Beyond flamebait, why Aion’s struggles benefit me.

On Friday I tossed out some flame bait with my post about Aion, and while it was mostly posted to cure Friday boredom (and not because I was upset, my sickeningly happy friend:) ), there is a very real aspect behind the whole “your MMO is your religion” people bring up. Go back 10 years, and most MMO fans were just hoping this silly genre would catch on, so ANY win was good for everyone. Today however, now that the genre is very well established and here to stay, the focus shifts from the genre as a whole to its smaller sub-sections.

Think of it like turn-based strategy titles vs first person shooters. Any fan of TBS games just hopes ANY title catches on today so that more TBS games get funding, since the next TBS game might be the last. On the other side are FPS fans, who also follow their game of choice like a religion/cult, because the next FPS game coming out is not in jeopardy, it’s just what kind of FPS gets made. If a realistic shooter sells 5 million, and a horror or comedy shooter sells 100k, guess what direction the genre is going in? Now if you have a blog, and can’t stand realistic shooters, what are you going to blog about?

The analogy of rooting for ‘your’ game being like a religion might be a little off. To me, it’s more like division one college sports. The more successful your team, the more likely top-rated high school prospects will be interested in attending. As the future success of your school depends not only on you winning, but your rivals struggling, rooting not only for your school but also against your rivals makes perfect sense. Even when Ohio State is not playing Michigan, you can bet everyone at Michigan is hoping Ohio State loses every single game.

Going back to MMOs, and specifically Aion vs DarkFall, it’s not hard to see how someone like me, a fan of DarkFall, benefits from Aion’s struggles. For starters, players who left DF to try out Aion might come back now that Aion has failed to deliver, not to mention other Aion players looking for a better PvP MMO. Had Aion been more successful all those players would have stayed, and that’s however many players not paying $15 a month to Aventurine to fund future DarkFall content, content that I clearly have interest in. Aion shutting down has zero negative effect on me, as I was never interested with what it offers to begin with, so it’s struggles only help further my game of choice. In addition to funding future content, those returning players also help populate the world and generate word-of-mouth buzz of leaving Aion and returning to DarkFall.

On a higher level, Aion failing has possible future impact on the type of games being offered in the MMO space. As readers here know I’m a huge fan of sandbox MMOs over themeparks, especially the recent trend of super-easy themeparks where instant gratification rains from the sky. The more themeparks that struggle, and the more sandbox games that see success, the more likely this trend is going to shift (if only slightly) and more attention will be given to games that interest me. Because at the end of theday, this is all about what’s best for me, everyone else be damned.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Aion, Darkfall Online, MMO design, Rant. Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Beyond flamebait, why Aion’s struggles benefit me.

  1. Frank says:

    So, the battle is joined! This is totally not going to be like in those shows where one dude lopsidedly considers a very confused other dude his eternal rival, oh no. This is a conflict of wits.

    Cheese and jokes aside, it’s totally understandable why you’d receive some benefit from the Darwinistic failures of other MMOs, if you are subscribed to a certain playstyle. But I don’t know that the saturation of the market necessarily promotes “themeparking” over “sandboxing”.

    Really, I think the saturation of the genre works to hold games to a certain candle of quality, and if they melt next to the flame, there are tons of other entries ready to take its place. There’s the whole WoW factor, too, but honestly because there are so many more choices that are still actually operational, that becomes less of an issue than presenting a quality, mostly non-broken title.

    To be perfectly frank (har har I know), I actually WISH more MMO developers stuck to their core vision and let the subscribers come to them, rather than a horse-before-cart silliness of “we need to appeal to the masses first”. Developers who stick to their vision, like Darkfall and EVE, are called “niche” when in fact the philosophy is something I personally think should be adopted by more devs out there.

  2. Bhagpuss says:

    It surprises me that MMO players become so wedded to a single title, and baffles me that many translate their commitment to one game into a hatred for others. Naturally we all have preferences but it’s surely possible to play and enjoy both Darkfall and WoW, isn’t it? I mean, you can eat chilli and follow it up with ice-cream. Contrast is often very enjoyable.

