to buy a POS” is putting the cart before the horse: the corps that I have been part of that maintained POSes did so because a number of players were interested in doing stuff that involved POSes. To me, the hardest part of keeping a corp alive is keeping the members communicating and entertained. Trying to push people into an activity is too much like running a company, and most people who are playing a game don’t want that.

          In WoW for example, there might be some number like “90% of players have experienced raid content” but how many keep raiding? I was in raiding guilds where you were expected to bring X pots, Y spec, Z equipment, and be on standby for four hours. They performed well for a few months but inevitably dissolved when someone felt that they had been on standby for too long and took their friends with them.

          What has worked best for me is doing the stuff I enjoy and inviting others to participate. I start a fleet and others will join if they are interested. I buy a POS, set up the holding corp, rent the services put to the alliance. That gets customers. Their rental for ME/PE pays the fuel bills and I can invent in peace.

        • SynCaine says:

          INQ-E was mostly new-to-EVE players, and the only reason we stopped bringing new people in was because we put a stop to recruiting. I also used up my 10 invites most months, and a good number of those turn into subs (based on getting the PLEX).

          EVE has a churn rate like any other MMO (what it is exactly is unknown, but it has one), so as new players come in old ones leave.

          Not that this has anything to do with the actual topic, because I’m pretty sure LotRO would have preferred having 100k people with 4 accounts each over whatever happened to them pre-F2P, right? Because under F2P, do you think they have even anything close to 400k people that pay ANYTHING for that game?

    • Derrick says:

      I’m not even an EVE Online fan, but Syncaine’s point still stands. You argue that EVE is unhealthy because it maintains a strong playerbase, but doesn’t draw new players? You’re still avoiding the point of the article. If that’s unhealthy, sure… but it’s still doing better than every other MMO.

      LOTRO? It’s got it’s own playerbase, and while I haven’t checked the numbers I bet it’s lower than EVE. There, too, though, you’re not going to find many new players at all.

      Sure, you’ll find new players in GW2 – it’s new. But that’ll stop soon enough too.

      No game can continue drawing new players indefinitely. There’s only so many people interested in playing any specific game. The growth phase can only last so long, but a healthy game will develop a sufficiently large player base, to be profitable and continue to fund new content, and then hold on to them.

      Bums on seats only matter for keeping an in-game community at the MMO “critical mass” for the game to function. 150k bums would be terrible in a multi-shard MMO, as each server would end up very small. But 150k bums in a single server is a whole lot of bums, an order of magnitude higher than standard MMO’s plan for single-server concurrency numbers.

      • Mekhios says:

        “Because under F2P, do you think they have even anything close to 400k people that pay ANYTHING for that game?”

        Agreed. I’d say a small percentage of LOTRO players fund the game for the rest. LOTRO also has a lot of content gated behind payment unlocks in the store.

  5. Okami says:

    One thing that may help EVE and distinguish it from all the other MMO’s(except WoT) is you character is not a depreciating asset. It becomes more valuable over time leading to greater bond between your in game persona and yourself.

    Do I really want to play a game that I have to regear every 3-6 months? How about the thrill of knowing that the most dangerous monsters out to get you are other players since I live in LS and do industry.

    I played WAR and what killed it for me was the bots. Get into BGs and have people just botting their characters so you don’t even have a chance to succeed. I wanted to love that game because I loved the core material it was based on, but in the end, the game play was just terrible and the decisions made seemed awful in hindsight. 7 Oceanic servers at start? Even Blizzard wasn’t that nice to us Oceanic players.

    I would have stayed with WOW if they hadn’t done some horrible BG changes in TBC before Lich King expansion.

  6. [...] The long list of mass market MMOs that ‘everyone’ is playing [...]

  7. Bernard says:

    If we dismiss WoW as a statistical outlier, isn’t it fair to dismiss EvE for the same reason? It has very little in common with any other MMO you care to mention.

