Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 07, 2011
I don't think we matter for long-term success

Ravious from Kill Ten Rats is worried about Star Wars: The Old Republic. Quote: "One half of me thinks it’s going to sell like freakin’ hot cakes, possibly make back it’s money, and then fall flat. BioWare won’t be able to sustain a fraction of the same support after 3-6 months." The reason he worries is all those reports that describe SWTOR in beta as some sort of World of Warcraft with light sabers. Some nice features, like the story-telling and voice acting, but nothing that feels as if SWTOR was pushing the envelope of the MMORPG genre.

Now if the target audience of SWTOR consisted of Ravious, me, and the people reading our blogs, I would think he is right. There is a rather large probability that I will be bored of SWTOR after 3 months, because it feels too much like games that I have already played for thousands of hours. Fortunately for EA Bioware, and unfortunately for me and you, I don't think we actually are the target audience. There is nothing in the design and marketing of Star Wars: The Old Republic which makes me think that this is a game which is targeted at veteran MMORPG players. I am pretty certain that EA Bioware rather targets both people who played other MMORPGs just a little and casually, and people who didn't play MMORPGs before because they weren't into elves, orcs, and wizards. There are simply far more Star Wars fans out there than there are World of Warcraft players.

Now if you manage the difficult feat to put yourself into the shoes of somebody who has never played a MMORPG before, you realize that the prospects of SWTOR are rather good, as long as EA Bioware delivers a polished product in December. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the themepark MMORPG formula, except that it gets boring after several thousands of hours. As long as EA Bioware can capture a significant number of people who haven't already done those thousands of hours in a different game, they are golden.

But of course this target audience isn't the people currently reading or writing MMORPG blogs. Thus while you certainly will read in the MMO blogosphere in early 2012 how quickly SWTOR becomes boring, that opinion might be one which is limited to a group of people who don't really matter all that much for the long-term success of the game. The people who *do* matter might instead be saying how much better SWTOR is than Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, or how it compares to KOTOR or Lego Star Wars. This will be the first MMORPG for many people, and if history tells us anything about the success of MMORPGs, it is that everybody loves their first MMORPG. But unless you can get hold of a Men in Black Neuralizer, you and me are going to miss out on that first love experience. We already had ours with previous games.

If you are right it will be the only thing that will save Bioware. It's going to be an interesting few months early next year that's for sure.
While I think that the vocal minority which is the community of and surrounding MMO Bloggers probably don't matter, I don't think that people similar to us don't matter.

My reasoning for this, especially as it applies to SW:TOR, is because I've seen all these arguments before, and I'll wager you have too; SWG was supposed to be gigantic and huge because of 'all the Star Wars fans'. However, as we've seen since the game launched, that wasn't the case. While I think that SWG was a fantastic game in need of tweaking to make it perfect, a large majority of SW fans ignored it or were simply unaware of it, and as such it languished where everyone thought it was going to thrive. To me, the reasoning behind that is fairly simple; while the prospective audience included all MMO players, those who actually played were really a smaller subset consisting of people who loved the pen and paper RPG, EQ players, FFXI players, and perhaps even a few folks who had played other CRPGs(console or computer here).

With SWTOR, there is undeniably a larger market; WoW's success has seen to that, providing some 25-30 million individuals who have played an MMO in the last 6 years or so. Out of that 25 million people, I would say that TOR is aimed at folks who either enjoy Star Wars, or have played KOTOR and enjoyed that. However, even if every person who plays now or has ever played WoW is a Star Wars fan, I would still limit the potential audience for SWTOR to those folks, rather than anyone who likes Star Wars; history has born out that even though it appears such on the surface, history would indicate that the reality of the matter isn't nearly as crystal clear.
We can't deny that "Star Wars maniacs" will run to the stores at day one. But I am not sure if those maniacs will be able to sustain a monthly fee for a long time.

We are almost in 2012, the gaming scenario changed and evolved over time and almost everyone already tested some kind of MMO, be it good or bad.

Years ago I am sure it would have been a blockbuster, maybe even better of WoW. Right now is just too late. Star Wars fans will play for a while and eventually get bored.

To refund the initial costs and actually make some profit... the game should sell like crazy and maintain a subscription for a LOT of time. I seriously doubt that will happen.
I agree in principal with what you are saying, but came across an interesting problem when discussing SWTOR at work.

As you'd expect the 4 mmo players in the office were all excited about it, I'd imagine no more than 1 or 2 out of those 4 will be playing it after 3-6 months.

There were 3 other, non mmo players, also very excited about the game and certain to get it because of the theme. That was until the subscription model was explained to them.

