Massively Overthinking: Are boutique MMOs the future?

This week’s Massively Overthinking question comes to us from Kickstarter donor Taemys, who just so happens to be a guildie of mine. He’s clever, and so is his concern:

“Are all the smaller, ’boutique’ MMO’s the future? To put it another way, do you think we’ll see anything as big as World of Warcraft or EverQuest again?”

I put his questions to the Massively OP writers, who as usual were happy to overthink them!

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): Big blockbuster games are high-risk in the MMO market and have no chance of meeting the expectations set by giants like World of Warcraft or the original EverQuest in its day. I think last year was the first time publishers and investors really got that message, especially with Blizzard cancelling Project Titan after having invested so much money into it. I’m not so sure that means we’re heading toward a world of smaller MMOs, but the past few years have definitely seen a resurgence of smaller multiplayer games. That may just be because publishers and investors are now belatedly chasing the massive revenue of games like League of Legends, Hearthstone, Crossfire, and World of Tanks, but there’s no doubt that it’s a trend.

Smaller studios developing smaller games is a much safer and more economically viable option in today’s flooded games market, and the cost of developing a small game continues to decrease year-on-year. We have powerful content-creation tools like Substance Painter now using an affordable subscription model for indies, cheap availability of powerful engines like Unity 5 and UE4, scalable cloud computing services for hosting dedicated game servers, and crowdfunding to get over the first stage investment hump. It has never been easier than it is right now to develop and deploy a small MMO or online multiplayer game, and on that basis alone I think that’s what the future looks like for MMOs. We’ll still get the occasional blockbuster title riding on a popular IP, and I’m sure we’ll see a few unexpected breakaway hits and more games that straddle the MMO to standard multiplayer divide, but I think we’re going to see a lot more MMOs that aren’t chasing that impossible-to-achieve number 1 spot and are happy to exist in a chosen niche.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I won’t say “never” on another mega-blockbuster. Way too much of the planet is still more or less cut off from the full power of a global internet and has yet to weigh in on the subject of virtual worlds. WoW capitalized on emerging markets, and there are markets yet to explore.

But personally, I want to quibble over the word niche. When we use it nowadays, we’re not using it as a compliment, especially when we’re applying it to anything smaller than WoW (under 10 million), which is almost everything, or smaller than EQ (under 500k), which… OK, again, is almost everything, and certainly every larger-scale Western MMO prior to WoW. In the early aughts, no one was looking at MMOs with several hundred thousand players and lamenting that we’ll just have to accept “niche” status, you know? Those games felt plenty big then. I refuse to see small- to mid-size MMOs as a negative. They’re not niche; they’re normal, and they always have been. They’re the past, the present, and the future. And they’re perfectly sustainable if they haven’t spent like a game 10 times their size.

But when we use niche and boutique to also describe content breadth, I think we normalize games that have no ambition, that cut so many features that they’re barely worthy as MMORPGs anymore, let alone as virtual worlds. That’s something I definitely won’t accept. If that’s our future, then this has been an awful waste of time.

Jef Reahard (@jefreahard): I certainly hope we don’t see anything with WoW’s mass appeal again. MMO feature sets got small as the MMO community got big. My preferences aside, yeah, it’s a foregone conclusion that niche is the future. MMO players don’t want to pay for their entertainment nowadays, and meanwhile the cost of developing even a feature-deficient themepark retread is getting out of hand. You won’t see big MMOs made in that climate.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): For the near future, I think that may be the case. Bigger only games are still being made, but mostly at the fringes of MMO society (such as Destiny, The Division, or GTA Online). It’s a smarter way to lessen the risk for big-budget titles by appealing to a wider audience.

It’s hard to see a future when big-name studios decide to drop the resources and budget on a project on the scale of the games you mentioned. However, it’s easier to recognize how the industry is changing in positive ways to allow smaller developers more freedom and to provide them with better tools to make worlds that have the potential to be quite large down the road, given a growing playerbase and popularity.

