The MMO genre is a niche space, entry 25603

“TSW was not buggier than, say, GW2. Nor did it lack things to do.” – tithian

“Personally I found TSW to be sub-par in both combat and graphics, and far inferior to GW2 in game flow. In the beta the “things to do” mostly involved a lot of variations of very slowly killing grey zombies in a grey town / landscape.” – Tobold

“I think you’re proving lono’s point. If it doesn’t have vibrant fantasy settings with flashy combat, dragons and elves, the attention something gets is the fraction of MMO X that does deliver on that front. And guess what, your next MMO will also have a vibrant fantasy setting. And the next, and the next…” – thegaiaengines

Original post and more comments can be found here.

This somewhat reminds me of when Darkfall came out and certain people complained that looting was ‘broken’ or ‘poorly designed’ because you had to drag items off a corpse, or that the combat was unresponsive because there was a delay between drawing your weapon and swinging. That the world was ‘empty’ because not every corner had a pre-scripted purpose for existing, and that the only way to compete in PvP was to max out everything just to ‘catch up’.

On a larger scale, it reinforces the fact that the core of the MMO genre is very niche, but that because of WoW, we have a very large section of players who don’t like niche (or need to be brought into the niche with baby steps, because change is scary!) GW2 right now is stuck in an awkward mid-point, with some systems clearly designed for the masses (hotbar spam-to-win, guided progression, easy leveling) while others could be considered core (insane grind at 80 for gear, sPvP, advanced WvW tactics).

The biggest difference between Darkfall and The Secret World is not levels of polish or innovation, but in expectations. Aventurine understood they were making a niche MMO, and planned accordingly. They hit their target, profited, and because of that we are getting a sequel ‘soon’. Funcom being Funcom, they expected their niche MMO to retain a million subscribers, and because of this TSW is failing. Had the bar been correctly set at, say, 100k subs, TSW would be considered a hit. Feel free to blame Blizzard for this if it makes you feel better (it usually does for me).

Finally, let’s talk about this shall we:

“You are allowed to want both an innovative game AND fun game without it being hypocritical, just like you can want a cheap, good steak (or whatever).” – Azuriel

Az, do you walk into McDonalds looking for a good, cheap steak? How’s that workin’ out for ya? There is a reason a good steakhouse charges what it charges, while at the same time McD’s has served billions with $5 ‘steaks’.

Before they went south, Blizzard was famous for bringing out extremely polished titles, and talent aside, they were able to do this because their titles played it safe and at most took other’s ideas one small step forward. Good business if you can do it, but it only works if you also have other studios pushing the envelope and innovating. There would be no WoW without UO/EQ1, and a major reason WoW was so polished compared to EQ1 was due to that evolution vs revolution approach. The EQ1 devs had little to go off of (MUDs), while Blizzard was able to copy/paste/polish EQ1 to make WoW.

It’s all shades of gray of course. You can’t just put out the world’s most innovative title and expect success if it’s so buggy no one can load it (not at the mass-market level anyway), while at the same time JUST polishing is not enough. After all, while WoW was very much a EQ1 clone, Blizzard did bring a few new ideas to the table, and those few ideas were pretty solid at the time.

But the more you innovate, the further you step out of the known, the higher the chance of something not working as expected. The core MMO players will (generally) roll with it and expect a fix (or exploit the hell out of it until said fix arrives), but the mass-market gamers don’t have that kind of tolerance, patience, and overall investment to stick with a title as it grows.

But then, that’s why the MMO genre is a niche, with WoW being the awkward outlier.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Darkfall Online, Guild Wars, MMO design, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The MMO genre is a niche space, entry 25603

  1. Now, you cannot blame Blizzard for TSW. WoW kindly shed more than enough subscribers to make TSW a success.

    As for the Azuriel quote, I would have put it differently. If your game isn’t fun, I don’t care how innovative it is.