    • mararinn says:

      EVE has very little in common with any of the dead or dying MMOs. That is why it is still alive. It is the only functioning MMO which offers an all PvP all the time virtual world. It is the only functioning MMO which offers strategic and tactical spaceship combat (no, TOR’s arcade style spaceships do not count).

      Explaining why WoW is a statistical outlier would be a great exercise for a study in marketing, sociology and perhaps anthropology. Was it network effect? Serendipity? A population keen to get into a fantasy world where they could play a nubile Kaldorei who dances like Alizee?

      If you then dismiss EVE Online as an outlier, the next MMO in the list will have to be excluded, and so on until you have none left. There is a clear divide WoW and everything else, by an order of magnitude.

      • “EVE has very little in common with any of the dead or dying MMOs”

        I wouldn’t dismiss EvE for having ~400k active subscriptions but I would question whether it is possible to have “another EvE”.

        • SynCaine says:

          EVE mimics the success of earlier MMOs such as UO, EQ1, and DAoC, with the major difference being EVE stayed current, while those games were left out to pasture (no major overhauls like EVE has received).

          WoW is completely unique in terms of market size. It peaks at 12m, while no one has ever retained even 1m.

  8. Azuriel says:

    EVE is niche because when an economic space sim is compared to generic fantasy hotkey MMO, it is niche. Look at the pie chart, the market as a whole is 85% fantasy. What is the 10% sci-fi if not a niche?

    • mararinn says:

      What of the 85% fantasy MMO genre is not WoW?

      Everything that is not WoW is in the “not WoW” niche. If you take WoW out of the picture, you have a much larger collection of MMOs of about the same customer base (or at least they are within a multiple of each other, rather than the order of magnitude gap between WoW and everything else).

      • Anti-Stupidity League says:

        Clearly, Eve is not niche because we’re not comparing it to WoW. But just as clearly Lotro and GW2 are niche because of WoW.

        Well, I guess that makes sense to someone. It doesn’t make sense to me, but then again I’m not a Eve fanboy.

        • eudaimonean says:

          I’m not sure if the math is eluding you or what, but mararinn’s point is obviously that you can’t say the market is 85% fantasy and 10% SF when the vast majority of the fantasy market is a single game. It’s more accurate to say that the market is 60% crazy outlier, 25% fantasy, and 10% SF.

        • Raelyf says:

          The point was: Everything is niche when compared to WoW. When nothing is compared to WoW, EVE is not niche. Ergo, either everything is niche or EVE is not niche so it makes little sense to argue that EVE is a niche MMO and therefore has nothing to offer to the mainstream MMO crowd.

          It is not all that complicated if you restrict your paste eating to a single bottle a day.

        • Azuriel says:

          @eudaimonean

          It’s more accurate to say that the market is 60% crazy outlier, 25% fantasy, and 10% SF.

          It’s “more accurate” to pull numbers out of your ass? The total MMO market* according to MMOData is 20m. 10% of that is Sci-Fi, or 2m. Take away WoW’s 9m, and 2m of 11m is… 18.1%. Fantasy is 85% of the market (17m), and minus WoW it is still 72.7%. Even if you shift WoW into it’s own category for whatever reason, both discounting it and keeping it there, the split is still 10% vs 40%.

          EVE is niche because Sci-Fi is niche. I am not sure why you are resisting this simple fact. No matter what you do to the numbers, like arbitrarily eliminating all F2P MMOs (which removes SWTOR, further depressing Sci-Fi numbers), the end conclusion is the same.

          *By “market,” we’re really only considering MMOs that MMOData keeps track of. I am pretty sure that browser-based (etc) MMOs would skew the fantasy numbers even higher.

        • SynCaine says:

          So basically… the fact that EVE is a Sci-Fi MMO and successful makes it all the more amazing, considering all the other ‘mass market’ MMOs are catering to fantasy players, and still can’t manage to retain people at EVE’s level.

        • Azuriel says:

          Or it becomes less amazing considering if you want Sci-Fi, your options are… what? EVE, SWTOR, Star Trek Online and… that’s it? Fantasy is more popular, but they are also more directly competitive in terms of splitting the market. Maybe those LotRO players would rather quit MMOs altogether than play Rift (etc) if LotRO did not exist, but maybe not. The test here would be to see how a well an EVE-clone would fare, and especially what impact it would have on EVE itself.

