The 5%

Note: If this post comes off as a little rambly, sorry. Lot of thoughts swirling in my head + a massive headache = not going to fully explain every last detail. Feel free to comment for clarifications.

I linked to a pretty harsh SW:TOR option piece yesterday, and Ravious over at KTR has a post + lots of comments about it as well. Tobold has a post up on this today as well, taking a slightly different take on the whole thing.

Ultimately all of this just further reinforces what most of us have expected all along; TOR is most likely going to be a pretty solid sRPG (especially if you are into the whole lightsabers thing), with the possibility that the sRPG is ruined by MMO concepts spoiling the fun. And for EA it makes sense to charge MMO prices for TOR, as a 200 hour sRPG is going to take people more than a month to finish, so you might as well charge more than just the box price (Especially when it cost you 300m or whatever to make said 200hr sRPG).

TOR to me is like Farmville when it comes to MMO discussions; both games have MMO aspects, neither game is actually an MMO, so the basics concepts and concerns just don’t apply.

What I do want to touch on today, which is somewhat related to the above (hopefully), is the 5% population of an MMO; the hardcore, the guild leaders/officers, the mod makers, the forum warriors, bloggers, etc.

The more virtual world your MMO is, the more important that 5% is. In a game like EVE these are the people starting the wars in 0.0. They are the ones organizing things in Empire. They are the ones on the CSM. They drive content. They make the game ‘work’. Remove them, and basically nothing happens, the world stops working, and people get bored/leave.

The ‘solution’ to not relying on that 5% is to have the game itself be the content driver. This is where solo questing/instances come in, where phasing shines, and where most ‘end-game’ somewhat dies. Simply put, the amount of ‘content’ the 5% can pump out will always dwarf the amount of content a dev team can put out, no matter how aggressively they patch.

Of course, months or years of ‘content’ is only important if your business plan relies on retaining players for that long. If your plan is to get people in and out over the course of a few months, you have no real need for that 5%, or for the content/tools they would require. I’d argue you quickly stop being an MMO when you go down that path, but the definition of MMO is pretty stretched these days.

Furthermore, it’s not a big surprise that the 5% consume content faster than the other 95%. I mean, the definition of casual is (partly) that they play less, right? So if you play less, you don’t need new content as often as someone who plays more. Is it really a coincidence that in 2004/2005, when WoW was booming, the majority of the additional content was focused on that 5%? If you retain/entertain that 5%, they in turn help to keep the other 95% coming back. If a guild leader stops organizing raids or guild events, guild members don’t have a reason to log on. If you can’t keep the hardcore crowd busy, who is going to design your UI with mods? Who is going to ‘beta test’ your new raiding content before the more casual crowd arrives?

This is not to say that ALL focus should go to the 5%, that would be silly, but I fully believe that in an MMO, losing the 5% costs you far more than just 5% of your total subscribers. The old “I’m quitting and taking my entire guild” joke does hold some truth to it. The ideal content addition would be aimed at the 5%, but would either trickle down (progressive raids, where the older raids get ‘easier’ due to better item access from higher raids or new 5-mans), or would act as a tool for the 5% to create ‘content’ for the rest (drawing a blank for an example here). And ‘content for all’ works as well (seasonal events or such), so long as you maintain a good balance. I feel that the AAA MMOs of late have completely lost that balance, and the damage caused from losing the 5% is not felt/seen immediately, especially if you offset this with (limited shelf life) solo content.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in EVE Online, Mass Media, MMO design, Rant, SW:TOR, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The 5%

  1. I’m not sure that the 5% group is clearly defined. In EVE online you say it’s the skilled and commited who play in 0.0 and change their world, thus creating “content” for other players.
    I haven’t played it, but it makes sense.
    In WoW, however, you could be as skilled as you’d like, but there’s no relation between your skill and your ability to create or change the game’s content.
    And then you talk about guild leaders/raid leaders and officers. In my experience, any guild will have GL and RL that know maybe a bit more about the game than your average guild member, but their level of skill is directly proportional (and a cause) to the level of their guild. In other words; mediocre GL or RL: mediocre guild.
    You then talk about addon creators. I play with a couple of professional programmers who happened to work on a few addons, and they weren’t any better than your random pug player.