    And I have had my share of steaks that are both good and cheap, at least cheap relative to other steaks. But the likelihood of said good and cheap steak seems to require you be physically in Texas, which many would consider a price to be weighed in and of itself.

  2. Bristal says:

    I don’t know how you equate cheap and good with innovative and fun.

    Good obviously equals fun, but cheap implies little risk or investment from me, while innovative is just the opposite.

    Adapting to change is not easy (how much innovation would you tolerate in EVE?), so the fun output has to relatively increase to compensate for the unfamiliarity of the innovation.

    MMOs are not like TV shows, where I can easily follow 5-10 a week. They require much more investment in time, energy, and focus. For most of us, changing games is not trivial.

    Sure, I’ll try a zebra steak, but if I have to buy it at a different store, learn to cook it differently, and get used to the fact that I’m eating a ZEBRA, it better be damn good or I’ll likely stick with my cow.

    Living in Texas has to have SOME advantages.

  3. saucelah says:

    Not just Texas — I grew up able to get cheap, good steaks in Nebraska.

    I wouldn’t even think of getting a cheap steak in New England though. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t have gone somewhere inexpensive in Nebraska if I was looking for lobster.

  4. So, you are starting to see why we had to ban analogies in our cross-functional project meetings at my last company. Seriously. Four comments in, the prime discussion point seems to be where to get a steak that is both cheap and good.

  5. Adam says:

    I actually think that overall its good that The Secret World is failing.

    Many many people are griefing them about their combat model.

    Even a year ago people seemed to think that Wow bad combat was the now and forever of MMO combat.

    GW2 (very slightly) and Tera(thought not far enough and what a hilariously incomplete themepark otherwise) have pushed that envelope.

    People actually talk about the combat model now. That’s progress.

    Tabtarget123 games should go die (or go to facebook).

  6. bhagpuss says:

    Avoiding the steak issue, generally agree with the OP and especially agree with Wilhelm that ” If your game isn’t fun, I don’t care how innovative it is.”

    The problem there is that if you ask three MMO players to define “fun” you’ll get six definitions. MMOs need to be niche because my fun may be your claw-your-own-eyes-out boredom. More focused design with clearer understanding of potential audiences and budgets kept to manageable levels would be nice, so that more of us can have the fun we want while more designers get to make the games they want to make.

    A bit of tolerance for difference among the audience would be nice, too. Just because an MMO doesn’t work for *you* doesn’t mean it isn’t working for anyone.

    Of course, if GW2 sells 5 million copies by Christmas, we’ll have GW2 clones for the next five years, all of which will “fail”.

    • João Carlos says:

      Rift maybe is trying to be like GW2… no problem with that, the rifts are the same kind of content than DE, thye just need polish it more.

      the problem will be when Wow try to implement public quests…

  7. bonedead says:

    I was hopin TSW would be like a new AO. Harumph!

  8. Azuriel says:

    I would have preferred that you included the sentence before the part you quoted:

    “We’re consumers, not investors, not charity workers, not R&D assistants. You are allowed to want both an innovative game AND fun game without it being hypocritical, just like you can want a cheap, good steak (or whatever).”

    Generally speaking, good steaks aren’t expensive because they have to be, they are expensive because they can be. Are the shipping costs really the reason good steaks are cheaper in Texas than some New York restaurant? Probably not. And considering all those dozens of blind wine-tasting studies that demonstrate we enjoy something more when we think it’s expensive (even though it is actually from a $5 wine box), it’s even arguable that McDonald’s “steaks” would taste good if served on a silver platter with garnish.

    None of this was my point, of course. I simply reject the notion that “it’s our fault” more innovation is not occurring, simply because we’re not financing game makers’ R&D projects. Nevermind how innovative games like TSW fail entirely due to Funcom’s own unreasonable sales expectations and not because there is no market for them.

    If it is consumer entitlement to want fun & innovative games without the garbage, it’s developer entitlement to peddle $60 experiments.

  9. Pingback: The difference? | 4250

Comments are closed.