Tobold's Blog
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Non-twitch will make you rich

World of Tanks continues to grow at a spectacular rate. Last night there were more "concurrent users" on the European server than EVE has on their world-wide server; WoT has American, Russian, and Chinese servers in addition to that, and only took 10 weeks to get that many players. The Chinese reported having made $2 million in the first 2 weeks, and the other servers are probably even more profitable. And that with a game which in spite of being called "World of" actually hasn't got any persistent world in it, and is not really a MMORPG. It is a tactical, team-based shooter with the ability to level up your tanks and crew.

But what makes World of Tanks different from most other games, MMORPG or otherwise, is that is works on a somewhat slower time-scale. A very fast gun takes 2 seconds to reload, a very slow one 20 seconds, and most guns somewhere in between. The speed with which you can turn your turret does not depend on the speed with which you can mouse-turn. In short: Sub-second reaction time and twitch skills aren't helping all that much in World of Tanks. Tactical thinking, and at a higher level strategic coordination with your team helps a lot more.

Being based on a different set of skills than other games attracts a different set of players. I just joined a clan and was surprised that while predominantly male like in every shooter, the average age was far higher. Lots of players are in their 40s, like me. World of Tanks is the one game in which a middle-aged guy isn't at a complete disadvantage against a teenager.

That different target audience has financial consequences. The middle-aged guy has a lot more disposable income than the teenager, and he long ago lost that youthful naivity about money somehow being an unfair advantage. The average revenue per user in a game full of middle-aged guys is significantly higher than in a game full of twitchy teenagers. It's like if you set up a showroom to sell cars: If that attracts only a lot of teenagers, your business is in trouble. The older customers might be a lot less visibly enthusiastic about your product, but they do have the moolah, and they aren't afraid to use it.

Video games have been around long enough that selling them to guys in their 40s isn't such a strange idea any more: They grew up with video games. But many developers haven't grasped the concept yet that an older audience might desire different features from a game than a younger one. Age not only slows down reflexes, it also makes you wiser about the "value" of virtual achievements. Time availability changes with age as well. But if a game takes all this into account, and is tailored to the needs of the middle-aged guy, it has the potential to be hugely profitable.
Sounds more like a slower paced CoD than an MMO. I think you'd be surprised how many guys 40+ play that game also.
This is why I find the trend towards increased twitch in WOW so baffling. It's going in the opposite direction to the demographic.
Doesn't have much to do with age, for me at least. I never liked twitch-based games much. Tactis are always more interesting than execution. That was my opinion when I was 14, as well as now that I am in my 30ies.

I agree that companies should target my age group, however. We got that damn money and we want to spend it! $15 is a joke. Make me an MMORPG for $100 - just make it good.

But don't include item shops, because a virtual world with itemshops is not a virtual world. It is a scam.
Irony is, the origins of MMOs was never ever about "Twitch" to begin with. Back in the days of Dungeons and Dragons , i don't recall any twitch or fast reflex requirement . The ability to roll a dice is as twitchy as things would get.

Since i'm not kinda bored with Rift and it is making my eyebrow twitch in rage everytime i enter RifT PvP (like Scrat from Ice Age) , i think i am going to try this game....
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I linked in a previous post to information on the average age of video game players in general and MMO players in particular, so I won't do it again.

Suffice it to say, this referencing of "teenagers" is something of a straw man argument. Maybe WoW's an exception, but if you want to test it for yourself in other games, just start a conversation about age in any global chat channel or guild chat.
+1 Sven

In fact, Cataclysm seems not only wrong, but obviously wrong. And previous Blizzard management has been quite competent. Puzzling.

I admit my main motivation is that I don't like twitch, never did, and never was good at it. But I also argue that the more twitch you add in an MMO, the harder it is for them to compete with consoles. If milliseconds matter, then it is a much simpler task to target on one specific hardware configuration in a console versus MMO PC's which can range from 5 year old laptops to 30" SLI SSD gamer rigs. Plus nobody would ever describe Windows as svelte, fast or deterministic real-time.
Here's a thought - lots of players cite Dark Age of Camelot as having "amazing PvP"... and that game's design was quite anti-twitch. Having /stick and /face commands made all the bunny-hopping useless as a tactic, and weapon speeds were a lot slower. I've seen players on the Rift forums complaining that even the 1 second GCD for rogues is too long and boring... the FASTEST weapons I saw in DAoC were 2.2 seconds and some of the two handers were up to about 6 seconds between swings.

I've said this before on my own blog - I think we need less "execution difficulty" (twitch skills and raid boss dances) and more "decision cycle difficulty" in our MMOs.
Nils - if I operated an MMO ideally I'd like your $100 and the $15 from the teenager as well. The trick is finding a game design that appeals to both you and the teenager, and a pricing plan which gets both of you to pay as much as you're willing :)
Tobold raises an interesting argument about audience demographics. There's a big market for people who like to play a more tactical (less twitchy) game. Mostly these people have jobs and can net you a lot of money in return if a publisher cater to them.

Teenagers have plenty of games for them to enjoy. It's about time we get something and if you cater to us rest assured you're going to be supported by our wallets.