    (my apologies for any grammar or spelling mistakes)

    • SynCaine says:

      You are thinking of the 5% as the best players. Instead think of the 5% as the players who care the most, or who are the most invested. (It does not always have to be the ones who spend the highest amount of time playing, but that’s also a major factor)

  2. Shukaro says:

    I just find it sad that they’ve decided to invest all these millions into “WoW: In Space!” rather than using them to *gasp* actually innovate. More game companies need to be like CCP or Aventurine and make a genuinely new game, rather than go the safe WoW route. WoW, when it came out, as well as through BC, was innovative and new, and thus, ridiculously popular. Rift, TOR, or any of their ilk will never be able to capture that same popularity, because they are essentially WoW with a couple of possibly interesting tweaks. I’ve got plenty of other games to play that aren’t blatant copies of other games, I don’t need another WoW, thanks.

    • D506 says:

      WoW when it came out was really just EQ with a couple of interesting tweaks, a hugely popular IP and brand name, and a whole lot of polish.

    • Torcano says:

      It would probably be the Worst plan possible to try and innovate like you want.

      SWG tried to be sandbox type game like so many bloggers etc wish TOR was. It failed because their target market isn’t Mmo gamers and especially hardcore ones,

      It’s star wars and KOTOR fans. A srpg with Mmo elements is probably the perfect concept for TOR. Like Wow it will draw in tons of new MMO players and potentially expand the market with a whole new generation.

      Wow succeeded because it made mmos highly accessible and for lack of a better word easy. It has the key elements of the wildly successful KOTOR games with the addictive long-term appeal of an mmo.

      I am thinking more and more that TOR will be hugely successful for the reason we all dislike it. It is a highly accessible mmo that doesn’t require experience and is designed to draw in noobs.

      And unlike wow its not just the fans of it’s previous series who will be targeted. Star wars is a massive IP with ridiculous numbers of fans, and pretty much every one who games was a fan of KOTOR, well those who have any liking for RPGs that is, and many who didn’t before were drawn into RPGs because of the IP.

      Additionally and perhaps most interestingly, unlike warcraft KOTR never had a multiplayer elements, and that was maybe ThE most requested feature by fans.

      And as it appears, it’s the exact format they wished, you can play most or all of it alone, but whenever youu wish you can jump into playing with friends or other players.

      Advancing your character and building a sweet armory was a hugely popular aspect of KOTOR, can you imagine how much more popular and addictive this would be in the world of mmos? Take the normal loot-stats craziness of mmos and multiply it by the addictive looting-stating of KOTORwithout anyone to show off brag etc about it too…that’s how into TOR fans of KOTORwill be.

      And the biggest misconception of all is that the mmo market has peaked. That’s insane. Obviously it could grow and grow a lot considering how small a fraction of even just PC gaming it is.

      I predict that if not quite wow success it will be by far the second most successful, and that it has a decent chance to surpass wow. My reasoning is that wow has made mmos way more known and visible, as well as eliminated huge stigmas that existed even among gamers let alone the general population. With the sub model way more normal and accepted, way more mmo players topopulate it especially in the crucial beginning, the biggest IP in the world, etc, I think it could be incredibly successful.

      Any thoughts comments debates or questions?

      • SynCaine says:

        The above will work wonders for a month or so, and then the lack of an actually MMO will come out, and those same players who love sRPGs will move on to… the next sRPG, while the real MMO players will look for something that’s actually an MMO.

        Attracting common players is a great goal when selling boxes. It has not worked out too well when hoping to collect subs for months/years after the box is sold.

        Sure, maybe TOR will be the first title to buck that trend, but I wouldn’t bet $300m on it.

