Tuesday, October 06, 2009
A message of hope
Wolfshead is worried:
The reason why I’m in a perpetual state of angst is that I feel that the MMO industry has squandered all of the great potential that was evident at the cusp of the first MMO revolution a scant 10 years ago during the first MMO revolution heralded by Ultima Online and EverQuest. Sadly, things seem to be paradoxically devolving instead of evolving. MMO after MMO has failed to inspire me. There’s a creeping sense of complacency and predictability infecting this genre right now that worries me.Victor Stillwater, quoting my elephant story, likewise appears anxious:
Personally, I’d like to be awestuck by awesomeness a second time, because sometimes, if you’ve seen and experienced one MMO, everything else feels like the same damned thing.Me, while totally agreeing with some of their points on squandered potential, complacency and predictability, and new MMORPGs being éthe same damned thing", I'm responding with a message of hope: Having been around long enough, I've already been "awestuck with awesomeness" at least twice, with the original Everquest and with World of Warcraft. So while I agree that there might be years between truly great games, I'm convinced I'll see more of them. I don't know which game it will be, or how many years it will take, but I'm certain I'll be awestuck and inspired again by some future game.
It is not just that it is unlikely that lightning strikes me exactly twice, without the possibility of it striking again. There are also some solid reasons behind my message of hope: Means and motivation. The means are improving technologies, not just graphics, but also in bandwith, server power, or artificial intelligence, so that future games will have possibilities previously unavailable. The motivation is a huge pot of gold: The number of MMORPG gamers is still small compared to the total number of people owning video games, and there is no good reason to believe that there is a cap at some current number, be that "11 million" or something else. Activision Blizzard has an annual revenue from World of Warcraft of 1 billion dollars, with a near 50% profit margin, and that is a huge source of motivation for other companies to try to reach or even surpass that. Game companies might be slow learners, but at some point even they will realize that making more WoW clones isn't the way to get to the "next big thing". Creativity simply doesn't work in a steady fashion, breakthroughs after periods of stagnation is the norm, not the exception.