Wednesday, May 30, 2012
If you follow my blog, you will have noticed that I have expressed a lot of pessimism on the subject of MMORPGs this year, and in the last months of 2011. I expressed my belief that the story-driven gamplay of SWTOR would lead to problems with a lack of longevity of the game. I talked about how the fact that MMORPGs are so similar to each other leads to an increasingly fast hype-release-disappointment cycle. And I questioned whether any new game, even if it has some good new ideas like Guild Wars 2, could still "save" the MMORPG genre from a slow decline. Today it seems I was somewhat ahead of the curve: The pessimism is spreading and is becoming mainstream.
What made people realize that not everything is well with the genre is the events at 38 Studios and EA Bioware. Scott Jennings talks about the incredible amount of money wasted killing the very concept of massively multiplayer gaming. The cost for making these games has gone up enormously, while the huge number of games now available has decreased longevity and profitability of each individual game. The days where you could make a PowerPoint presentation with a bullet point listing World of Warcraft's profits to immediately get a hundred million dollars from investors are over. It is now probably more risky to back a MMORPG than it is to back a movie. While several companies did reasonably well with MMORPGs, only one got filthy rich, and all attempts to reproduced their success failed. The best-selling MMO product of 2012 will be Mists of Pandaria, and that is *after* everybody already announced the death of WoW.
I do think Arenanet is going to make money with Guild Wars 2. And I do think that Blizzard is going to make money with "Titan", although that one might already have a different business model than World of Warcraft. But on the other hand I think that everybody who gave money on Kickstarter to some MMORPG venture is in for a disappointment. And the next guy proposing to make a $100+ million MMORPG with a monthly subscription business model will just be laughed at by investors. I believe that both in terms of player hours spent per year and player dollars spent per year the MMORPG genre has peaked, and is in a slow decline. And I don't see a Jesus Game ahead that will save the genre.