          Regardless, it is pretty clear there are a lot of people around here sensitive to the word “niche.”

  9. dirtysouth says:

    Tend to agree with the previous poster. If you cant count the most successful themepark you also have to throw out the most successful sandbox. The games are pretty much the same age. The difference in subs tells the story…

    Have there been more fail wow clones than eve clones? sure. If you want to compare say darkfall to gw2. I can either pvp on equal footing for free or pay to get my ass handed to me by someone who bot / afk levels his skills, guess which i will choose?

    as a customer i dont give a shit if they have a sub model or f2p. im going to choose the best value for my dollar. wvw q is like 10 minutes now. Fail?

    Show me a pro american football league as lucrative as MLS. You cant use the NFL. American Football is for kids and noobs!

  10. Ettesiun says:

    Interesting posts that try to bring back some numbers in it. I did not knew that EVE has 400k months of play buyed every months – if I understand well, whatever the number of account created by the same person, (s)he still have to buy the PLEX which are only ‘created’ VS real money – so active account is relevant, right ?

    Three things are a bit unfair :
    – dismissiong the Asian market : if you do not want to speak about it, only say that you restrict yourself to Western one
    – dismissing F2P without any number – but I did not either have any number either
    – using the 8 years old argument – of course no game younger can compete actually – even if I doubt that even my beloved GW2 would last 8 years

    So basically, you have convinced me : in western market, apart from WoW, all subs games are smaller than EVE after 6 months of life.

  11. Halycon says:

    How to put this.

    I think of Eve as a Niche Game made up of Niche Games. Most all of the “Jesus Features” were entire new games bolted onto the core of Eve. People out in Null were claiming space, CCP added a Sov Game to make it official. Wormhole Space, another new Niche Game bolted onto Eve. FW, same thing. On and on and on.

    Most players have one “Niche Game” inside of Eve that they play. They may dabble in the others, but the game THEY are playing is it’s own special Niche Game that would never make it by itself as it’s own game because it wouldn’t have the players by itself to support it. Eve is a collection of games all too weird to make it on their own. But as a collective…

    Every time they build a new “Niche Game” more players join to play that game. It’s why the numbers kept going up and up and up over the years. CCP built a game someone wanted to play inside their already existing game.

    Sooner or later CCP is going to stop doing house keeping and build another new “Jesus Feature”, and more players will come to Eve because someone built a game they wanted but no one ever made. It may not be a lot of players. A few thousand out of a planet of billions. But, if they can keep doing that over and over and over again… they never have to be “mainstream”. They just have to keep filling niches.

    It’s a very very weird way to build a player base. Most games just keep evolving the same thing over and over again. The gameplay of WoW is largely unchanged since launch. It’s evolved certainly. But the game you are actually playing is only a refinement of it’s initial principals.

    CCP went a completely different way than everyone else in the MMO community. It’s worked for them. And I’m betting that once they start doing it again it’s going to continue to work for them.

    • Halycon says:

      The question of course is if they can ever get a functioning Incarna out the door. If they can ever do that, the the game really opens up. They haven’t gone anywhere near as far as they have with space ships by any means. There are a hundred spaceship games I’d love to play no-one’s ever made. But a lot of those do have to deal with being able to walk around in my space ship, or leave it. I want to be deep in Goon Space doing a shady deal Avatar-Side that impacts their production somehow, have a spike in local hit that causes me to hustle to my ship to get out of dodge and cloak up before they can scan me down. It’s a niche game, it’s not for everyone. But I want to play it. And Incarna has to happen to make it possible. And as I said, there are a hundred other games like it that I want to play.

  12. spinks says:

    EVE is a niche game. So is WoW.

