Scott Jennings (Lum) has another entry up on his MMORPG.com blog, this time talking a bit about Farmville and Co and what it might mean for MMO gaming. Lots of quality quotes from around the industry, and some good insight from Lum himself. Overall I agree that social gaming (or whatever term is finally settled upon) is a huge market and one that is and will continue to be very profitable for some (unless the whole Facebook fad fades as quickly as MySpace). I also agree that just because Farmville or whatever comes after it is successful, it does not mean more ‘traditional’ MMOs will be replaced and we will all be growing virtual crops in a few years.
I view the situation similar to what happened to the MMO genre once WoW became such a breakout success. Just because we have a slew of WoW-clones today does not mean we also don’t see games like Fallen Earth and DarkFall catering to players looking for something different (or old, if the base is Ultima Online). And just like the next AAA MMO won’t have the 80 million or whatever Farmville accounts, a more niche game like FE or DF won’t have the 1 million or so users that the AAA MMO has. This does not mean that there is not money to be made in the AAA MMO field, or the FE/DF field.
Like always, it comes down to accurately identifying your potential market and planning accordingly. If I think my particular MMO can attract 100,000 subs and I get 150,000, it does not mean my MMO ‘failed’ because WoW has 11 million. What would be a failure is if I plan to get three million and end up with only two. To an outsider the two million sub MMO might look like a smashing success compared to the 150,000 sub MMO, but when everything is factored in and one balance sheet is red while the other is black, the total number of users really does not mean much. So long as your particular server is populated, do you really care if there are two or twenty others like it, so long as the devs are paid and keep producing?
Plus the last year or so has only reinforced the idea that you don’t need a huge studio and a mega-million budget to produce a quality MMO experience (Not to mention that even if you do have a huge studio and mega-millions, odds are decent that you won’t deliver a successful or entertaining game anyway). EVE has been doing it for years, and now both Fallen Earth and DarkFall are well established and successful ‘small time’ players. And while one might think Blizzard having access to a billion dollars of revenue would mean they can dwarf everyone else in terms of content delivery, engine upgrades, and overall features, I’ll take Aventurine’s first year of deliverables over the ‘coming soon’ pace Blizzard has been using any day. Plus I’m paying a lot less for what I would consider a lot more, since only the big guys seem to be charging extra for expansions. I don’t think FE fans mind the upgrades they have seen either, and most are familiar with EVE expansions and what they bring to the table. I’m sure others can bring up many other examples as well, but the point being that the smaller studios are not only able to keep pace with the ‘big guys’, but often outshine them.
So while I’ll likely continue to watch the FB explosion from the sideline, and keep my distance from ‘games’ like Farmville, I won’t be doing it without an MMO I enjoy playing, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.