Continuing the recent string of WAR-related musings, I’d like to talk about developer focus today. As I see it, there are basically three groups of players for any MMO at all times: those who never played your game, those who currently play, and those who played but canceled. So whenever you are working on an update to your MMO, you are likely targeting one or more of those groups, but they don’t all want the same thing, and this is where I believe Mythic could use a little focus-shift.
First lets get the “those who never played” out of the way. The best way to transition them to the other two groups is with a quality free trial. WAR has that, as do many other MMOs. This is not the only way to get someone’s attention (an exciting expansion certainly helps, as does a re-release to retail or a price drop), but IMO it’s the best/cheapest route to go for any studio. If your game is a quality product, people will enjoy the trial enough to make a purchase and move into the ‘currently playing’ group. If they decide not to purchase, I’m not sure they really qualify for the ‘played but quit’ group, as I think a certain (debatable) amount of time has to be spent to really ‘get’ an MMO and judge it on more than a superficial level.
So we are left with those who currently play and those who played but quit. Those who currently play follow the game on a much deeper level than most who don’t, so patches that address balance or minor but annoying bugs are going to appeal to this crowd. If you are still playing you are likely (hopefully?) happy enough with the game to keep paying, so rather than dramatic changes you generally want ‘more’ of whatever you are getting. If you are playing WoW you want more PvE, if you are playing WAR you want more RvR, etc. What you definitely don’t want is an NGE-style update to a game you enjoy, be it full loot added to WoW or a total focus shift to PvE in WAR.
I also believe that the faster you see updates, the better, even if those updates are small little bites rather than massive updates. The knowledge that ‘something’ is being worked on by the dev team is reassuring, and long periods without an update will anger those who are currently playing. You pay every month; you expect to see something from that payment. From a business standpoint, obviously you want to keep as many of your current players playing/paying as you can, so ignoring them to the point of a mass exodus is self-defeating.
With that said, and especially for WAR, a far larger population of ex players exists compared to current players, and while making sure those who are currently playing stay happy is important, you also need to try and bring those who left back. Especially those who left not because they thought the game was terrible, but either they ran out of content, just got a bit burned out, or took issue with one or two particular items but overall enjoyed the product. I mean if you hated the game, yea, no updated short of a overhaul is going to bring you back, but for WAR I believe many who tried it found that while the game has many things going for it, it’s missing something ( :cough: 3rd faction :cough: ) to make it really click.
That crowd is not lost forever, far from it IMO. What they are looking for is something to trigger a return, and small balance updates or performance tweaks are not going to do it. A promising expansion would, or a major patch that addresses some of their concerns or sparks interest. And when those ex players do return, they WILL notice all the work you have done to clean up the little things, to make everything a bit cleaner/smoother/more enjoyable, and they are then more likely to stick around for a bit. But in order for them to see all of that work done, they need that catalyst to come back in the first place. That IMO is what WAR is missing right now, and given how many players already bought the game originally versus how many are currently playing, I’m really hoping Mythic has something up their sleeve to bring many of us back. I for one am just looking for a good reason, and I’m guessing I’m not alone.