Btw, which clan are you on Tobold? :P
Based on the feedback round the web I'm downloading WoT tonight. I love MMOs, and have been in WoW for six years. I only play the PvP part of the game, but I'm finding it frustrating. Mostly zerg rushes...

Now, I'm 40+ a professional and have been waiting for a game with some good tactics/strategy to it.

I actually used to play RTS games like Total War, which are about campaigns etc. Not a fan of the Star Craft II.

I've long thought a "premium" MMO would work:

- one that appeals to older audience
- deeper game play involving strategy
- caters to a more "up market" audience interested in decision making rather than chasing the next purple drop

Sven is right about WoW... I'm losing interest not because I'm bored. But because the game is becoming less satisfying as a game play experience.
I'm really not into tanks, so I have not played WoT so far. The setting just doesn't appeal to me. However, success is sexy, so i had a look at the webpage.

There they state:

"Action. Remember, it is all about your skill and reaction time, whether you take part in operations to spot, track, and destroy enemy units or engage in head-to-head gun battles."

Funny, isn't it ? ;)
I believe the reason WoT is doing so well, is not because its slower pace, but rather, its more of a game. Instead of simple 1,1,1,1,2 combat. your actually required to think and strategise, not just 'move out of the fire'
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There's also the history aspect that likely also appeals to folks in the older age category. I've met many more WWII buffs in their 40's than in their 20's. And WoT, while obviously not completely accurate, does a decent job of bringing out some history behind each of their tanks. Hell, they even have a small wiki-like article about each tank embedded in the game!
Game designers make games that they feel is fun. In the same way that not everyone wants to do what is optimal in-game, not everyone wants to do what is optimal out of game as well. Not to mention, the last thing I want out of a game designer is to place money over fun; and if they feel that twitch-gameplay is more enjoyable to them, more power to them.

I certainly agree with you though, that non-twitch games probably have the largest market audience and potential to be profitable (case in point Zynga made $500 million in profit for 2011).
I don't know that I am ready to declare any demographic as "better," but I can certainly agree with your previous analysis that it is "underrepresented." Very few games are based on strategy and not twitch, it is currently a far less competitive market.
All I know is that THIS old fart loves this game.

And it's one of the best 3D-vision games out there too. The hud and targeting work beautifully in the 3D environment, unlike most MMORPG huds.
Great post Tobold. I am loving WoT for some of the reasons you have highlighted.

But I do want to clarify one point. The number of young guys playing this game is more than you think. There are two types of players on WoT. The older cashed up player who pays to play to make up for a lack of time. He has bought a premium account and more than likely has purchased a number of premium tanks. 

Then there is the F2P player who may have spent a small amount on the game to enable the bonus experience but mostly they have lot's of free time to level up their tanks instead of spending gold to convert free experience.

I have noticed a reduction in cries of "wallet warrior" probably because more players have realized the high tier premiums offer the best earnings per battle ratio to enable them to fund their non-premium upgrades and tanks.
I'm nearing 50 years old, and I enjoy World of Tanks and World of Warcraft both.

I've been playing WoW for six years, and I think Cataclysm is spectacular. I enjoy slow-paced questing as much as twitch-based PvP. WoT is fun, too. I like the slower pace and strategy involved.

I believe there are many like me who can and do spend their money on both types of games.
I am 40+ too, and what you say about twitch is probably why I like this game too :) This game can cater for both though. If I hang back and snipe (which I prefer most of the time) its pretty much about finding the right position. But if you dogfight up close it can be a lot more twitchy if you like that kind of thing (in a KV-5 it can be fun for me atleast, although its much more brute force from my side :)).
I think a really big part of WOT's success is that it's not about bunny hopping circle strafing ritalin addled 14 year olds.

But it's still not an MMO and these "concurrent users on a single server" number are idiotic. You might as well say that "the interwebs" are an MMO and have more "concurrent players" than WoW.
I agree, Numtini. WoT is a different genre. It is a MOG. Mmh.. these abbreviations are really absurd. ;)

WoT is just lobby-based matchmaking PvP. I played WoW like that for a long time, so I know it can be fun. But it's just not a virtual world.
Agreed. I hate twitch. I choose strategy and tactics over twitch whenever I can
I loved final fantasy tactics and the early final fantasy games in general because it was about strategy and not speed or placement.

If I want twitch i play CoD, when an MMO tries it it just annoys me. Slow the MMO's down and create more strategic combat and I think you will have a winner.

Unfortunately I don't think anybody is going to try it on a big budget MMO with WoW being the cash cow it is.
Hey! I work on this game and I just want to say thanks! I'm a mid-40's gamer (and game designer, and game design teacher) with a deep interest in World War II and tanks and this is the kind of thinking-man's game that I like. It has just enough pulse-pounding action to keep you on the edge of your seat but also favors the intelligent tactician over the "brave and the bold" fool rushing forward into combat. See you in the game!
Forgot to mention I have over 20 years in the US Army as well, including combat time, and my in-game nick is ChrisK so feel free to friend me in the game and the WoT forums!
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