Tobold's Blog
Friday, February 01, 2013
 
Is hardcore PvP a growth market?

In yesterday's thread a commenter remarked about Wizardry Online: "My guess is the same 10-20K people who like that sort of stuff and complain about carebears all the time will gravitate to it". And it struck me how invariable that 10-20K number appears to be over the years. There were about 10-20K hardcore PvP players left in UO Felucca, once the others left for Trammel in 2000. EVE Online has about 10-20K players in nullsec. Darkfall has about 10-20K players when it's up. Mortal Online even less. Compared to the casual PvE part of the market, which grew a lot from 2000 to now, the hardcore PvP market appears to be rather stable in size. Why is that?

Normally I would assume that in any population the hardcore make up a certain percentage. If the MMORPG market overall grows by a factor of 20, the hardcore PvP niche part of it should have grown as well. But other than by mathematically dubious methods of counting every EVE account as a PvP player, which is doubly incorrect due most players having several accounts and 80+% of players staying in safe space, no growth is visible.

Of course I don't think it is exactly the same 10-20K people playing these games for over a decade. At least some must have dropped out and some new players arrived. But the overall size of the group seems remarkably stable. Is there some inherent factor that makes it impossible for a hardcore PvP game to grow bigger than that, unless it offers a lot of safe space for the not-so-hardcore?

Comments:
While it's not at the scale of PvE growth, it's still growth if there's many games with 10-20k players each instead of just one or two.

Still, maybe there is some kind of a larger-scale Dunbar Number of people intimately involved in a conflict. I first thought it was related to "physical" space, with too much people crowding out battles and making them unwieldly to command and frustrating to participate in. But then I noticed that two of the three continents in Planetside 2 were mostly empty, with only the occasional ninja squad conquering half of the map unopposed. And at the same time, there would be several human wave-style assaults in progress at the main continent. If it was so bad, surely some of the zergers would have moved on to greener pastures?

Maybe it's more about cognitive limits. There's only so many enemies that you can have before you give up and say "They're all out to get me". I don't know how that works with friendly organizations, though; The few bits and pieces I've gleaned from Eve politics being on the gaming news seem to suggest that the powerblocks are fewer in number and yet bigger than ever.
 
Of course it is a growth market if new PVP games can gather 10k-20k players every time. (Well obviously not every time, but not every PVE game gets millions of people playing it either.)

I'd prefer people creating games for 20k gamers who are going to really like it instead of a game that most people are somewhat satisfied with. Of course, from the marketing standpoint that doesn't make sense, but as a gamer I'm not interested how much profit the studio does with its game, I'm more interested in good games that I really like.
 
The 10-20k number is just a number people say because the human brain doesn't do a great job of conceptualizing large populations.

I don't have actual statistics on concurrent players and subscribers for any of these games, but I doubt even half of them were "Yea, 10-20k players"
 
What about League of Legends. It is a game much beloved by the hard core anti-carebear set and yet it has grown enormously to millions of active players.
 
I was only looking at MMORPGs, and that doesn't include League of Legends. If you look at non-MMORPG online games, I'd say that games where you kill other players are generally more popular than games in which you don't.
 
"as a gamer I'm not interested how much profit the studio does with its game, I'm more interested in good games that I really like."

This seems to be a very odd point of view. If a studio is not profitable then there is a very good chance the servers powering your persistant online world will be shut down.

I am very interested in whether or not the studio is making money off my favorite game (and HOW it is making that money - as that will be a significant driver of the future activity of the developers).
 
I wonder what the numbers are for WoW Arena, which is almost its own game.
 
"This seems to be a very odd point of view. If a studio is not profitable then there is a very good chance the servers powering your persistant online world will be shut down."

Just like all Ultima Online, EVE and Darkfall servers have been shut down, right?

As a gamer, why should I care if World of Guildwarhammercraft creates millions and millions to its publisher if I receive the same level of support and new content for the game that isn't as commercially successful?
 
More to the point, in a business sector with 15 million customers why is anyone making games aimed at 10-20k of them?
 
Just like all Ultima Online, EVE and Darkfall servers have been shut down, right?

Both UO and EVE have large populations of non PvP players supporting the economic survival of the PvP part. Darkfall servers HAVE been shut down last year. Shadowbane shut down in 2009. Mortal Online is publishing numbers of how many more players they would need to break even, but never seem to get there.
 
The arenas aren't even remotely hard core pvp. You play, you win or lose, no gear lost, no permadeath.

There's only so many people that are looking for a virtual world where it's all or nothing anarchic brutality. It not even the same thing as other popular pvp games.

As to why people target it--- if you keep 20k people happy that's 3.6 million/year in revenue. Before box sales. It's a niche, but it's a potentially profitable niche. Same logic as to why B movies exist.
 