    I’m mostly playing Fallen Earth at the moment, a supposedly sandbox game that gets cred for being more challenging than the current MMO norm. When it goes down for server resets, or late in the evening when I’ve perhaps had a glass of wine too many to concentrate on FE’s complexities, I log in to WoW and do some mining or a battleground or three. Chances are by the end of the week I’ll be subbed to both.

    • syncaine says:

      But if subbing to more than one is not an option (or if your guild/game expects a certain level of activity that playing multiple games does not allow), you can’t just have both and be happy. If every MMO fan was able to sub to every game, then yea, lets cheer for all of them. But that’s just not the reality of the current market.

      • Saylah says:

        I can like my game and not like another game, without vilifying that game into being the Anti-Christ. I still don’t know why anyone cares what someone else likes anyway. You’re enjoying DF. I shrug at that preference. It’s not a genre or game for me, so what. That doesn’t make the games I like perfect soup and yours crap. People are just annoying sometimes with their “my preference = gospel truth”.

    • evizaer says:

      It surprises me how MMO players get locked into playing MMOs. There are so many great games out there that are much more fun than logging into the same MMO to repeat the same trivial tasks again. I usually stop playing MMOs because other games are just too much more fun for me to justify logging into the MMO again. MMOs are a fall-back for me. If there’s nothing else around that entices me, I’ll log in. If there’s even one other game that I’m interested in, it is usually more fun and worthwhile to play than any MMO I’ve touched.

  3. Draglem says:

    “…Aion shutting down has zero negative effect on me…”

    This statement may be slightly short sighted. If too many Themeparker’s migrate, Darkfall may take turn away from their roots (Dollars over Dogma?). I am not saying Dev’s have no morals, but I am sure anyone witnessing doubling of sub rates (Hypothetical number out of my ass for illustrative purposes) will tend to listen to a perceived average of players out cry.

    Not looking to prove you wrong, but rather I hope AV stays true.

    • syncaine says:

      Yup that’s always a potential issue, and one of the reasons to be annoyed with tourists. They drop in, make demands, and leave anyway. But CCP has stayed true to EVE over the long haul, even though they have seen sub numbers skyrocket. One can only hope AV follows that model rather than adding Trammel and trying to ‘cash in’ on maybe-fans.

      • Saylah says:

        I think the game designers and developers would like to stick to their long term vision. I feel like the push for mass numbers is still a reverberation from WOW success. What investor doesn’t want to be rolling in millions of players? No matter how many times it’s said that WOW is an aberration, I believe people are gunning for those numbers even to the detriment of their game’s long term success.

  4. Ben says:

    Your reasoning is seriously flawed. It’s not a net-zero game, in which “x” amount of resources get divided up between sandbox/themepark games. Aion failing (which is what’s happening) won’t drive more development dollars or people to games like DF — they just won’t be there, period, and DF will still be the niche game that it is. I can guarantee you that the majority of people quitting Aion aren’t flocking to DF. If you see something differently from your experience in DF, do share :)

    In my view, you have the logic totally backwards — if you want more people playing games like DF, you WANT games like Aion to succeed. The reason the MMO genre has caught on like it has is simple — WOW. You can’t really dispute that. And, you don’t want the WOWs of the world (ie., Aion) to fail. Quite the contrary — WOW is a “gateway” MMO that funnels people into the genre. Aion could have been the same.

    If Aion fails, it hurts the genre as a whole — it means less $$ into AAA-MMO designs, less people playing MMOs, and overall is a net “loss” for the genre and the community that’s tied to it.

    That three people may have played Aion, got disgusted, and then had some epiphany about how much fun the game COULD have been if only had 1998-era graphics, full corpse looting, a barren game world, and macroing – and then decided, naturally, to play DF … well, that’s not really cause for excitement. It’s nothing to celebrate at all, cause it isn’t happening. :)

    • evizaer says:

      I agree with this. People are more likely to leave the market when they quit Aion than they are to go over to some ridiculously hard-to-find niche title of questionable quality like DFO.

