Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
My game can beat up your game

Sometimes it seems our discussion of online games hasn't evolved much from the schoolyard days of "my dad can beat up your dad". The idea that one MMORPG can "beat up" another is quite common, a Google search on the term "WoW killer" gets you over 200,000 hits. That is based on the completely wrong assumption that there is only a limited and fixed number of MMORPG players in any given market, so that the success of one game comes at the loss of another. Small anecdote to show how wrong that assumption is: In 2004, a few months before World of Warcraft was released, a financial analyst determined that the size of the European MMORPG market was 280,000 players. Then WoW came and sold 380,000 copies on it's first weekend.

So I'm not all that happy that Scott "Lum the Mad" Jennings ponders whether World of Tanks is to blame for EVE's item shop problems. While it is true that measured for example by number of concurrent users World of Tanks already passed EVE, growing faster per month than EVE per year, I don't really see how you can compare these two games directly. Yes, they are both "PvP games", but that is pretty much where their similarities end. EVE is a SciFi sandbox MMORPG in which PvP is actually a minority activity among many other possible activities, including a huge political game of grand strategy. World of Tanks is a series of WW2-themed PvP battles lasting no longer than 15 minutes, with a kind of Risk board game added as endgame.

It is pretty ridiculous to believe that the success of World of Tanks comes to the detriment of EVE Online. The majority of World of Tanks players are people like me, who love the idea of a game where they can log in, fight a few battles, and log out again, without any long-term committment. That is exactly the type of player who would hate EVE. The PvP isn't the same, I'd even say it is diametrically opposed: World of Tanks has instanced random battles between two equal forces, with players complaining about minor differences in the weight given to tanks by the matchmaker algorithm. EVE Online has open-world organized battles where the goal is to have them *not* balanced at all, but each side trying by all means fair or foul to get an overwhelming advantage. World of Tanks has positive sum PvP, there are more rewards handed out than lost in battle, and even the losing side will at least gain xp, and might even make money out of the battle. In EVE the PvP is negative sum, battles are a costly affair which serves as a money sink for the game economy.

Yes, World of Tanks has an extremely successful item shop, and EVE's current troubles are all about the introduction of an item shop. But there are lots of other games with item shops, and the EVE version is obviously very different from the World of Tanks version. You can't buy monocles or other fluff in WoT. In fact WoT doesn't even have "an RMT item shop" per se, the gold items simply appear in the same in-game menu where you'd buy the regular items, just for a different currency.

Fact is that constant change is one of the defining features of online games. We are the first to complain if a game doesn't change frequently enough. And all these ideas for changes come out of wider pool of game design trends and market trends. Any successful game influences that pool of ideas and trends, but that doesn't mean that game A is responsible for the changes to game B. No developer deliberately changes his game to the worse just because some other game was successful with some idea. You don't see WoW introducing Farmville style farms. If developers make major changes, it is to solve some problem.

I am convinced that Rift had problems with player retention at the level cap before they decided to nerf the dungeons, they didn't just do it because that is "what WoW would have done". And I do think that EVE had problems of their own, more likely with new player retention and a growing gap between new players and veteran ISK billionaires. Adding an item shop which can serve as a money sink for the ISK billions and later help the new players to advance faster and close that gap sounds like something any game company CEO could come up with. I don't think one can blame World of Tanks for that. World of Tanks did not beat up EVE, CCP just made a reasonable business decision which isn't all that popular with the veterans.
Thank you for the article.

I suspect that most of the conflict is due to the special snowflakes that are internet commenters.

However, I can think of one slight but valid reason for the discussion: network effect. I.e., due to playing with classmates and friends, one ten-million subscriber MMO provides more player satisfaction than two five-million MMOs. So economics may be pushing towards consolidation into a single major winner. Which makes people discussing the outcome of this winner-take-all death-match more relevant.
Thanks for a great post (the last before the Long Break™?). I agree wholeheartedly with the point, although I do think it's reasonable to believe that there is some limit to the total size of the "MMO market" – whatever that is.