Then again, there could be large-scale MMOs in the works we don’t know about because the studios aren’t ready to reveal them. Crowfall — what I would deem a mid-sized MMO — practically came out of nowhere and was widely embraced throughout its crowdfunding campaign. And let’s not forget that some established, experienced studios, such as Daybreak and Cryptic, are still going forward with new MMOs that aren’t aiming to be small potatoes.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): I do not think that we will see another WoW. That was likely a once-in-a-lifetime thing. However, I don’t think that large, triple-A MMOs are out of the question. I believe that some studio somewhere will hit a mark that no one else has. I’m imagining something like The Witcher 3 or maybe like Minecraft turned into an MMO that for some reason it strikes a chord with a lot of people on PC and console.

Mike Foster (@MikedotFoster, blog): I think smaller, niche MMOs are probably more fun for the people who play them. The big name titles striving to land millions and millions of players are always going to build their feature sets around what works for the most possible people, which often results in watered down ideas and half-hearted implementations. If I were building an MMO today, I’d certainly take the EVE model — aim for just 200-300,000 players and build a game that they’ll stick with for over a decade.

Will we see anything as big as WoW again? Probably. Will it be another traditional MMORPG? Probably not. World of Tanks has more players than WoW ever did. League of Legends is riding the crest of the MOBA wave. The next big thing will most likely be something none of us saw coming, just as usual.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): No, I do not think we will ever experience anything of the scope of EQ and WoW again. It is almost ironic that the reason we won’t see such a massive congregation of gamers in one place anymore is because of the massively larger number of folks we have playing MMOs now! There are just too many different wants/tastes/expectations in the pot now to flavor any one game to the liking of all, and just too many entrees to choose from. I think the smaller, niche games will be the best going forward, as these games give a group of players what they want — what they really, really want! — and that will make for a passionate, dedicated playerbase that will be loyal enough to a title to keep it going.

Your turn!

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119 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: Are boutique MMOs the future?"

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syberghost
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syberghost

As usual, Larry is the one really paying attention.

There’s a reason multiple studios are chasing Minecraft. As Dave Georgeson said, it’s usually not the first person who attempts an innovation who succeeds big; it’s the second or third person. Trion and Daybreak are both producing MMORPGs aimed squarely at those 28 million Minecraft players. Eventually somebody (possibly one of those two) is going to get it right, and have some new lightning in a bottle.

Will it be WoW-sized? Probably not, but it could be. It doesn’t have to be, though, to be huge.

MesaSage
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MesaSage

Werewolf Finds Dragon  Just a little friendly advice here.  Starting off a reply with “your opinion is wrong, flawed and broken” is no way to create engagement.
My comment is my wholly owned opinion, as is yours, which you have a right to.  However, nothing you’ve said about your personal experience translates into market trends, nor addresses the real issue which is what makes monetary sense to create.
And, by the way, your “writing audition”, gasbaggy style wears a bit thin after a short while.

Caec
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Caec

I’d say never say never, but I also have to say this is-as far as I can remember-the first time in almost 20 years that there isn’t a large MMO on the development horizon. 
So…they at least appear to be something that may require a while to come back around.

quixadhal
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quixadhal

jefreahard quixadhal If I give you a free cheeseburger, and you eat it without paying for it, does that mean you are unwilling to pay for cheeseburgers?

You would be surprised just how many people keep paying their subscription fees for several months after they’ve really stopped playing an MMO, and just how much extra revenue that adds up to.  Most humans don’t play and then suddenly decide “I’m bored.  Time to unsubscribe and move on!”  Instead, they gradually play less often, log in once a day to do their daily quests, talk to friends, then only every few days, and it’s not until they realize they’re only logging in once a week or less that they make the decision to jump ship.  Sometimes, they’ll linger on for months if nothing else catches their interest.

In a non-subscription model, that’s fine.  It costs you nothing, so you’re free to spend as much or little time as you want without any guilt.  In a subscription game, this costs you actual money, and I suspect there are plenty of people who force themselves to try and play on, even after they realize it’s not fun, because their monthly fee just dinged, and they don’t want to “waste” that $15.

BryanCo
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BryanCo

Elikal Ialborcales  “WTF is a boutique MMO? Selling Dolce and Gabbana handbags?”
Given some of the excesses of game cash shops, that might not be far off.

FlyinDutchman
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FlyinDutchman

I could see something like EvE’s Project legion hitting it big….. I don’t think it will be CCP’s legion… as that seems increasingly like vapor ware, but I think we could see something LIKE it in our time that could hit it big….. 