The reason I don't think it has been much of a growth market is because the modern generation of MMO players expect things to be easier -- they want to be able to PvP quickly and often (BGs, Realm vs Realm, WvWvW, etc.).

Hardcore is "hard", and there are significant consequences for losing. Not too many people are interested in that, especially without a strong group/guild to provide support.

Personally, I think Shadowbane was the best FFA/player looting game since UO, but it had a crashing problem in large sieges combined with login server issues that drove a lot of the population away. Since then, each attempt at a "hardcore" PvP game has been a disappointments and the niche has stagnated.
 
Well, I guess Djamonja, but the experience in these games as a noob is "get killed at random and with no chance to defend yourself, start over again."

If being easy is a way to say they want an entertainment experience instead of PTSD, I guess so.
 
Hardcore is "hard", and there are significant consequences for losing. Not too many people are interested in that, especially without a strong group/guild to provide support.

This kind of statements always makes me laugh. According to this approach, a game where you can start playing with other players immediately (no leveling or grinding required) and does not punish you with grinding and/or annoyance is "easy".....
Know what, a game called "chess" has both these characteristics and it's whole lot more "hardcore" than any of the mentioned PvP games.
 
You miss one very important reason.

All this game are not "hardcore PvP games". They are "hardcore PvP games with leveling and gear grinding".

There is huge diffrence between this two genres. This two ideas - hardcore, skill-based PvP and levelling/gear grinding directly contradict each other.

So most hardcore PvP gamers play pure harcore PvP games.

Even Blizzard has one and sell it in millions and even tens millions of copies - StarCraft.


"Hardcore PvP games with leveling and gear grinding" is a very strange hybrid, so there is nothing extraordinary in so small number of players.
 
Know what, a game called "chess" has both these characteristics and it's whole lot more "hardcore" than any of the mentioned PvP games.


There is more relevant example - StarCraft, made by same company that made WoW.

I always wonder, why "loss penalty" considered as something hard and hardcore.

What it means to have "loss penalty"? It means that you cannot win only by having better skills, being more clever, being faster etc. To win you also need to spend more time/money on some activities that do not require skills, intellect ect.

The only "loss penalty" that exist in hardcore PvP game StarCratft (and chess too) is that you will be moved to lover league and will face weaker opponents - that will make game easier to you and allow to train and increase your skills and win in future. (complare it with new wipe buff in wow)

If you loose you need to learn how to play better. Where there is a place to "loss penalty"?
 
How you define a pvp player as Hardcore? Someone for example that will top arena ratings in wow or will top the tournaments in gw2 or a group of people that will roam the world in an MMO and gang others? Because the games you mentioned is all about free for all pvp which in my opinion is very stupid and is the cheapest MMO you can produce.

I don't consider someone in a group of 5-10 people that go out in the world to gang others as hardcore pvp player if not as pvp player at all. And no is not a growth market...more and more people leaning towards a full PVE sandbox even if that doesn't make sense (sandbox and not ffa pvp) but it seems Everquest Next will make the first step towards it and there are many blogs now that support that idea and dismiss the ffa pvp.

So no, "hardcore" pvp as you say it is in huge decline and good ridance once and for all. I cannot count how many games the pvp destroyed the pve experience, its time for "serious" full PVE games..this is the type of market that is in huge growth
 
There's a ton of grinding in chess. To get any good you have to study a lot of theory.
 
Tobold said - "Normally I would assume that in any population the hardcore make up a certain percentage. If the MMORPG market overall grows by a factor of 20, the hardcore PvP niche part of it should have grown as well."

Yeah, this is the fallacy that any sport makes on it's way to pay vs free. In my area we have Recreational Sports and Select Sports. Select Sports (and the fees) are for those rare few ultra competitive parents that feel their special johnny or lucy is so much better than the rest.

But much to the consternation of all the leet Select Sport fans... member size has stayed the same for 10 years. But, the communities population has doubled in 10 years.

Why so? Because of the Ass-Hat constant. The Ass-Hat population remains the same no matter what the underlying population numbers are. My guess is that AH numbers reflect the max participation due to self selection bias. That is all the "Alpha parents" already go for more exclusive sports challenges for their little tykes no matter what the local demographics are.

In games this means that your "Alpha dog" "hardcore" players who prey on the underskilled will always be a constant non-growth market.

What select sports has found in my area is that select players like playing UNTIL they are getting beat. Once that happens a surprising percentage of "leet select" players opt to return to Rec Sports to "have fun' (read as win easily again).

So I suspect the reason why the 20k number remains the same is because only 20k remain interested in games like darkfall due to the constant churn of "oh leet game" and "want to have fun and win easily".
 