      • Draglem says:

        “People are more likely to leave the market when they quit Aion…”

        Drawing these conclusions from….

      • evizaer says:

        Because people are more likely to choose to abstain from playing MMOs than they are to play a game like Darkfall that appeals to very few people, is hard to find information about, generally has negative reviews, and has NO marketing push.

      • Draglem says:

        So does “your gut” have empirical data?

        You’re rounding off Syncaine’s margin when you make sweeping generalizations it would appear.

      • syncaine says:

        And yet they do. Either everyone playing is crazy, or they see something others don’t. Either way, the faster Aion dies, the more DF gains.

    • syncaine says:

      So long as even ONE person from Aion goes to DF, Aion dying is a plus for me. Of course the majority of the 1m or whatever people who tried Aion won’t come to DF, but even 1% of that still benefits me, and yes, people ARE leaving Aion for DarkFall.

      As I said in the post, the genre is beyond ‘oh nooz, this game failed, lets go back to making RTS games’, especially when other games ARE making money. Aion failing does not show that the MMO genre is flawed, it shows that candyland themeparks not called WoW are a bad idea (or just that whatever ideas Aion tried don’t work).

      That some people leave the MMO genre is really of little concern to me, because the current market today offers enough choices for anyone to be satisfied. If you are not, guess what, it’s not the genre that is the problem.

      • Ben says:

        Silly themeparks like LOTRO, Runes of Magic, etc.? All of which have 10x the number of subscribers than Darkfall, at least?

        That’s empirical data that you can’t argue with. People like themeparks — and again, they’re a great intro into the genre.

        But the idea that DF is getting a surge from Aion quitters… that’s lacking in empirical data. There’s no proof of that whatsoever, and it’s totally illogical, to boot.

        Listen… I’m a huge fan of sandbox games (although I think comparing DF to EVE is like comparing an amateur artist to Picasso… I’m NOT a DF fan). But the reality is that there are LOTS of people who are playing EVE that would NEVER have played it unless they first played WOW, or something like it. There’s a barrier to entry with games like DF and EVE that are hard to overcome without some experience in MMOs to begin with, just as playing a very demanding shooter may be difficult unless you get some practice with a some “arcade” action shooters first.

        So — you should want those people playing games that are successful. Not taking pleasure in their demise which overall is very bad for the genre, and leaves a net loss of players overall.

        Let’s face… DF needs all the help it can get. I haven’t seen hordes of people racing to get into the game. Aion failing isn’t going to help it one iota.

    • Saylah says:

      Agreed. I’m not buying Syncaine’s take on it. We’ve had several people within our guild decide not to subscribe to Aion and NOT A SINGLE PERSON is going to DF. The guild leader wanted to know who was staying versus not, so it’s in a post – in black and white.

      Everyone who wasn’t staying said exactly what they were going back to. They went back to WAR, EVE and LOTOR. Or decided to focus on Champions or Fallen Earth. While a couple are just waiting it out for Star Trek. That’s 15 players in our guild leaving Aion and NO ONE even considered DF. Not a one.

      • syncaine says:

        We are in the same guild (assuming you are referring to CoW), so not only is one member currently playing DF (me), two others have expressed interest and had we not taken a detour into free DDO, it’s possible they too would be playing.

        But you are missing the point. The point is not that every, or even many, of the people leaving Aion will go to DF, it’s that SOME will, and examples of THAT exist on this very blog. If even one person goes from Aion to DF, Aion dying is a gain for DF.

  5. Drew says:

    I suspect that most of the people leaving Aion are going to go right back to their previous game.

    When something fails on this level, people are hesitant to test the waters again. The old adages “once bitten, twice shy” and “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” come to mind. I’m with evizaer on this – if you think people are going to give DFO a shot after being unimpressed with Aion, I think you’re fooling yourself. They’ll be looking for a sure bet – and what’s surer than “home”?

    So I’d suspect you’ll get the DFO crowd that went to Aion back and not much more.