Your right that MMO tastes are VERY broad, and a single game can’t hit them all, but I feel there is room for a project LIKE legion that combines a large number of different models, FPS, Resource Management, Flight Sim…. ECT… and combines them all into a single massive world where the actions of all players impact the environment of all the other players in the same sphere. 

The tech is getting their, and I think it’s only a matter of time before we see a break out hit… Maybe it’ll be SC, with it’s various modules, maybe it’ll be something further down the road, but I think there are ways to hit the cross-genera mark, and bring together players from disparate tastes and genera’s into a single world.

Lethality
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Lethality

MikedotFoster I don’t think we’ll “ever” (there’s that word  :)  see WoW go below, say, ~ 2 million. And that is maybe another decade out. There are too many people that have too much invested, and even with no new players and a bleeding of the rest, that’s about as low as it will go,

Lethality
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Lethality

Elikal Ialborcales Check out Revival, in development at Illfonic.

Elikal Ialborcales
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Elikal Ialborcales

WTF is a boutique MMO? Selling Dolce and Gabbana handbags?
So it’s about size, eh? Well to quote Blanche Devereaux: “You can call that thing about size matters a myth, but I am glad for it.”
Size matters. Not square miles, but diversity of content. I already loathe how narrow minded and railroaded MMOs have become. If you compare present day MMOs with UO and SWG you realize, how everything sans combat has essentially cut from MMOs. MMos stopped to be worlds. Combat is nice and dandy, but a MMO which is only a big combat simulator always bores me. I desire complete world, and that means size.

Zennie
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Zennie

All of them. Every single one.

Zennie
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Zennie

What other MMO has it’s own convention “BlizzCon”?
And this is why people don’t play other games than WoW, because, well, every other game is a WoW clone, and there is nothing else than WoW.
I believe the first EVE Fanfest happened far before WoW was actually released.

Zennie
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Zennie

But are there “single 15-bucks-for-everything” games any more?
Yes, of course. Move off the the beaten track and you will find them.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

Akami Mark Jacobs MikedotFoster There are a lot of technical issues with mobile and tablet.  OTOH, I think “Gamers” will be a diminishing minority of customers for games.

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

Werewolf Finds Dragon Re Lion’s share:  I believe that book authors get less than a third of that (perhaps 30x.5*.08 or $1.2 on a $30 book) and the musicians system is byzantine but does not favor the artist at all.  Did you see the quote “Yet, in just one day, a popular mod developer made more on the Skyrim paid workshop than he made in all the years he asked for donations.” If the author is making much more money, is there any reason other than ego (s)he would care what the % is?

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

jefreahard quixadhal But are there “single 15-bucks-for-everything” games any more? Not just account services like race/realm/name changes but the cash shop with mounts, pets, cosmetics, etc.  And now being able to buy unlimited in game currency via legal RMT- why shouldn’t your corp/guild expect that if you are not spending the time to keep up, you are spending the RL$.

jefreahard
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jefreahard

quixadhal  Except it is true. Millions of people are consuming MMO content without paying for it. So by definition, they don’t want to pay for their entertainment.

And paperwork? Come on, lol. That’s the silliest defense of F2P I’ve seen yet. Clicking a subscribe button (and having the mental capacity to remember to click the cancel button if you aren’t enjoying yourself) isn’t paperwork. Paperwork is what happens when I play a F2P game and end up having to add a bunch of extra line items in my budget instead of a single 15-bucks-for-everything entry.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

But you’re not considering that ‘in the margins’ means ‘makes more money than Skyrim did.’ Just because you’re not making WoW amounts of money, doesn’t mean you’re not successful. People are weird that they can’t understand this.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

Except that’s not what’s being said. The Secret World and The Elder Scrolls Online are both boutique MMOs, because they don’t have the scale or funds of WoW. SW:TOR did, but mostly because that was money being spent stupidly, as is BioWare’s/EA’s wont. A boutique in this case is simply an MMO that has a smaller focus to it. It can still be handled by a big name, but it won’t be aiming for the WoW demographic.

In fact, if things are smart, the future will evolve into co-op RPGs with massively multiplayer elements. No one wants to spend all of their time doing GW2 stuff. I think most would prefer an overarching storyline such as ESO or Fallout: New Vegas. Now, imagine New Vegas, except co-op, and with the odd bit of content here and there that can be played massively.