It reminded me how put off I was by the subscription model when I first encountered it with Ultima Online. As a fairly hardcore gamer I got of the shock and outrage, and have been happily subscribing (even to f2p like DDO) since. But this revelation was enough to cause 2 out of 3 of the non mmo players to declare we were mad to p2p and they wouldn't be getting TOR.

I'm convinced that TOR will attract the casual gamer because of the IP, I'm not sure that the casual gamer is ready for the subscription model.

What do you think? Do you know anyone put off by the model? Have you been able to convince them of the benefits of paying every month to play a game?


A large fraction of Star Wars fan are in fact very sceptic of anything new.
Another fraction follows some form of a Jedi Code that will not allow them to waste time in MMOs. I think that the above comment are right and that it will still be MMO and KotOR players playing the game rather then all SW fans.

It's like the new movie 'The Smurfs'. these are not the Smurfs I watched as a kid. It's just something completely different and as much as I loved the original comic/show I simply do not identify with the new movie at all.

There are SW fans out there (large amount of) that deny Episodes I-III their place in canon. There are far more that deny KotOR it's place in canon, and both groups will certainly deny a dumbed down version of KotOR it's affiliation with their vision/memories of StarWars.
I agree with you..Lord of the rings also had a lot of fans out there even more than star wars..but we all know what happened..

I also believe that it will last 3-6 months at most..because it is just another wow clone from what I read and what I see on the videos..

Actually I don't have a hope that any MMO in the future will target the veteran MMO we are to the casual era. to clear things out, causal is a good player and most of them now are ex-hardcore gamers that simple don't have much time now to invest but they still want to have the game rewards they had when they were hardcore :P
I think it's funny how people say they will play for 3-6 months and quit.

Why would you quit?

Because the game will be boring at that point? Unless you planned on soloing the entire time, it's likely that you have been socially ensnared by month #2 at a minimum. For the people who currently play WoW, if your guild just up and imploded tomorrow or if your favorite friends quit, would you still be playing the day after? I wouldn't... and hence why I quit. The actual quality of the game was a far, far distance second place concern to the ability to "do things" with people I enjoy.

We still chat a bit, maybe play some co-op games like Portal 2, but it's not the same.
I think you're pretty much right here, the SW IP will attract plenty of people who haven't spent the last several years in WoW. You are especially right in mentioning the keyword 'polished', and that aspect should really be emphasized. From what I've been hearing from people playing in the beta or at conventions, the game is currently pretty far from it. If the game releases in an unfinished, buggy state, it will be a faceplant à la AoC.
Also, people like us, gaming veterans, do not matter for long term success, because we have so many games to compare to and we are too aware of the flaws in some game designs to actually be a target group.

Games of today are addressed to the youg player who will scream "Awesome!" and play for hours after school. Compared to that 8hrs of work (usualy in front of a computer) can significantly raise my entertainment expectations, so devs have a much easier task if they decide to appeal to the younger, unemployed audiance.

I remember you (Tobold) pulling some stats of an average gamer, but I think, that the avarage was counted per person and not per time spent on gaming. Sure, an adult gamer will be able to spend more cash on games then a student, but still he will not play as much and will quickly get fed up with a game if he's far behind all the high-scholl players because of time constraints.

I already voiced my opinion on SWTOR, and my conclusion for the general topic is that an adult player will never be as important in long term because (in average perspective) that player will never have such a strong relation with the game, will never get hooked up by a game like an unemployed adolescent would.
OTOH, if TOR produces a game that the "l2p u noob moron/slacker" blogger/commenter does not want to play, then it will certainly be a more pleasant place to try and to continue subscribing to.

Didn't a famous designer say you can't change the basic MMO subscriber graph; all you can do is stretch it? If TOR is successful, it's ecosystem may get as toxic as WoW.

I am realistic enough that I expect to be disappointed. But Cataclysm has motivated me to find another MMO.

Are you bored enough to guess the TOR and WoW subscribers on July 1, 2012? I think WoW continues to slide and TOR's #s will be used as proof by both the for and the against camp.
Are you bored enough to guess the TOR and WoW subscribers on July 1, 2012?

World of Warcraft I'd guess down to 10 million. But we might not know because Blizzard might keep mum about the numbers until the next expansion causes another peak end of 2012.

SWTOR is hard to say. They already have half a million pre-orders in North America alone. Thus if they don't botch the launch with some unfinished crap, they could reasonably be at 3 million subscribers on July 1, 2012.
The game will do well, least at first with box copies. And there are still a good bit of people who enjoy that same game (grind to max level and raid). Even with the mess that was Cataclysm, there's still people leveling toons and grinding for gear. There will be a chunk, I think, who buy the box and play for those first 30 days, and will be very disappointed. But that will count in their "we sold XX million boxes!" spill of how many players they have.