"This kind of statements always makes me laugh. According to this approach, a game where you can start playing with other players immediately (no leveling or grinding required) and does not punish you with grinding and/or annoyance is "easy".....
Know what, a game called "chess" has both these characteristics and it's whole lot more "hardcore" than any of the mentioned PvP games."

That's why I put hard in quotes -- because it's subjective, and what you or I consider hard might not be the same thing your run of the mill MMO player does. I would avoid comparisons with Chess also since a 2 player game that is obviously designed for both players to lose pieces is not at all comparable to an MMO.
 
Yes, hardcore PvP (for-profit tournaments) is a growing market. But not MMORPG. Due to the gear grind it isn't taken very seriously. WoW's Arena Pass works around that grind.

Aside from that we got RTS (e.g. SC2) FPS (e.g. CS) and we got a relatively new player MOBA (e.g. LoL).

SC2 has a high entry level because of steep learning curve, but HoTS might be able to alleviate some of this via the replay feature.

FPS and MOBA both have low entry level. FPS you pay once only (and DLC), MOBA is F2P.

Looking at hardcore PvP from only MMORPG viewpoint is just ignorant due to the very nature of the grinds behind the PvP game, sorry.

Tell me 3 types of games, outside of MMORPG, which contain grinds. There is no such thing. The only thing which comes close to grinds is training/exercise both in terms of practicing in SC2 as well as during cycling.

As for loss penalty. Players dismissed discarding their cards in Magic the Gathering Alpha Edition and this idea was quickly abolished. Instead, to keep players purchase the latest hot expansion type II was born.
 
I think the concept of the market 'growing' is an interesting one.

I don't think that it's so much that there's a number of people out there who suddenly became interested in MMOs. I think it's a case that MMOs changed to become more accessible to more people who weren't previously interested in MMOs.

The people interested in hardcore PVP MMOing were already doing it. That market is tapped out. Everything else expands by hitting new niches or 'dumbing it down' to appeal to folks who weren't interested before.

I'm sure there's SOME growth through the awareness factor, as WoW becomes the Facebook of MMOs and does introduce some folks to playing online, where they might later find that they prefer being part of the hardcore PVP demographic. But I think it's a smaller growth than simply tapping in to what people are already interested in.
 
My two cents aside, I really like Angry Gamer's 'self-selection' tip of the hardcore gank/lose pyramid, Mika's 'large-scale conflict Dunbar number', and Neio's questioning of the underlying assumption on numbers.

I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility for the truth of the matter to lie in a combination of all of the above factors.
 
Fn0 the ante mechanic was not removed because players didn't like it. It was removed because that put MtG too close to being gambling for comfort, and hence they might have run into not being allowed to sell to underage people or even in certain parts of the States, if MtG were legally deemed to be gambling rather than a game.

 
I wasn't talking about ante, I was talking about literally tearing your Black Lotus into little pieces because you used the card, or a creature because it died.

Ante is optional.
 
I am excited that I got quoted with reference to a recent post! To be fair though my figure of 10-20K is based more on the idea that at any given moment a respectable MMO is probably holding a total population of about 100-200K active subscribers, of which about 10% seem to be hardcore PVPers. I'd imagine that the number skews considerably in games like EVE where PVP is a rule rather than an exception, unless EVE has an enormous player base situation in the high sec zones that never leaves what passes for carebear land in that game.

With games like Wizardry*, Darkfall and the far-future Pathfinder Online planning to exploit open world dynamics with full PVP features and few limits, it seems like some devs think this market has legs. I'm just not sure they appreciate how probematic the design goals are to cater to that 10% crowd over the other 90% that will pay for a fun, clean experience minus the gankers and griefers.

(*I have no idea if Wizardry is full pvp or not, but the hardcore element with permadeath seems close enough to the concept of a "brutal not-for-wussies" mentality that the hardest of the hardcore seem to want, allegedly).
 
I was just thinking, there may be a huge amount of growth in PVP...in fact I guarantee there is, but it's not in MMOs. The biggest PVP demographic is in Call of Duty and other online competitive environments which aren't just tacking the experience on (usually), but the entire game is about that experience. Thus why CoD's single player games feel like a tacked-on requirement but the primary developer effort is in the multiplayer. Likewise with Starcraft, LoL and plenty of others. So PVP as a market is really huge when you think about it, but only a fraction of that market wants to exploit MMORPG environments to satisfy their niche-within-a-nich interest in ganking others.
 
I think the key here is RPG (assuming that MMORPG is a special subset).

Roleplaying games - look at a tabletop D&D session - are cooperative games by definition. This cooperation is not just a result from the class specializations. It comes from a group of people who enjoy being around each other.

That is not to say that you can't have a competitive game (I love go-karting) with the same group of people. But it's not an RPG, it's more like an FPS.
 
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