To me, that’s the future. If they’re smart. It’s how people play non-WoW MMOs, anyway.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

That’s a broken way to look at that, too. And entirely wrong.
The problem with Valve’s system had nothing to do with people not wanting to pay for things. In fact, mod users regularly do contribute to mod authors through sites like the Nexus. The problem with paying for mods was twofold, and I’ll explain. If you’re actually interested in clearing up the ignorance, that is, but you might just want to spread spectacle. I have no idea, I don’t know you!
A Fixed Price
By having a fixed price, it invites even mediocre mods to put a ridiculously high price on their content. This then becomes the baseline for the price of a mod, and any mod author that decides to ask for money depreciates the perceived value of their mod by charging less. There are product makers out there who’ve openly admitted that they put a high price on their items because people thinks this way, Apple is among them. If Apple’s products weren’t so costly in the first place, the average consumer wouldn’t believe in their actual worth as a product.
What happens then is bloat and inflation, as mods move out of what’s realistic for sale. So the mod authors who’re making mods actually worth something drop out of the running and take the price off their mod, offering it for free, as free isn’t a price that depreciates the value of their mod. As to many of these mod makers, people actually using these mods is worth more to them than making a little money on the side. So the Steam Workshop would just end up as a place where you have mods to be paid for, but all that’ll say about those mods is that they’re poor quality. That, in turn, means people will be programmed even more to never pay for mods.
Valve’s system was designed to fail because of this. It was a system no one would spend money on. They realised this after launching it, which is why they pulled it.
Contrary to this, a system of pay what you want would solve all issues. Yet that’s exactly what the Nexus mod site already has. And I’d imagine that that’s one of the (many) reasons as to why it’s the largest and most commonly used sites on the Internet. Much bigger than Steam Workshop, and so big that it dwarfs the Skyrim Workshop, which must be much to the chagrin of Bethesda and Valve as that was the launch platform for Steam Workshop in the first place.
The Lion’s Share
Only 25 per cent of the money was going to the mod developer, 75 per cent of it was being paid to Valve and the IP holder (Bethesda, in this case). Very few modders would even have bothered putting a price on their mod for that. It’s insulting. It’s almost like having a ‘Give Valve/Bethesda Even More Money’ button on your mod page, as you’re not really going to see any of that cash. The mod author should receive at least 50 per cent for their work, and even 50 per cent is stingy. But that would be at least workable. At that share, most mod authors won’t even bother putting a price on their stuff.
If the mod authors had gotten 60 per cent of the share from their work, it would’ve been enticing. 50 per cent would’ve given them some pause for thought. But 25? Most would just skip over it, as they’d have to pass the cost onto the user to even get any real worth out of it. As such, only the mediocre and badly made mods would even try this, often attaching high prices just to make a quick buck and run. So, again, this would create a system where people quickly learn that paying for mods isn’t worth it.
This would’ve driven people away from the Steam Workshop and to other mod sites, which is why Valve pulled it.
So now you know.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

Except that that’s a completely wrong and flawed way of seeing things. I think your perception is broken, there.
Yes, there are people who flock to and from MMOs, but that’s just the herd passing through, isn’t it? There’s a loud rumble as the herd stops by to look in, and they’ll look in on other titles but work their way back to WoW. Why? It’s not so much because they’ve run out of content, though that’s one of the things they’ll blame, but rather because they can’t get their social hit in those games because the population numbers aren’t there.

I’ve seen the extroverted herd blame everything from content, to balance, to a lack of PvP for leaving a game. The truth is though is that the population just isn’t sustainable for what extroverts want out of an MMO, only WoW can supply and sustain that. It’s why, even if the herd stops by a game, it’ll still be bereft of them when the month’s out. Some stragglers will stay behind, but ultimately? Like a gambler’s addiction, that need for the dopamine hit will bring them back to WoW. The neurotic extrovert needs WoW, they get their hit from raiding as much as the confident extrovert gets their hit from partying.

If a game promises large-scale raiding, it’ll get an initial flood bigger than most, but the herd will quickly leave that game too as they realise they’ve been conned due to the lack of overall population required to sustain it. See: Wildstar. It’s not ‘content locusts,’ it’s the extrovert herd.