But those of us who played tabletop RPGs, grew up with the text adventures, Balder's Gate series, MUDS, then onto better single player games and MMO's, we are looking for the next leap forward. I've hit the point where I'm just really tired of the same basic gameplay in MMO's. I even got in beta for TOR, and well, with the NDA in place, I can say I'm not playing it anymore, and I deleted the game off my PC. GW2, least from what I see, seems to be the next step forward - least from what I've seen and read. I really hope it is that next leap forward in MMO gaming.

But for me at least, I have no desire to play another typical MMO. I have, as you say, thousands of hours of that game play already in my system, and I'm ready for something else. And not some other FPS or twitch combat requiring me to be a teenager hyped up on ridalin and Red Bull. This 40+ year old gamer can't handle that anymore.
At the same time, I personally am more interested in how much the game will appeal _to me_. If I won't enjoy it, then it doesn't matter to me whether it's financially successful or not.

Since these blogs and the people who read them are more similar to me than the average gamer, and since those blogs look to be panning the game, I probably won't bother with it. At least until it offers some sort of free trial or something.
This 40+ year old gamer can't handle that anymore.

Haha, are we all old timers or what?

And seriously, I wouldn't say we're old grandpas that can't handle things. At least I don't feel like *not handlig it*. It's just the fact, that when you're having this much time spent at wor, then at all the stuff you enjoy doing with your family/at home, you don't really want to waste any of the time that remains on killing a bazillion of mobs to advance one level up. And sure - Blizzard thought of that and decresed the number of mobs-to-kill per level... Well, that's not the point. Killing mobs just doesn't cut it. If I am going to spend my time or money on a game, it better be something that I have fun with and doesn't feel like wasting the precious time I have.

If the time wasn't so precious tho, I can easily imagine myself grinding those levels and getting pals to raid with me when we get there. Right now however it would simple cost me too much (of my time).
I adored my time in WoW. But after spending 5000 hours in it I'm burned out with it. I tried out a few similar games like it but they all bore me after a few days or weeks.

So yes, I expect to be enjoying SW-TOR for a few weeks and ideally months. After which I'll go back to singleplayer games.

But there's nothing wrong with that, they will get the money the game costed me plus a few months worth of subscription.
I think Tobold had an article a while back about older gamers and the slowing down of reflexes. Reminded me of back in my early 30's, I decided to go play paintball. I did pretty well in it, though I couldn't run or move as fast as the kids. But what I did have was patience, and really good aim. I would shoot kids through small holes in the barriers at distance. Nothing quite as satisfying as watching someone look through a small gap, then putting a shot right through that and hitting them in the head.

I think much of the dissatisfaction comes with having "been there, seen it, got the t-shirt". We've played so many of these games, seen so many variations of them, that there's nothing new anymore - and so much so that its become a joke. One of us mentions "kill 10 rats", and we've done that quest hundreds of times over. And it does all boil down to fun for many of us. Having done these same quests over and over, any fun has long been gone. There's not really any way to regain that fun anymore, and when we look at where we are spending out time, once work is over and family obligations are taken care of - do we really want to spend the next 2-3 hours grinding ?

Games that we can jump into and have a quick bout of "fun" are taking off. World of Tanks/Planes, Minecraft, etc have done well. I've played the Warhammer WOH and its done in 15 minute battles between three teams.

For longer games, the producers are going to have to do something different, make us care about our character and the world around us. Firing up something new and being told to go kill 10 rats and bring back 5 bones, won't really cut it anymore. The only feeling that brings on is disgust and feeling of lazy programming on part of the game developers. I've gone back to playing single player games for that feeling. Since you "are" the hero, combined with good storytelling, they can pull you into their world like a good book.

You would think after the failure/fizzle of so many MMO's who tried to "copy WOW", they would learn by now. I guess its going to require some additional bombs in order to knock some sense into them.
A couple of things.

First when SWG launched online gaming was still fairly new. MMO’s weren’t publicized like they are today so it’s not surprising that SWG didn’t see the mass influx of Star Wars fan some would have expected. My daughter is 7 and loves The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network. I am going to pick up TOR at the very least to let her play it. She has been wanting to play a video game for awhile and this seems like she may enjoy it. (I will be monitoring everything she does and turning off chat) I’ll let her play with some of my friends though.

