Tobold's Blog
Saturday, December 03, 2011
Video history of the MMO

While Raph Koster linked to the 3-part video history of the MMO, that series actually has 4 part. Part 4 is interesting, because it talks of today and the future, showing some upcoming games. It also contains some data that were new to me, saying that Rift peaked at 600,000 subscribers and is tapering off. But generally the outlook of that video is remarkably upbeat, even if the problems of having too many, too similar games is clearly outlined. I find the MMO blogosphere these days far less positive on the future of the genre.

Of course part of the problem is that the genre is already old enough to have a "history of" video series made. And some of us were around from the beginning. I played MUDs and UO and EQ and many other of the games mentioned in the videos. Thus the problem of gameplay in SWTOR not being fundamentally different from gameplay in Everquest is something which hurts me more than it affects a new player. The formula still *works*, even if its pull obviously gets weaker after a decade.

Thus if you, like the makers of the video, look at overall market size the future is in fact bright. While any individual player might get bored after years and drop out of the genre, he'll quickly be replaced by two or more new players. We are approaching a rather unusual situation for a market, because usually it is cheaper to retain an existing customer than to gain a new one. But that might well reverse for MMORPGs in the coming years, unless they come up with some radical innovation.

And then you have the even more bizarre situation with Blizzard, where it is cheaper to recapture ex-players, than it is to retain old players or gain new ones.
I think that for many people, MMOs are still a secret vice, that they can't always own up to: MMOs are computer games! and computer games are just for kids, aren't they?!

A few years ago (pre google!) you couldn't really admit to using the internet without being branded as a geek, but these days the stigma boot is on the other foot.

Perhaps, a similar thing will happen with MMos as the WoW generation starts to age; then MMOs might gain the social acceptability of films. If that does happen then the potential market is stupendous.
Once invented, almost no form of entertainment ever goes away. If you want to spend your leisure time singing barbershop, doing needlepoint, whittling animals out of wood or riding a penny farthing there's probably a club of like-minded individuals in your area that you can go do it with.

MMOs will be around longer than anyone reading this will be. Even DikuMud MMOs will long outlive us all.
I think that one of, if not the biggest, factors for WoW retaining customers is its lore. The lore is the thing that differentiates WoW from its competitors.

The lore gives players a reason to care deeply about the game and prefer it above others. The gameplay may not have changed much across MMOs over the years, but the lore, the story, that drives WoW is MUCH deeper than that in other games.

If you can create an engaging story, and pull players into it, you can keep their interest and hold them. Blizzard did a great job of that initially. Unfortunately Blizzard has been letting the ball drop with their story-telling recently, and players are becoming indifferent. Without the story to hold them, a reason to care about what is happening in the game, it will be relatively easy for players to drift away.

The other problem is content. As the video pointed out, players can consume content incredibly quickly, and WoW is pretty lean on content for max-level players.

A weak story and sparse content is a bad combination.
MMORPGs can be the most addicting and profitable genre out there if the game is done in the right way.

I think many developers are blinded by WoW's success and think they can make billions just by copying the game and "improving things". So far they all failed Warhammer, Aion, Rift, Etc... SW:TOR will join that list also.

WoW itself losing subscribers, not because somethings wrong with it, but simply because a lot of players are tired of it. They want something new, different. So when new MMO is out they try it, get to the end game, see that everything is same "grindfest" and return back to WoW. The only game that tryed to make something different is Age of Conan imo; next gen graphics, different combat, voiced cutscenes, guild citys, etc. But failed due to lack of the end game content, players couldn't even reach max level because they run out of quests and had to grind by killing mobs. Right now i think only Guild Wars 2 has a chance to be next successful MMO.

WoW had an amazing base story from WC3, but right now Blizzard is destroying it, they even admitted that there are massive gaps in the WoW lore. Also wtf is mists of pandaria? I'm pretty shure pandaren got in WC3 tavern as a joke by some of the developers (he was art artist to be exact). I've read buch of warcraft books and there wasn't any mention pandarens (maybe in newest novel they started appering?). And I just can't imagine orcs and fat panas figthing together.. It's just stupid. Warcraft lore got to the point of total mess.
blah blah blah

"in the old days we used to... and liked it"

I'm sorry I don't buy the narrative that older jaded players will get bored and go elsewhere.

In the beginning I heard all the "it's like wow in space" talk and believed it. Now I realize a guy in the 70s came up with a way for knights and wizards to be appealing to a younger audience by setting it in space.

And the result was a cultural phenomenon. Imagine before Star Wars everyone thought the last sword fight shown on film was going to be Sparticus.

I am going to play SWTOR because my kid can't wait to play a Jedi. They grew up on this stuff and love all things Star Wars. Yes it's not true Swords and Magic but Who Cares? Its fun and it's the hippest club in town right now.

So stop griping and enjoy the ride it's a great time to be a gamer.
@Angry Gamer
Judging by your comment sir, you never played any MMOs whatsoever. So instead of babbling nonsense, try understand veteran's valid opinion.

Play Star Wars with your kid, enjoy it, nones telling you not to.
The biggest disappointment in the evolution of the MMO industry is the fact that the wonder of "virtual worlds" has completely disappeared.

Now all we have are glorified multi-player skinner boxes.

A lot of potential has been squandered.

-Michael Hartman
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