Contrary to this, you have people who’ll choose a game and stick with it. Like I did with Uru, Champions Online, The Secret World, or whatever other of the few MMOs I’ve played have actually caught my fancy. Long after I depleted the content of Champions Online, long after I felt abused by their exploitative patches, I stayed with it. They had to really drop the ball hard to lose me (and they did), and now I miss that game. The Secret World I had a hard time with because I didn’t like where the story was going, but I still respect it so I stuck with it until the end and it and I parted on amicable, happy terms. It’s just not something I’d hang around to replay.

The Elder Scrolls Online seems like the new Champs for me. It’s not going to scare me off, and I’ve been logging in each day to see where the story goes (like TSW), rather than to grind or whatever else. I’ll likely end up making a character of each faction and playing the content through twice. Considering the speed I play these games at, that’s likely going to take me quite some time indeed. So they’ve got someone loyal in me, someone who’ll stick with them and actually appreciate their game. I won’t rush through it looking for the raiding (like the herd does), I’ll consider every bit of story and lore I’m given, and I’ll talk about that in depth and at length with my introverted friends whom have similar interests.

And as has been mentioned, it’s unfair to say that just because a game isn’t retaining the wandering WoW herd, that doesn’t mean it’s unsuccessful. Sure, the herd leaves, but the people who aren’t a part of that herd (like me), those who actually want to be there? We’re going to probably number a few hundred thousand. In a game with a subscription at $15-18 a month, you’re looking at millions. In a buy to play game with store options that we want to buy? You’re probably looking at even more millions than that. If ESO can provide me with htings on the store I want, I may end up paying more than a subscription because I want to support them.

Is it fair to call that game unsuccessful because it’s not WoW with its WoW herd? No, no it’s not. That game has been more successful than almost every big AAA single player game, and that’s why MMOs are made. The thing is is whether you’ve got anything there that’s going to appeal to those not of the WoW herd.

In Wildstar, because it’s basically Sci-Fi WoW, it was a ghost town. When the WoW herd left, there was literally no one left. No one wanted to play it because those not of the WoW herd don’t want to play WoW or WoW 2.0. Elder Scrolls Online, on the other hand, I see a regular flow of people in. I can’t enter a delve or take on a boss without there being people there. Which is why I chafe at the bit more than a little sometimes about wanting optional instancing, but I’m still so happy for ZOS that their game is this successful (though I think they’d be even more successful by appealing to the audience they’ve courted and actually offering that).

I just think you’re misunderstanding what’s going on, then. See, the WoW herd wants a new game, but the WoW herd has to stick together. Parts of the WoW herd will break off to check out something new, but they feel compelled to congeal together again. No matter how fed up with WoW the WoW herd is, Blizzard was so successful with the skinnerbox models and social engineering that the WoW herd cannot leave WoW without them all leaving WoW together. And that’ll only happen when WoW closes its doors. And even those of the herd who did manage to escape by giving up MMOs altogether will be brought back in by each new expansion.

This is why MMO designers need to look at creating instanced co-op experiences from now on with optional massively multiplayer. In ESO, for example, if II had optional co-op, I’d use that most of the time. I’d turtle up in my own little world and appreciate ESO all the more for it. But I’d step out occasionally to see people in towns, and to have help fighting tough encounters, or whatever else. Daedric anchors, for example, would be a reason to pop out of my little shell.

Still, I know this is what MMO designers need to be looking at as a way forward. Following WoW’s idea of massively can’t work any more. Look at forums, people keep talking about how they don’t want ESO, they want a co-op Skyrim/Oblivion/Morrowind. That’s exactly what ESO could be, with the right options.

Ho well, they’ll catch up one of these decades.

GeneMartin2
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GeneMartin2

I wouldn’t call 1 million plus folks boutique, imo. They might not be as massive as WoW, but you don’t have to be a death star to be a decently sized spaceship in the galaxy.

BryanCo
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BryanCo

Mark Jacobs kalex716  I would disagree that vinyl has made a comeback at all.  The original article linked cited 2014’s 9.2 million units sold as a “historic high.”  But this was only for the period beginning in 1991 at which point vinyl had been thoroughly replaced.  The real peak for vinyl sales was way back in the mid to late 70s when unit sales topped 300 million for several years.  So this “historic high” is less than a third of a percent of the real peak.
I have nothing against the format.  I’m old enough that my earliest music purchases were in just that format because that’s what there was.  Well, OK there were cassettes and 8-tracks, but vinyl was more common until the Walkman appeared and cassettes really boomed.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

q945 Mark Jacobs LOL. We could make the game “Pay to Brew!” so much better than Pay to Win! :)

q945
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q945

Mark Jacobs LOL
If we want to create a MMO resurgence by learning from the vinyl revival then maybe we should make a MMO targeted at hipsters. Maybe it should be called BeardQuest?
Just think: vintage bicycle crafting, in game hair stylist with 52 types of beards, extensive cosmetic options (thrift / 2nd hand only pls), craft-beer brewing. Hrm… this is harder than I thought.. do Hipsters actually *do* anything?