  6. Wintersdark says:

    While I certainly don’t always agree with you, and while your flamebait posts sometimes seem little more than base pagecount boosts/trolling, this is why I read your blog.

    You’re honest. One always knows how you stand on an issue, so the reader knows where you’re coming from and the perspective your posts are written from. Keeps the content authentic, you could say.

  7. Sleepysam says:

    So, is there some source noting that Aion is in fail mode? I’ve seen general whining, but no failboat comments on the order of WAR or AOC. Just wondering.

  8. Bonedead says:

    If Aion fails to keep my interest I’ll be going to AoC as I still haven’t played that game. I feel like trying something new…

    Aion > Darkfall in every way possible and if you think otherwise, you’re a silly little billy goat.

  9. hexxvoid says:

    I’ve played pretty much every major MMO release since 2000 or so and while admittedly I got caught up in the whirlwind that was World of Warcraft I soon tired of it. Since then I’ve struggled to find an MMO home that suited me and like many others, I too tried and bought Aion.

    3 Weeks after release and around the time of the mass-banning fiasco, I realised that if my account had been caught in the banning net I honestly wouldn’t care.

    I had absolutely no interest in playing anymore and that feeling was shared by the eight or so friends that accompanied me.

    We went into Aion with the intent on giving it a serious go, we established a legion, went through the cash grind of bumping the legion to level 3, the effort of creating a website and forums… and ultimately it was completely wasted. The fact that neither of us care about the time and money we threw away speaks volumes about the game in my opinion. It has nothing to grip you, no soul, no immersion, no depth.

    So here we are, again without any true MMO to call our own and while I’ve dabbled in Fallen Earth and enjoy it immensely my friends are after something more fantasy themed. A read of a few fan sites and blogs later (including this one) we’ve decided to hop on over to Darkfall.

    In a roundabout way, Aion’s failing has now gained Darkfall 10 new subscribers.

  10. sid67 says:

    To me, it’s more like division one college sports.

    Interesting analogy. Of course, the smart fans don’t want the rest of the division to do too poorly, they just want to be better than the rivals.

    Because this makes it appear that the whole division is very tough and competitive — which makes the team that did the best look REALLY good.

    The SEC and Pac-10 are both really good examples. That’s why some of the top ranked teams in recent years (LSU, USC, etc) came out of those divisions.

  11. Draglem says:

    I’d like to congratulate you on constructing a solid position. I am astound that no one who posts opposing you out of either self edification or habit realizes that all the “theory” or “idea” behind you being wrong are so easily dis-proven. If, lets say, I sub for Aion then quit and sub for DF. Done. Your point is correct “Aion’s demises benefits you”. Why argue that there are direct benefits when you have cited them yourself already? I for one don’t need to hear myself talk so much that I will do it when I am wrong.

    Solid post in position and entertainment value. Look forward to Mortal Online’s release to hear your take on it also.

  12. I think the point people are trying to articulate, but failing to, is that Aion stumbling helps you if the only sandbox game you’re ever going to play is Darkfall. Your points are entirely valid if your only concern is for the short term. Here’s the fly in your ointment: I’m sure there are a lot more people from WoW who toured Aion than went back home than who left Darkfall and are coming back. So, Aion stumbling helps WoW even more, and that’s ignoring the other themepark games who are probably seeing rebounds.

    In the long term, it’s not so rosy for your preferred type of games one reason: WoW. Companies are going to continue to try to follow the leader, and that leader is a themepark game. Or, the money is going to flow into highly profitable Facebook type games, which are all the rage in investor circles these days. Long term you’re in the same place you were before.

    Using your sports metaphor, it’s like your team won a pre-season game when they haven’t been to a championship in decades. Do you still wonder why people aren’t standing up and cheering with you?

    • syncaine says:

      I think we can all see that the facebook games fad is just that, a fad. And like any investment, if you are jumping in when the fad has been identified, it’s too late. Even more so than doing your 10th flavor of ‘kill ten rats’, how many people are going to continue to pay for the 10th version of Mafia Wars?

