Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Is Facebook killing MMORPGs?

I read a very interesting remark about City of Heroes on Welcome to Spinksville. Spinks wrote: "One of the reasons the news about CoH inspires such emotion around many of the blogs I read is that it is an older MMO, from an era where social networking was not as widespread as it is now. Back then, if you played an MMO, it may well have represented a much more important part of your online social life and online support network, at a time when these things didn’t greatly exist anywhere else." That is a rather interesting concept, the older MMORPGs being both game and social network. Are pure social networks like Facebook stealing that function from MMORPGs, leading to less longevity?

I don't think that this is the whole story. Somewhere in the equation the huge increase in the number of available games has to figure as well. With some people moving quickly from game to game, while others stick to some game for longer, MMORPGs don't make for a very stable social network. There are workarounds, for example I am in a multi-game guild, but even those rely on most people playing whatever game is in vogue at the moment. So if people prefer something like Facebook for a stable social network, it could well weaken the social coherence of the community in any game.

Another factor is that MMORPGs aren't actually very good as social network platforms, because they don't work very well in asynchronous mode. People need to be online at the same time to chat or do things together. There is a good reason why most guilds have a website with a forum somewhere outside the game, because everything they type in chat is only heard by the part of their social network that is currently online, and then not archived. A forum, blog, Facebook, or Google+, are much better at letting people contribute to a discussion at different times.

But Spinks is certainly correct in that an Everquest player a decade ago probably had the majority of his online social life happening in Everquest, and that made the emotional connection to the game much stronger. And that was certainly the reason why Everquest had a much better longevity, growing over years instead of falling off a cliff after a few months like modern MMORPGs do. I'm just not sure how we could get that back, now the genie is out of the bottle, and there are social networks everywhere.

It seems to me ffxi is a bit closer to the fb social model because multiple guild membership is similar to the multiple social circle aspect of FB.

Funnily enough I've been in multiple guilds that tried to have a website forum and it was a disaster every time, probably moreso as FB got more popular.

Now we have a private FB group for the main ffxi guild which doesn't look so barren if no one talks for a while.
It's an interesting thought. I remember something about the Secret World requiring FB for beta access. They seemed to be trying to leverage the mindshare of FB for MMO purposes.

Any predictions on MMO-social media convergence in the future? The idea of one avatar across multiple worlds or genres is intriguing.

Well, EQ was by modern standards a flop, even at it's peak. So the expectations of what an MMO is supposed to do is very inflated these days.

And let's be honest--- for a good chunk of EQ players, the majority of their social life, on and off, was happening in EQ. MMO players expect to spend 20 hours+ a week in game. Between work/school, sleep, commuting, getting dressed, and playing their MMO there isn't a lot of time for other social activities.

I think it's quite possible that FB and such has reduced the urge to get too emotionally invested in MMO friendships. These friendships are pretty ephemeral. I thought I was real friends with plenty of people, and a few years later I can barely remember them, and I don't talk to any of them. Most of the friendships are pretty hollow. Once you realize that a lot of the charm of MMOS goes away. At least it did for me.
Based on the article wouldn't FB just be a source for the mmo to get more players as it can get more exposure and people could set up guilds and whatever on there. Also I don't really think FB would ever "kill" mmorpgs because it still lacks the depth of playing the game and interacting with the other players within it but i agree FB is a better social network because it is dedicated to that one aspect rather than focusing on gaming and socializing.
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