  13. Edible Sam says:

    WoW found a niche is was just rather large.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Somebody send this article to whoever veto’d DAOC 2

  15. camazotz says:

    I’d sort of expect that EVE does well because it fills a different role than most other MMOs on the market right now. It strikes me as being more from the starship sim/rts genre than the “RPG” genre that WoW, Rift and all the others spin off from, and receives little actual competition for its particular style of game in this market. In that sense its an amazing success….but I’ve tried it, and I suspect a lot, like me, found that the mere act of being an MMO is not actually the draw to many of these games. Hell, to take genre comparisons, I would argue that comparing SWTOR to EVE is misleading, as while they both have SF trapping and space ships, they aren’t even remotely aimed at the same audience or experience. None of this is relevant to the article’s point, of course, that EVE succeeds and does well. I just feel that it’s extremely relevant that EVE really doesn’t have any competition in its corner, because no other MMO caters to that style of play (that I am aware of), a style which has minimal overlap. All we can say for sure is that 400K subscribers (of which an unknown number have multiple subs for one person, apparently) really, really love that style of game. The real mystery here (if even that) is why no other game developer has even bothered trying to compete with that market share. I guess it’s the WoW effect….game devs know at least 12 million people out there will play WoW-likes. They know only 400K will play EVE likes.

    • Dirtysouth says:

      ^^this. If wow shut down the game tomorrow would eve see a huge jump in players? I doubt it. GW2, star wars, rift and other games that tried to directly compete for that player base would receive the majority of them.

      Eve can happily fill its niche with no competition. Maybe mythic has an eve killer in the works?

      • corehealer says:

        Mythic is dead/cannibalized by Bioware and EA, and Bioware is now being cannibalized slowly by EA after the fall of SW:TOR and the controversies surrounding DA2’s rushed release and ME3’s horribly narrative inconsistent ending, among a lot of other smaller things. They aren’t making anything.

        EvE is not for everyone and cannot be carried on the wings of angels to 12 million + subs by the fact that it’s a true open world sandbox MMO with much more meaningful interactions with the world and other players in it. It’s still designed for a different niche within the context of real MMOs. It’s noteworthy because it’s the only functional game within the genre today, and it shows. But not everyone wants suicidal spreadsheets in space, and that’s fine.

        What we really need is a studio that can make a real long term MMO without getting drawn in by hype, marketing inconsistency, investor/publisher pressures to appeal to casuals at the expense of the core design, and backseat game devs sitting in forums who ask for one thing and expect another. They need to stick to a vision that’s built on what worked for UO and EQ1 and vanilla WoW and EvE and which can work again, potentially with great success, if they get it right and stick with it for years and promote and grow it as a brand.

        But, it’s hard to make, it’s scary and, while not expensive on the level of SW:TOR, still requires a significant investment of time and money. No one right now has the money or the will in equal measure to do those things and the art of creating virtual worlds has been lost, so to speak, in the shadow of WoW. And no one is going to kill WoW but Blizzard, just like no one is going to kill EvE but CCP. That can’t be a focus either.

        Basically what we need is more people realizing that 3 monthers are fine but cannot work as they are sold now and expect to be solvent long term. And they need to realize that long term cannot be created while also appealing to those seemingly in the majority that crave the smaller bursts of wide activity found in 3 monthers but who have less interest in a time commitment. And enough of these people need to enter the industry, make the capital needed through traditional channels, crowd-sourcing, whatever is needed, and run with that idea while looking to precedents old and new to see what works and what doesn’t. Then create the games, foster them long term, and not give in to F2P unless it is legitimately good for their business and game design.

        No one is going to be doing any of that for a while yet except in small numbers like Aventurine and CCP who are already committed to making such titles. More are still needed to create competition and foster excellence and choice. But who wants all that when you can just go back to panda town?

        And that’s why we can’t have nice virtual world things.

        • Xyloxan says:

          Amen. And very fine writeup.

        • Mekhios says:

          A good writeup but does the market really need to be fixed? Maybe the market wants to continue to play in Panda Towns. Players who want their hardcore space combat PvP have EvE. Players who want fluffies and fun have their WoW, GW2, and other themeparks.