Aglethe
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Aglethe

Estranged BKone

Well, being pedantic about it, at least one person will have to que for heists from their home in GTAO in order to actually get one started ;) , but yeah, even traditional mmos often end up boiling down to lobby based instance grinders eventually.

Like Jef brought up in his GTAO column, I think there are a number of questions to be asked about just what “massive” means in the context of our hobby, and how much each of those different forms of “massive” matter to different players. For the near term, we’re probably going to be seeing a lot of games that raise and respond to those issues in a variety of ways.

And while it may not be a truly “massive”ly multiplayer experience in the conventional sense, I can’t help wishing that the Elder Scrolls mmo had taken the form of something a lot more like GTAO than TESO. 

Maybe that’s just me though. *shrug*

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Akami Mark Jacobs MikedotFoster Agreed.

Love that movie. One of their best.

Akami
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Akami

Mark Jacobs Akami MikedotFoster heh that’s the best part about open discussion, finding people that can still respect each other’s ideas, yet stand up for their own views, and offer counter views.  (much like a successful business team)

As far as tech moving forward goes, I constantly wonder if the VR front (glasses etc) is just the bud of an entirely new computer interface on the horizon.  Thinking holographic projectors, or ports directly wired to the brain…. Then I start thinking about Tad Williams’s “Otherland” books.   And now i’m way off topic…

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

Rozyn melissamcdon mysecretid LOL you know, I do believe the issue is that I meant “on any VR site I have seen.”   You meant on porn sites.   (laughing) 
Well I can claim naivete here ;-)

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

Akami Mark Jacobs MikedotFoster LOL, if everybody agreed with me all the time, well, what fun would that be. :)

And in terms of mobile gaming re: MMORPGs, it’s not where it needs to be yet but like VR, I expect more things coming in terms of tech that may change things quite a lot. Plus, don’t think in terms of just the mobile market but rather the mobile component only forms a part of the overall MMORPG. You’re third paragraph is a lot closer to what I am thinking and that will change/grow as does the market and tech.

Interesting times and all that and more interesting times are coming as they always do.

Akami
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Akami

Mark Jacobs MikedotFoster Huge fan of yours Mark, but I disagree that the mobile MMO market is as huge as many dev’s think it is.  Maybe it’s just the cultural bubble I live in, but no gamer friend, family member, or college I have enjoys RPG or MMO’s on a tablet.  In fact it’s quite the opposite, of those of us that have tried it, we all hated the experience.

I enjoy mobile gaming, don’t get me wrong, but I limit it to simple click games like angry birds, xconstruction, sim type games, etc.   I just can’t get into a virtual world on a mobile device.  It’s too counter intuitive to immersion.

All of that aside, I think there’s a massive market for mobile interfaces for MMO’s.  Ways to interface directly with our console/desktop MMO’s, via mobile devices in a meaningful way,  that is very under-exploited atm.  (auction house, war map, guild chat…etc)

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

MikedotFoster Would be interesting to see FFXIV numbers grow ever larger. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another, non-traditional MMO hit some amazing numbers the next decade once we see where we are tech-wise with VR and with mobile/tablets.

MikedotFoster
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MikedotFoster

Just in terms of numbers, it wouldn’t surprise me to see FFXIV overtake WoW in the next few years. It’s probably the only traditional-type MMO with a shot at the throne right now. Of course, WoW expansions are powerful things indeed.

mysecretid
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mysecretid

Rozyn 
Yeah, that’s where I was trying to go with my comments — only that when VR does become something the mainstream is aware of, it probably won’t be VR gaming, specifically, which gets the most attention.
I don’t think Melissa’s wrong at all — good VR will be a boost to gaming, although (as she points out) the sort of VR gaming which proves most mainstream-popular may not be the kind of gaming we of the MMORPG crowd hope to see.
All I meant to observe was that VR in gaming may not be the application of the VR tech which will get the most media attention whenever the tech does fully manifest.

