As has been said and proven countless times, niche MMOs work

I’ve bagged a lot on Mortal Online in the past, mostly because at launch it was a trainwreck. Amazingly this was sometime just after the release of Darkfall 1. Since that time DF1 closed to make room for DF:UW, and then Aventurine decided having a slowly increasing population was bad and removed classes and tanked DF:UW, all while Mortal Online has kept on going and improving/expanding.

I somewhat recently played the game a bit, and while still not my cup of tea, its a solid MMO that knows what it’s focus is (clan-based open-world PvP, crafting-focused economy) and doesn’t try to do too much. Per MassivelyOP, the CEO recently posted that the game has ‘a few thousand’ subs, that the total is slowly increasing, and that a bigger increase is expected when the next free expansion hits.

All of that is good stuff, both for MO players and for everyone else tired of ‘AAA’ MMOs that end up being FFF MMOs when it comes to the stuff that should really matter in the genre (community, long-term engagement, a greater sense of purpose and world). And like a few other titles, MO is another nice example that you can be successful without having to change what you do, even if ‘what you do’ is only for a few thousand players at a time. MO is also a good example of a game with a rough start, that must have been seriously hurting in terms of population, but where the devs stuck with it and eventually dug themselves out.

The MMO genre can both be extremely harsh and also extremely forgiving. If you deliver something that doesn’t have legs, no amount of polish or sizzle will save you. If you appeal to an under-appreciated group and don’t sell them out, all while improving and fixing your mistakes, you will be rewarded eventually. It’s kinda nice that things work like that sometimes, although unfortunately not often enough just yet.


About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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8 Responses to As has been said and proven countless times, niche MMOs work

  1. Catalina de Erauso says:

    Take the monthly upkeep cost and development cost of a MMO, split that number by your target subscription fee, and that’s how many people you *need* to earn a living from your project.

    The more the merrier, of course, but 80,000 loyal subscribers for ten years are worth more than 2 million for three months and then walking the road to F2P hell.

    • RohanV says:

      Eh, on the other hand, having 50,000 loyal subs for 10 years is pretty much the same thing as having 2 million for 3 months.

      Revenue is area under the curve of subscriptions. A high peak and short timespan is pretty much the same as a low peak and long timespan.

      • SynCaine says:

        But the one with 50k works better for the devs (job stability) and the players (game is online and being updated for 10 years). Only the suits don’t care (assuming of course that both games had similar costs overall, factoring in the difference between collecting in 3 months vs 10 years).

        Which, really, sums up the core problem with the genre in the last ten years for the most part; we get suit-success games that screw both players and devs, with only the odd example of one that doesn’t.

  2. Phedre says:

    I have recently returned to Fallen Earth, which was released five years ago. I was surprised how busy it still was. I thought GamersFirst would destroy the game, and make it a cashshop fest. But that didn’t really happen, and I’m happily subscribed to a wonderful niche game. So yes, agree with Syncaine.

  3. Frosth says:

    Check out Wurm Online. It has a similar growth with a very small following but doing fine.

    Also, I haven’t played it in years, but look into the french MMO Dofus.
    Apparently it made at some point 3.5M subs and no one ever talks about it.
    It started out as a flash game for skill showcase of a webagency. Talk about growth.

    • SynCaine says:

      Wurm I’ve played, its another title I just can’t get into for some reason.

      I’ve heard of Dofus, believe it’s a French-based game, though I think how they counted subs back in the day is how we count accounts now, but I could be wrong.

      • Frosth says:

        Yeah. Wurm is amazing on paper but it lacks a unity in its design. I can’t get into it either. But their premium player count has beem invreasing in the past years, similarly to MO.

        For Dofus: They had like 30m accounts and 3.5m subscribers. But it went down and is around 500k now. It’s turn based on a grid at max 8v8. Their sub is also much cheaper at 5euros.

        They had a very cool system called a tax collector. Guild could place them on a zone and it would steal part of the loot. Anyone could attack them to get their loot back ensuring cool pvp for a reason.

        I haven’t played since 2007, but I looked into mmo stats lately and it surprised me that this game got so large without global coverage.

        • SynCaine says:

          Ah that’s what it was about Dofus that stood out to me, back when everyone was at $15 a month, they were one of if not the only game to go with the much cheaper $5 option.

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