          Maybe casuals don’t want another UO on EQ1? Yes the grognards still want that but they are only a small percentage of the MMO playing population.

          I believe the future is in F2P and realistically for the casual MMO player is the only possible path for new MMO developers to target now. Sub-based MMO’s like WoW and EvE are the last we will see from that previous generation. SWTOR crashed badly and TSW barely registered as a blip on most MMO players radar.

          “But who wants all that when you can just go back to panda town?”

          Maybe that is all most MMO players really want? (Rightly or wrongly).

  16. saucelah says:

    Not arguing with anything here, but partly Eve was able to keep a low budget by releasing a game with fewer mechanics to provide content then the game today. Even among sandbox MMOers, I wonder if a similar game could release in a similar state and still get players patiently waiting for content that makes the experience more varied and interesting.

    Be interesting to see how DF:UW looks at release.

  17. Devore says:

    If EVE is a spaceship/space-combat MMO, there is a surprisingly large segment of EVE playerbase who spend little, if any, time engaged in space combat. EVE is successful because it appeals to a large cross section of MMO players. From terminal carebears, to the most blood thirsty PvPers.

    That it is space-based, rather than fantasy, is probably keeping its numbers down. Right off the bat you’re pretty much excluding half the population.

  18. Pai says:

    I agree with you that 500k is probably the ‘normal’ max population of any MMORPG (it was before WoW exploded, and was actually Blizzard’s own expected best-case scenario originally). WoW’s unusual popularity distorted what people perceived as being the ‘normal bar for success’ for a MMORPG, and I think it’s taken many years of over-budget failures before people in the industry have begin to realize that.

    • My 2p says:

      This.

      To put this in context, the RL equivalent would be to look at Bill Gates or Warren Buffet as the only valid examples of success and say that therefore, anyone that has not hit at least into the 10s of billions in net worth/cash/assets is a failure in life. I am pretty sure the vast percentage of the population can agree this is a very misleading and miserable way of looking at life.

      Yet this is exactly what is happening in a lot of these MMO development houses. To know the market is 12mil subs big is one thing, to then budget around being profitable only with 1mil or 500k subs is business suicide. And then people get surprised when MMOs die/are unpopular investments due to the perceived high levels of risk?

      Planning to succeed big and/or to expand hugely is fine. Planning to survive only when you get big is a surefire way to die by the wayside. Not recognising what big is leads to the same result as the above.

      Exceptions are exceptional by definition. If everyone started to be the same as the exception, it ain’t no longer exceptional sonny Jim ;-)

      PS. I would be willing to bet Blizzard put their business case together based on the 500k subs or whatever as a best case scenario, but budgeted to a much more conservative figure.

  19. Matt says:

    EVE is niche. Everyone knows about WoW, which is a cultural phenomenon. GW2 had posters at Gamestop, meaning that even people who don’t play MMO’s have at least some awareness of it. Even SWTOR was a thing, though most people would probably have to be reminded about it. With EVE, on the other hand, they never knew about it to begin with. It’s completely unknown to anyone who doesn’t either visit MMO blogs or maintain an interest in the genre.

    Someone running for some political office recently got made fun of by their opponent for playing WoW. That can happen because people know what WoW is, if only from reputation. The diplomat killed in Libya played EVE, and the world shrugged. He did what now?

    Your problem here is that you don’t really have a good idea of what ‘niche’ means, wanting it to be entirely some argument about numbers over some time period.

    • SynCaine says:

      The world shrugged? Did you miss that whole CIA thing?

      “Your problem here is that you don’t really have a good idea of what ‘niche’ means, wanting it to be entirely some argument about numbers over some time period.”

      Good point. Less about numbers, more about a game being a ‘thing’ going forward. Thanks.

      • Matt says:

        Your EVE fanboyism is getting in the way of your reasoning. What I don’t understand is that if EVE weren’t niche you probably wouldn’t like it anymore, as CCP would necessarily then have to appeal to the general populace rather than the niche group that currently plays it.

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