Wait no, that’s a pretty level graph isn’t it? So if the sky is falling, and I’m stable, does that mean I’m crushing it as hard as you suspected? I guess it does right?
Epeen measuring aside (did I mention I’m one win away from 1600+ ELO in LoL? No? Well I’m one win away from 1600+ ELO. Guess that makes me the 1% of Occupy Blogstreet or something), let’s talk about the death of MMOs as we know it.
MMOs are dying. SW:TOR is the last gasp of a soon-deceased genre, and I personally hope that rather than going meekly into the grave, it dies in a horrifyingly entertaining train wreck of epic proportions.
By the time I finish writing this post, WoW will have lost another million subs (real subs, not China ‘subs’), Rift might announce it’s going F2P, and LoTRO will be selling you a “One Ring + Frodo mini-pet” combo pack in the item shop.
The MMORPG genre is doing just fine. Aventurine, despite their best efforts for well over a year now, can’t kill Darkfall. Dawntide, which I’m pretty sure is a social experiment in pain tolerance, actually has a following and just got more money to continue. Wyrm Online launched a new server. ATiTD is around and kicking. Etc, etc.
Oh and EVE is still the second biggest sub MMO out, the longest growing MMO out, and CCP actual plans to update it after taking a “hey lets go over here and tinker with WoD” break. Not bad when you consider that the game is Excel with a worse UI, it “welcomes sociopaths with open arms”, sells $8,000,000 vanity items, and has the leader of the Goons as its player representative.
Not that any of this should be a real surprise if you think about it. If it costs $300m to make a themepark that will entertain you for a month or two, or $10 to make Darkfall and keep people sieging and resieging for close to three years, which one would you pick? Or if you are a talented team with limited funds, do you have a choice? I’m a VC with some cash to throw at something risky, do I feel better about throwing $300m or $10?
The worst part of it all is that even if you DO get that $300m (good luck after SW) needed to make a themepark, its dead money. You will need another $300m to keep pumping out the type of content themepark players want fast enough to retain them, and unless you retain 100m of them, the math isn’t going to work out. The biggest red herring of all time is WoW, because DESPITE being somewhat of a themepark at launch, it retained people well-enough initially to make Blizzard rich, and it was only when Blizzard started making WoW more and more of a themepark did the castle start to crumble (and when you factor in the social aspect of having such a huge playerbase, it just amplifies how un-sustainable a themepark really is).
The reason you are seeing people like Tobold panic is that he, and most current-day ‘MMO’ players, don’t like MMORPGs. Games like UO/AC-DT/EVE/DF are scary places where feelings get hurt, and if you don’t have a thick skin, you can’t play. Which is why they like single player online games over staying offline all together. And why not? Who would turn down Bioware spending triple the money making Baldur’s Gate? Who wouldn’t want the sRPG genre going from niche, low budget games to the cream of the gaming crop, even if you have to pay the paltry sum of $15 a month? You know why people are really excited for SW:TOR? Because it’s KOTOR with a massive budget. From a fans perspective with nothing invested in the company, hell yea I want way too much cash spent on my game.
Unfortunately throwing money down the drain is coming to an end, and the reality of WoW being an exception rather than the rule is setting in. You can’t replicate WoW because WoW was a once-in-a-lifetime, perfect storm title (not going to debate that here, feel free to search this blog for those posts). It was also NOTHING like the game it is today, which is why we are seeing trainwreck after trainwreck when other games try to emulate it. You are copying the flawed version of something that once worked. Oh and your version has even more flaws because you’re not Blizzard’s A-team.
Lost in all this is the fact that 100k, or even 20k MMOs are perfectly viable, and have been for years (decades now I guess). If you plan correctly, 20k people paying you $15 a month is a pretty health income. Now you are more limited in what you can develop, which is why you need to provide tools rather than one-and-done content, but well, that’s kinda what MMORPGs are, aren’t they? But those tools enable ‘scary’ stuff like player interaction, and that often results in even ‘scarier’ player conflict. And such concepts, along with the time required to actually get into such games, are simply unacceptable to the thin-skinned octo-mom casuals.
But look on the bright side.
You will always* have Facebook MMOs!
*Always being the next 20 minutes, when that fad also dies. Hurry!