As for the social hook keeping you past the 3 month period that doesn’t apply to me and I would guess other groups of gamers are probably at this point too… I know Keen is. My group of friends aren’t friends because we play the same video game. We met in Star Craft doing tournaments for IGN and have since continued to game together. It’s not uncommon to sit in Skype or Vent with a dozen other people spread across 4 games.

I have a friend in Beta and the first thing I asked him was “are the quests like WoW?” and he’s reply was “No you get to force push people.” I don’t think this game is going to be the WoW killer. The only people it will take from WoW are the ones who have already left or were already out the door. I hope it does good though, honestly. Last year I wanted it to fail but given the success rate of other MMOs we need another one besides WoW to succeed or this genre is going to die out.
SWG badly botched the handling of the iconic Jedi class which is what kept me from playing it. The fact that it is shutting down years later gives me great hope for SWTOR.

Bioware has shown through KoTOR and the development if TOR that the 'get' Star Wars fans much better than Sony ever did.

Honestly, I don't care if it meets any bloggers criteria. As long as BioWare has enough subs to keep the servers on I'll be a happy camper.
Just how many people who never played MMO but would be interested in playing are still left out there?

I dont think that many at all.

Rift was WoW 1.5 , SWTOR will be RIFT 2.0.

All signs point that EA banks on selling lots upfront and hoping to recover costs first year .(outrageous preorder and collector's edition price). Where are all rift players now? -SWTOR will last 6 month , then rapid decline and likely f2p at some point
Just how many people who never played MMO but would be interested in playing are still left out there? I dont think that many at all.

Why would you think that? The number of people who actually ever tried a MMORPG is tiny in comparison to the number of people playing other sorts of games. And new people get born / come of age every year. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that the current population is the maximum possible.

Funny anecdote: A few months before World of Warcraft was released some analyst estimated the overall theoretical size of the European market for MMORPGs. On the first day, WoW sold 100,000 MORE copies than this estimated market size.

The right game could easily double the current market size again.
I think people greatly underestimate how many young kids who watch Clone Wars will want to play this game. Throw a couple ads up on Cartoon Network and watch the MMO market grow. They already advertise Free Realms and another one I can't think of on it. My daughter keeps asking me if she can play those.
Here is there main problem. Consoles. While I agree with you that this game is definately NOT for the hardcore MMORPG'er, it's trying to cater to a worse crowd.

Teens and young adults that grew up with XBOX and PS3. What this group demands of a game is 10 times what I demanded growing up on PONG and ATARI.

SWTOR is not going to succeed in the long term. It's to damn bland. Graphics are not going to please the group above. Combat is moderate at best. Not near enough innovation. It's feels like taking a bath in dirty, lukewarm water.
This post made me think I should wait for the "free trial" option in Swotor.
"But unless you can get hold of a Men in Black Neuralizer, you and me are going to miss out on that first love experience. We already had ours with previous games."

You don't have to tobold...

All you have to do is take a deep breath and... play.

Yes it's wow in space.
Yes you have seen much of it before.

But I categorically refuse to think that someone who is jaded by MMOs CANNOT enjoy a game like SWTOR.

Initially I thought the same jaded things... mostly but then I started actually paying attention to the character interaction (you know not immediately escaping out of dialog or cinematics... actually living the toon perspective). The gameplay grew on me.

People who have never played a mmo seem to really dig SWTOR. (all the KOTOR fanboys are gaga over things that wow players think is standard now)

What in wow took millions of other players to get immersion might be doable in these companion/quest interactions. [thus perhaps introducing a more balanced leveling vs endgame play???]

Might work... at the end of the day yes SWTOR was not designed for wow players. It basically brings KOTOR/WOW hybrid to players who probably would not have played an MMO unless it said star wars on the cover.

The real test for SWTOR will be the critical mass of players... Rift fell into this... without big numbers it gets boring to faction fight the same people over and over.

Everyone wants to be at THE PARTY not last weeks party. If you have Wow numbers+ at SWTOR... you will be seeing a few jaded mmo people over there... no doubt mocking the teenie-boppers ruining the scene.
@Angry Gamer

This is how I took your post.

TOR will work because it's a standard BioWare game with NPC voice over interaction. It's just online with friends.

This is why I think I WONT like TOR. I didn't care for Dragon Age because I quickly realized that I didn't actually have any control over the outcome. The game got me to think my decissions mattered to what would happen next, but I quickly realized that it was just an illusion. I will say BioWare is the king of making you think your choices matter. However that isn't good enough for me.

I'm going to pick up TOR because my daughter wants to play a computer game.
As has been noted, counting on the newbie hose to populate and make the game profitable can work... but I still think the subscription will be a hard sell. I also still think the game would do better with a Guild Wars model.

I guess we'll see.
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