      That aside, while WoW and other themeparks will benefit from Aion’s shortfall, a themepark failing is a themepark failing. If over the next year, games like EVE and DF continue to grow, while games like Aion continue to shrink, it’s ‘a’ trend. Will that trend alter the entire course of the MMO genre, not likely, but it can’t hurt.

      And remember, while everyone wishes they were WoW, only the big names can even dream of competing at that level due to funding. For the smaller guys, perhaps they instead look at EVE and try to emulate that. I mean, if I have 2 million to make an MMO, am I really going to try and create a WoW clone, or an EVE/DF/FE clone?

    • sid67 says:

      I agree. That’s pretty similar to the point I was making about an NCAA team benefiting from the reputation of the division as one with serious competition.

      Extending that analogy to MMOs — WoW is dominating the entire division and NO rival team even has a winning record.

      That’s bad for all MMOs — including WoW to some degree — because it makes it appear as if the audience is at capacity. So why invest at all?

      As I wrote on Frank’s blog the other day, of what benefit is it to have even more disillusioned players who have played yet another MMO that failed to meet expectations?

      This just drives players away from trying new MMOs and/or reinforces the idea that Blizzard is the only worthwhile game in town.

      And likewise, from an investor’s standpoint, why continue to invest in MMOs?

      That’s why I can’t take any joy from Aion’s failure.

  13. marty says:

    I like the idea of people going from Aion to Darkfall. You can have “Ffjfjfjjf”, “Asdfasdfasdf” and “jfjrondfljasdf”… and all the other farmers and gold seller bots :D

  14. Julian says:

    I’m not entirely buying it either, like Brian.

    I don’t think you thought it through, Syn. “The more theme parks fail, the more sandboxes are made” is a huge non sequitur because 99% of the times what decides what kinds of games are made is not how many players migrate from a failed theme park to a niche sandbox.

    Games begin to be made at the investment table, and you can show your garden variety investor as many numbers as you want about people abandoning theme parks for sandboxes, but at the end of the day all that investor has to see is one paragraph of data showing that Aion, even if it were to close and shut down tomorrow, has already made more money than Darkfall will make in years. That’s it. End of file as far as he’s concerned.

    Do you think theme parks originally rose out of thin air? They rose because they were funded, and they were funded because they were (or sounded, at the time) largely profitable. Investors will fund what gives them the largest perceived return, and you can scream about sandboxes until you’re blue in the face but it won’t amount to more sandbox games being made until we get a sandbox hit the size of WoW or whereabouts. So grab a snickers.

    I’m not saying we don’t need sandboxes (we do), I’m not saying they’re not fun (they can be), I’m not even saying what’s superior. I’m saying it’s not about the games, it’s about the money. Aion dying has zero relevance to whether more Darkfalls are made or not.

  15. Song7 says:

    Ok, I recently quit Aion and I just bought Darkfall, not lying. There, syncaine wins.

  16. Melf_Himself says:

    I’m not sure if Aion is failing or not, but if it is it is undoubtedly due to the soul-sucking grind. As I understand it, Darkfall is no slouch in the grind department itself (to put it mildly), which is a big reason for its failure also.

    So Aion failing pretty much just hammers another nail in the coffin of the grindfest game style that you seem to like. Whoops.

  17. Sifo says:

    It is still official… Aion blows.

  18. Aiiane says:

    I’m not sure Aion could be considered a themepark MMO in the way WoW could; there’s really a rather huge gap between the best parts of the gameplay of the two.

  19. Ep says:

    The thing is people leaving Aion are leaving because it has traits of niche games. Its basically not WoW with wings which they thought it was going to be. Its hard work and takes effort and yes it can be boring some times. The grind is no different from skill grind in DF if your not a bloodwall user (exploiter) The crafting is the same effort in DF although the gathering is helped by the Trade brokers.

    Its not a good thing people are leaving Aion because it shows that the mass market obviously wants WoW with Wings and that is pretty f**king scary imo.