Striving for clarity, but failing miserably. :-) My apologies.

Cheers,

Rob Basler
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Rob Basler

Goronmon The one-server for all thing is difficult, but it has become feasible even for tiny MMO’s like mine. (http://theimperialrealm.com)  Designed right, with today’s immense cloud server offerings from Amazon, Google, Microsoft and more, if players support them, even tiny games can scale to a practically infinite number of players.  For me the concurrent player limit is based on the available real-estate in the game world (90,000km^2) although even to start I could have 810,000 players simultaneous which is wayyyy more than I ever expect to have.  If I consider realistic player numbers, my challenge is getting players in the world close enough together so that they can interact.

mysecretid
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mysecretid

melissamcdon 
Oh, indeed. I wasn’t saying it has yet — only opining that it’s probably inevitable, and that it may well dominate public VR discussions and debates once it does manifest.
Sorry if I wasn’t clear,
Cheers,

Rozyn
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Rozyn

melissamcdon mysecretid Tried to find a SFW link although the video does auto play after a warning http://www.vice.com/video/love-industries-digital-sex-669. It’s actually a topic covered fairly often. There’s quite a bit of speculation that just like home video, porn will probably help push VR into mainstream.

Adri Cortesia
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Adri Cortesia

I just hope that there will be more creative games and less wow clone
games. the developer shouldn’t think that wow is the state of the art.
they should do their own stuff and be creative. there are so many clones
from just a few games and the gamer (especially long term “veteran”
gamer) want some fresh stuff even if there are just a few thousand
player. 

Imho reaching an age 30+ changes a lot in your
mind and you just want to play a game which you haven’t played over and
over again. Small but friendly community like your suburban neighborhood.

Rozyn
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Rozyn

Bree nailed my feelings on it. I’ve always found that using WoW’s “success” as a baseline for MMO comparisons incredibly unfair, and essentially just a tactic to dismiss perfectly stable games with happy playerbases. Which isn’t to say WoW hasn’t been an amazing success, but that’s hardly the standard by which we should judge every other game. 

God, and this “But when we use niche and boutique to also describe content breadth, I think we normalize games that have no ambition, that cut so many features that they’re barely worthy as MMORPGs anymore, let alone as virtual worlds.” So much this. It’s what I worry about when Smedley infers that console and mobile short session is the way of the future for MMOs. Sure, please add some shorter content, but keep it rich, and meaningful to the game world.

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

mysecretid It hasn’t yet.   Nobody is talking about VR porn on any site I have seen.

skoryy
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skoryy

Steam’s F2P selection is growing every day, and Steam sales are an international gamers’ holiday. And that’s not even getting into the precedence it would have set for other game companies and modders.
There’s a sizeable subset of gamers that don’t want to pay for anything. We’ve known this since before the first excuses for game piracy came up.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

kalex716 Mark Jacobs I only cite it as an example of the danger of making predictions like “No more WoWs, ever!” I doubt that if somebody had said that vinyl records would make any significant comeback in 2015 that a lot of people would have agreed. :)

There will be another WoW, it’s just a matter of time if for no other reason that if you measure what it means to be another WoW in financial terms, more people than ever are playing MMOs simply because more people have PCs, internet access, etc. and that trend will continue. One day somebody will make a game that will make more money than WoW. It’s just going to happen. 

Now, will see a game that has the kind of impact WoW had on an entire sector of gaming that WoW did? I don’t know about that but I’m pretty sure we will. Back in the late 90s, there wasn’t a ton of MMO development going on worldwide compared to today. As the number of gamers, developers, etc. continue to expand, I think it is just a matter of time when another team creates a game that has an impact like WoW. 

And when you think of the advances that are being made on the technical side, whether in core hardware like PCs or in the VR space, the possibility of another game like WoW happening again is a lot higher than people think.

But as I always say, time will tell. :)

kalex716
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kalex716

Mark Jacobs I would be careful citing the vinyl comeback in a comparative sense… Aside from that I do agree with you. If a game ever got as big as WoW was again, it will be the type of game that completely changes how we view, talk, and experience MMO’s entirely. It will have to be convention breaking in many key ways.