        When mentioning WoW, you forget the fact that, in 2004, WoW was very much a tradition (EQ1 clone) MMO, and it’s off that base that 10m came and stayed for months/years.

  3. Derrick says:


    Leaving individual games aside, specific features, etc, your post applies 100% to any large scale multiplayer game with a persistent world. Those few dedicated players organize and effectively create content for the rest.

    They *are* the most important players, because – as you said – without them the others will, lacking direction, get bored and leave.

  4. Bristal says:

    Totally agree. I’m an older, casual and mostly solo player. Bloggers provide the content that keeps me interested and playing.

    I liken the “trickle down” in MMO’s to sports. Professional leagues drive interest in a sport that spreads to writers, viewer-only fans, player fans, analysts, farm team leagues, academic leagues, adult leagues, kids leagues and on and on.

    All these people provide “content” that both drives, and is driven by elite play.

    Creation and support of the elite levels must be on the radar of the devs.

    However, the trickle down mechanism must be baked in to the culture of the game, and for me, that’s the part that seems to be failing in WoW right now.

  5. Delamay says:

    I agree with Syncaine; that 5% active player are very important to the entertainment of the rest of the playerbase.

    It’s painfully obvious with niche groups like roleplayers in game. These groups depend on the few that create events and engage the community. As soon as these people leave, the whole community quickly decays and disappears.

    Another thing I’ve been doing when the game itself was not entertaining is visiting forums. Game forums are basically ‘player content’ and it’s constantly changing. Same thing for blogs, really!

  6. Rem says:

    I wrote about this topic in great detail a few months ago: Blizzard’s design course and actions clearly indicate that rather than having a community that effectively belongs to the 5%, they decided to eliminate the (need for a) community along with the 5%. And what Blizzard does, quickly becomes the blueprint for all but a few MMO developers.

  7. Torcano says:

    It’s hard to believe that in this day and age you guys still consider the hardcore vocal minority to be as important as you’d like to be.

    When study after study and report after report by every company in the genre (except Eve)has proven that th blogging forum populating vocal minority is a tiny tiny fraction of the player base. In fact, it’s not even like the 99% of players even disagree with you, it’s that they don’t even THINk about the stuff that you guys write about.

    I thinkits simple vanity pride and self-involvement that gives this skewed perspective. Its like less than 1% of the players…devs would have to be morons to give much if any weight to their opinions, when it’s obvious they contradict the majority’s. And most importantly the majority also makes up vast majority of revenue and determines the games success,

    I just find it astonishing you guys could still think this way after years of companies directly telling us the opposite, not to mention common sense and a bit of statistical analysis.

    • SynCaine says:

      (except EVE)

      Except EVE is the only MMO to consistently grow (pre latest dip) for 7 years, while every traditional MMO not called WoW has not.

      Or if we want to look at Asia, the biggest MMOs there are all PvP/player-driven.

      The MMO genre is unique, and while a lot of games are blurring the lines of what it means to be an MMO, the ‘core’ games that have worked in the past have all had at least one thing in common; strong social ties/drivers. It’s the ‘hook’ that keeps people subbed.

      • Steve says:

        Your making unfounded assumptions about Eve’s growth and the vocal minorities impact, Eve also has very little competition as both a space based MMO & a sandbox MMO, I’d suggest that Eve would of grown regardless.

        Even more so when you consider that Eve’s growth is rather exaggerated by game mechanics, in that to have a real alt in Eve you actually need a seperate account & that you can fund that account from in game currency.

        You also have to consider Eve is came from (and is still at relatively low numbers) so growth is easier, to put it in perspective Eve has about 280k subscribers (how many real non-plex alt subscribers is a mystery), SWTOR has allegedlt sold around 5 million pre-orders…

        In fact in some ways I’d suggest that some of that vocal 5% damage Eve’s subscription numbers and the game, for instance the goons systematic targetting of ice miners causes many toleave the game.

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