  20. I saw this today and thought about this post:

    NCsoft Q3 Profits Soar On Aion

    Here’s some eye-opener for everyone here:
    Aion generated 52 per cent of the publisher’s global sales during the third quarter. Lineage 2 followed (24 per cent), ahead of City of Heroes/Villains (four per cent) and Guild Wars (three per cent).

    North American market only contributed 15% to Aion‘s income (largest market is, shock, Korea), but this shows that Aion isn’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon. Even a grind-fest like L2 makes about 8x the income that GW does.

    • Draglem says:

      So, you are pointing out that a new game has sold more than a game who’s last release was what, over a year ago?

      This “report” is a reflection solely on the release in NA/EU, being at the very end of Q3. It will take another 6 months before anyone is even looking at subscription trends let alone action is taken.

      Sales will measure the hype, but the real question is how the grind affects the subscription base. If the game does tank abroad this would be a fun report to juxtapose to server shutdown announcements.

  21. syncaine says:

    Draglem beat me to it, but yea, the report just shows that Aion moved a lot of boxes in the US/EU, and we already knew that (although it moved just under 1m, which IMO is low compared to AoC/WAR). The sub bleed won’t even be seen in Q4, it won’t be until Q5 (if they have one) or the following year.

    That report also shows that if GW was a sub-based game, it would be making NCSoft a lot more money. Even at $15 a month, its very likely more people would be playing GW than CoH, and yet because of the business model they are making less.

    • You’re missing the points. You can dismiss Aion all you want, but it’s making a lot of money right now. Yeah, you can blame “hype”, but there were still a lot of people (like you) speaking against it. It still sold well because there’s still a lot of interest in big-budget themepark type games “with a twist!”

      It’s as I said before, getting excited about Aion’s struggles are ultimately meaningless if you’re arguing for different types of games. WoW still exists, and those figures for Aion show that following WoW’s lead isn’t unprofitable. GW may be heralded by a lot of people for its great business model, but it doesn’t make as much money as a grind-fest. And, even if you think that social games are a fad, that doesn’t change the fact that the #3 runner up in the race just got acquired by EA for a huge amount of money.

      My ultimate point here is that you can’t just pretend that business doesn’t matter. Cheering that a few people left Aion to return to Darkfall may feel good, but it’s meaningless if Aion makes a ton of money. I’m the last person to want more of the same in MMO games, but I think it’s dangerous to assume things are fine when the figures say something different.

      • SynCaine says:

        AoC and WAR had a lot of sales the first few months too, how’s that working out for Funcom/Mythic? And don’t confuse sales with profits, two very very different numbers. But come on now, you work on MMOs, you know the business model. Aion selling just under 1m box copies is nice, sure, but if they drop to 200k subs or less in 3-4 months, Aion is going to be a financial failure in the US/EU, especially if the plug is pulled after a year or so to further reduce costs. This is NCSoft remember, they don’t exactly let games languish.

        The figures DON’T show that following WoW is profitable. They show that if you spend enough up front, you can get 1m tourists to drop in for a month or two. But that one big month is not enough to pay for 3-4 years of dev time to make a title the size of AoC/WAR/Aion. On that same note, GW might not be a huge chunk of the sales % for NCSoft, but the sales/profit ratio is far, far higher for GW today than for Aion. NCSoft would be overjoyed if Aion had the longevity that GWs enjoys in the US/EU (I mean think about it, GW still contributed some sales right, and it has no sub cost, so that shows people are STILL buying GW boxes after all these years).

        As for EA jumping on the FB bandwagon, this would not be the first time someone pays a premium at the peak of a fad and gets burned. We will see what happens with the EA deal, but given that the FB model is based more around scamming the customer than providing a worthwhile product, it’s not exactly a business with a long and bright future. Look how those games perform on the iPhone, where Apple has more control over the scam/spam aspects. I wonder why Mafia Wars is not a huge hit there? Add in EA’s track record with acquired studios, and yea, I’ll put my money against EA on this one.

Comments are closed.