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Goronmon
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Goronmon

skoryy I find it a bit strange that you are saying that a community almost completely centered around a “Digital store where you purchase games” has a problem with never wanting to pay for anything.

Mark Jacobs
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Mark Jacobs

As I’ve always said, one should be careful about saying “never” when it comes to stuff like this. If the last 30 years of gaming should teach us anything, it is that our industry is like a rollercoaster ride, with lots of ups and downs and then, just for fun, we do it again but this time, backwards. :)

And for all the prognosticators who proclaim that “Console games are the future!” or “PC gaming is dead!” or “FTP is the future!” to the exclusion of both reality and, at some times, common sense. I’ll point to one simple example from another industry, just as I have done before –

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/6422442/vinyl-album-sales-hit-historic-high-2014

If vinyl can make a comeback, do you really want to bet against something like another WoW? I wouldn’t, it’s just a matter of time.

As I’ve also said before, I was told online games were dead or didn’t have a big future in the 80s, 90s and even when Dark Age of Camelot was launched. And we know how right all those people were. :)

MesaSage
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MesaSage

Boutiques are the present, not the future.  We’re in the era of game-hopping content locusts.  Nobody wants to stay anywhere very long. There’s another group waiting for the new shiny to fill the void created by their first/best experience.  The rise of the boutique MMO is out of the desire to fill the needs of those two groups.
When this phase passes will be into something that works more like Minecraft (not graphically, but operationally) than WoW.  Boutiques will soon find out that those low numbers translate into an inability to provide new content, support infrastructure and provide anything that looks like customer service. 
There’s a reason MMO’s have been made by the bigs – and the bigs are ceasing development.  MMO’s are just too costly and the ROI is not good enough compared to other opportunities.
My feeling is that after this wave of KS funded boutiques passes, we’ll end up with hybrids everywhere – Moba, ARPG, etc. all designed to be played by small groups on local servers and players managing their own games.

skoryy
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skoryy

One look at the rubble Valve’s pay-for-mods left behind, and I can say its far more than just MMO players who don’t want to pay for anything.
That said, I’m with MJ. Diversity and choice are good things to have. They all can’t be WoW and that’s not a bad thing either.

Goronmon
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Goronmon

When we use it nowadays, we’re not using it as a compliment, especially when we’re applying it to anything smaller than WoW (under 10 million), which is almost everything, or smaller than EQ
(under 500k), which… OK, again, is almost everything, and certainly
every larger-scale Western MMO prior to WoW. In the early aughts, no one
was looking at MMOs with several hundred thousand players and
lamenting that we’ll just have to accept “niche” status, you know? Those
games felt plenty big then. I refuse to see small- to mid-size MMOs as a
negative. They’re not niche; they’re normal, and they always
have been. They’re the past, the present, and the future. And they’re
perfectly sustainable if they haven’t spent like a game 10 times their
size.
I’m with Bree here. There was a time people thought that the MMO market was saturated with EQ sitting on 500k subscribers. Obviously no one believes that anymore. A 500k subscriber MMO is still plenty big, and yet it feels as if most tries at the genre aren’t happy unless they have multiple millions of subscribers.
Even if smaller MMOs are part of the future, there are some upsides. With a smaller subscriber base, it’s more realistic to have a single server for the entire game. An MMO with 100-200k subscribers would still feel well populated if everyone played on one server.

mysecretid
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mysecretid

melissamcdon 
Indeed. I agree that the VR is definitely going to be the next gaming thing that the general public is likely to notice … and I also agree that this VR may manifest as something more shallow and social in general than gamers may hope, although “hardcore” gaming examples will probably exist as well.

I do wonder, in all seriousness, if the advent of the inevitable “VR porn” apps will be what ultimately dominates the general media attention when VR pushes its way fully into the general public consciousness? 
Not saying that the public perception of gaming won’t also be revitalized in some sense by VR, as you say, only that the “VR porn” discussions and debates may well be what dominates the public discourse when VR finally emerges into the wider market.
VR in gaming may be a lesser public fascination? 

Sex sells page hits, after all. :-)

Just speculating,

Cheers,

Aglethe
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Aglethe

melissamcdon wjowski

Why can I not not read that in the voice of George Carlin ? ;)

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

Wodenir that’s dead right.  who predicted facebook, twitter, etc?

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