The future: Farmville or bust?

Scott Jennings (Lum) has another entry up on his 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.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Console Gaming, Darkfall Online, EVE Online, Fallen Earth, Mass Media, MMO design, Patch Notes, Random, SW:TOR, Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The future: Farmville or bust?

  1. sid67 says:

    As I wrote on my blog, I think these games are overblown because they aren’t competing with my leisure time at home. They are competing with my ‘fuck around’ time at work.

    There just isn’t enough gameplay to sustain long hours of play during my leisure time. Most people simply have better ways to spend their time.

  2. Adam says:

    Maybe MMOs will be improved by this.

    All the wannabes can chase Farmville instead of WoW…

  3. Bhagpuss says:

    I largely agree. What’s happening to gaming is just what happens to every major form of popular entertainment – it’s mainstreaming.

    Novels, movies, television all went through the same evolution and the end result is that each medium retains within itself all of its iterations. The new does not push out the old; the large does not push out the small. Blockbuster movies cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and return billions, but there are still arthouse movies made for peanuts showing in half a dozen cinemas within 30 minutes of where I live.

    Popular culture forms go on forever. Gaming is just beginning to settle into its permanence. All its genres and subgenres will be with us for generations, MMOs not the least of them.

    MySpace seems still to be doing fine to me, by the way. It used to be for artists and, especially, musicians then it got hijacked as a general social network. Now it seems to be back doing what it was best at. MMOs should be so lucky.

  4. Wilhelm2451 says:

    Let’s just admit that Farmville is mainly taking players away from XFire’s #1 most popular game, Solitaire. Xynga is just striking a blow against Microsoft.

  5. Kilratha says:

    “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?”

    You are so right on the mark with this one. People think the only way to be successful at this point is to take down WoW, and that is just not the case. Take a small company like Cornered Rat software. They released a relatively unknown game called WWII Online in June of 2001, and as of right now they are releasing a new expansion. 2001 people! How many MMO’s can boast that they are still releasing expansions 9 years later. (outside of a major corporation such as Sony)

  6. Mig says:

    There is a similar argument going on in the sports industry about trying to either compete with the big boys such as the NFL or to focus on being a niche, but profitable enterprise, like UFC. I wish I could remember who made the argument, but one industry insider wrote a great article about how as a fan of a sport you are actually hurt by an increase in popularity to your favorite sport. Many blue collar football fans of decades past have been pushed out of the stadiums, or into the nose bleed sections of most football stadiums, due to the incredible increase in ticket prices driven by the increased popularity of the NFL. Sure, you get 24/7 coverage on ESPN, but what the hell is that actually worth? Do you really enjoy hearing the 50th story of the day about whether Bret Favre Favre Favre Favre is going to retire?

    Comparing this to the MMO sphere, I honestly do not want Darkfall or the sandbox games to go mainstream. I do not need massivley and other sites dedicating 10 articles a day to my favorite game. I do not want the casual gamer spamming my game’s forums with their ideas about how awesome the game would be if they just implemented Trammel. I want my games to be complicated and have depth. I’ll take small and niche any day over achievement points and $10 pets.

    • SynCaine says:

      UFC itself went through something like that already. Originally UFC truly had ZERO rules, but the overall quality of the fighters was much lower and it was basically just Royce Gracie showing that his fighting style was superior.

      Then it got a little bigger, and they had to add some rules and change things up to make the product as a whole more presentable. Some ‘old school’ fans were upset, but clearly today the level of fighting in the UFC is phenomenal, and guys like Brock and Lashley are leaving the WWE to get into MMA. If MMA did not pay what it pays today, they would still be in the WWE.

      But if the UFC continues to try to go mainstream, more rules will have to change. Fights will have to be stopped early for blood, because you can’t have that on network TV. Maybe the rounds will be shorter or the delays longer for commercials etc. How many NFL rules exist today more for TV purposes than to create a competitive game?

      TLDR: Mainstream is usually not a good thing for the die-hard fans, but dwelling in obscurity is not great either. Where that ‘sweet spot’ is depends on who you ask.

      • Mig says:

        Hehe, I guess I am one of those old school UFC fans that think the sport has already been hurt by its attempts to go mainstream and that the fighting had already vastly improved from the early days of Royce owning the fighting purists, but I do not want to derail your post into a UFC discussion. Your point about the NFL rules changes are dead on, and no one can ever seem to agree on that sweet spot.

        It seems like hobbies or sports have to lose some of the “hardcore” qualities that many of the early adherents were originally drawn to. Whether its the violence and adrenaline rush of risk in sports, or the harsh unforgiving nature of full loot pvp, once a larger audience is targeted those aspects seem to be the first things to diminish. I can not count the number of horrible articles I have read about how hockey needs to get rid of fighting in order to attract a larger female audience. How much of this “social gaming” phenomenon can be attributed to bringing more females into the gaming sphere?

  7. bonedead says:

    Mafia Wars > Farmville imo

  8. bludd says:

    i have been trying to resist the facebook temptation but had give in so i can enter the dead space2 DESIGN A KILL contest and while at it, i tried farmville and co ,what a load dogcrap.

  9. brindle says:

    Tell that to pc gamers…. slowly but surely, the money left the market and what was once a vibrant part of gaming has declined to ugly step child. The money will follow the craptastic farmville games, the writing is on the wall. The best hope is that the browser interface will be so limiting that these games can never overcome the user interface deficit. Only time will tell.

  10. Max says:

    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

    I sincerely hope one studio will prove that the case. But so far every attempt at this was complete and utter disaster.

    I’ll take Aventurine’s first year of deliverables over the ‘coming soon’ pace Blizzard has been using any day.

    What I cant stand is blind fanboism. I been playing and dealing with MMO since AC (sorry missed pretrammel UO) and anyone who talks any sh`t about WoW production values, is plain ying. To date there never been more stable and more polished MMO than WoW. From day one and up till know.

    You may not agree with what game WoW actually is , but comparing sham of a scam DF “quality” to WoW is simply blind fanboism

  11. Max says:

    ying = lying
    know = now
    3.30 at night, cant type for shit

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