However, I do bring bad news. The numbers that Google give you are completely unreliable. In fact, "WoW Killer" actually only yields 1010 hits. Sorry for barging completely off topic, but I've been very sad ever since I learned this. It turns out that Google isn't even half reliable for the "Google spelling test" - the actual number of hits has a very poor correlation with the Google estimate. :(
I stopped playing WoW a while ago, and I think Farmville is terrible, but Farmville style farms IN WoW sounds like it would be a blast.
Lum's article is more about ideas and less about the player pie. While WoT is not a direct competitor to Eve, it has taken less-than-figurative potshots at Eve. I wouldn't put it past CCP bigwigs to react to WoT's success with envy and the highest form of flattery.
I don't think Lum's article says that WoT is responsible for Eve's problems. His thesis is that the strongest factor is "in game political ownership" and that players objected to the idea that gold ammunition would unbalanced the Eve universe.

The only mention of WOT was that one reason that CCP may have felt that they could sell gold ammo was that Tanks does and while not stated in the article, WOT is wildly successful among Eve players. But as you and Lum both note, these are very different types of games and what is acceptable in one might not be in another.
My interpretation of the Scott Jenning's article is different. As I read it he ponders whether one company looks at what business model works at other companies then tries imitate. But this less dramatic than saying it caused it - it's just looking at what business model is sustainable.

That being said I think having gold ammo from the get go is one thing - adding it later to a game sends a completely different message. So when these companies changes business model they should be very careful.

Incidentally I have started playing WoT because of your blog posts! I spent about $100 so far, on various tanks etc.

I will tell you this, the most fun I have is my decked out BT-2 at level 2 (or 3). It is more fun than the Lowe that I also bought because of your recommendation - you need to ask for cut from the makers of WoT ;-). But as you pointed out the LOWE makes a ton of money and XP - so I am off the payslope! This is also testament of the game, you can have a lot of fun at low levels.

You offered the best advice on WoT! Thanks!
See, I don't always disagree.

I don't even think of EVE and WoT as competitors, except the same way that all computer/console games are competitors. It's like claiming that South Park is a competitor of The O'Reily Factor. Sure, they are both tv shows and there is some audience overlap... But that is where it ends.
I'm afraid I cannot agree with you, all games effect the playtime of all other games. League of Legends, the epitome of the right way to do Free to Play most certainly cuts into the subscriber count of some of the MMO's by a certain amount.

Not only that but due to the network effect the more populated a game is, after its population has reached its first settling point, the more it will retain its users.
"I don't even think of EVE and WoT as competitors"

Last year during WOT beta/Eve Foreverwar, eople were playing tanks on another PC while waiting in fleets in Eve.

Does that make the complementary? (It might explain why that T34 suddenly stopped moving in the middle of a battle!)
You misconstrued my article pretty badly and I'm not sure why.

I never intended to imply that "my game can beat up your game", merely that - based on CCP's own leaked correspondence - they appear to be at least considering embracing a similar business model of selling ammunition/powerups/what-have-you and that Eve players are not particularly happy about this (to put it mildly). The fact that Eve players are both unhappy *and* that they feel empowered enough to do something about it is very significant.

The WoT comparison is significant in that there is a lot of crossover between Eve and WoT players, to the point that an Eve developer used the WoT-centric phrase "gold ammo" when dispelling rumors, possibly since this was also the phrase used by Eve players.

Having played both games it would be difficult (to put it kindly) to confuse the two, and working in the industry I am well aware that it is not a zero-sum game and the success of one game does not preclude the success of another.
Another link between Eve and WoT: One of the most powerful clans in WoT went after the Goon clans in the US clan wars battles specifically because they did not like them in Eve. With the help of several of the other most powerful clans on the US server the 4 Goon clans were temporarily pushed off the map from a former strong position.
You misconstrued my article pretty badly and I'm not sure why.

Sorry if it appears as if I was talking about you whole article, which obviously wasn't about WoT beating up EVE. I was only referring to the one paragraph starting with "As a possible reason for this: World of Tanks ...", which to me appears to make a link between the success of WoT and the problems of EVE.
Only as far as business models go. Pointing out that one company is seeking to inject a business model used by a different game doesn't really imply, as your title states, "my game can beat up your game".
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