The Daily Grind: Are MMOs in a cultural decline?

    
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An editorial over at Rock Paper Shotgun attempts to tie two topics together as one: why there will never be a World of Warcraft killer and how MMOs have been in a cultural decline ever since Azeroth opened for business.

World of Warcraft was a hit for many reasons,” the author postulates. “Its chunky graphics that still hold up. Its focus on a personal quest. Its generally welcoming attitude and approachability. But what made it the game that it was was being the first to bring the magic of MMOs to the wider world. […] But the trouble with magic is that the same trick rarely works more than once.”

The author goes on to say that it’s his opinion that two titles have come close to recapturing that magic: EVE Online and PlanetSide 2. What do you think? Have MMOs been in a cultural decline ever since their shiny newness wore off?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

 

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Morreion
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Morreion

Decline?  I hope so.  Nothing would make me happier than a return to a smaller fanbase that actually likes MMOs where you socialize and enjoy virtual worlds.  WoW brought millions of players who could care less about MMO culture.

Belcross
Guest
Belcross

There are more MMO’s out now than ever before and many more coming down the pipe. I think we tend to think that everyone should play the MMO I am playing when that is just not possible these days. With so many options and genres out there people have more choice and don’t have to stick around.

Goronmon
Guest
Goronmon

chosenxeno RagnarTheDrunk I guess I just haven’t found a F2P or even B2P MMO where I didn’t eventually feel like the business model was affecting the development of the game. Even Guild Wars 2 (a game I enjoyed for quite a while, even if in a casual nature) had aspects that I found frustrating. Like how the end-game was supposed to be all about character customization, but it appeared that lots new content for customization was being pushed into the cash shop. Instead of making lots of new armor options tied to interesting acquisition content, it was being tied to my credit card.

RonaldHarrison
Guest
RonaldHarrison

Does anyone know where we can get good and reliable audience numbers for MMORPGs?

AGx
Guest
AGx

I don’t think MMOs are in decline. If you look at the landscape, there are more available MMOs now than ever before and if you added up the numbers for players across all games, I’m more than willing to bet that it’s greater than that all games had when WoW was at it’s prime. What I think prompts discussions like this is the fact that we have so many MMOs that are releasing and “failing”. Note, I’m using that word loosely. These MMOs come out and are expecting far more than they could ever hope to achieve. Look at SWTOR. With such a massively popular IP and huge budget, they were expecting huge numbers. At most, I think they were around 1.5 million. Now, that’s nothing to scoff at  but it was WELL short of what WoW has. To many, it’s a failure.

The thing is, WoW just happened to come out at the right time and do all the right things. Flying mounts? That’s cool! Look at what’s happening now though, the developers realize how bad of an idea that was and want to reverse it but at the time, it sure was attractive! These days, it’s much harder to get those numbers in a single game with the population so spread across games. I liked SWTOR but FFXIV was always the game I was looking forward to and I jumped ship. I liked DCUO and Age of Wushu but I can’t play them all. Look at FFXI, I don’t think it ever even crossed 500K active subs but they stuck to their guns and over time it became on of Squares most profitable properties.

When I look at a lot of the games now, they are getting similar numbers. If the game is good, we stick with it. SWTOR is chugging along just fine. I don’t think the genre is in decline but more games are considered “failures” and are shutting down because the numbers aren’t there. As far as the players are concerned, we just want a good game. As an example, I don’t know a single person who wasn’t excited about Black Desert when it first hit the news. We might have been [rightly] skeptical because of the Korean developers but there was always that shred of optimism. If the west does get the game as we were originally sold on it, minus the stuff we hate about Korean MMOs, it could be a blockbuster game.

SwobyJ
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SwobyJ

ntellect SwobyJ I just described a lot of scifi but sure. I could do without the robot revolt.

RonaldHarrison
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RonaldHarrison

*IF* MMO’s are in a decline, it is a function of the developers and their bosses being timid, feckless, pikers.
When I first took to using “feckless piker”, 
“feckless” was “lacking any merit, strength, or talent” and
“piker” was “one who invests in a way that is small or contemptible”
I define it here because if you look now, there’s a pretty good chance the dictionary will say something close…but not quite the same. I can only plead my usage was carefully chosen, and accurate at the time I coined the phrase.
City of Heroes came out in April 2004. It has been dead for twenty eight months. The game’s players are still homeless. Yes, that’s right…they can’t find a game that equals a game made A DECADE AGO.
Devs look at CoX’s costume creator and say “Ehh…too hard. I’ll just impress you with how cool and original my world is.”
Translation… 
Street Hunt 10 fanboys
Street Hunt 5 boring scriptwriters
Fetch 15 useless items
Street hunt 15 boring scriptwriters
Street hunt 5 clueless project coordinators
Enter the Private Instance
Fetch 15 useless items
Fetch 15 items that are even more useless
Fight the Big Thing
Enter the private instance
Go to a new zone. Get the clue which is…this cool original world…isn’t.
A bigger problem is that even when the devs try to write a cool story, more often than not, they really don’t understand what their goal is.
They think it’s a book, or a movie with a plot, and it’s not.
I speak highly of City of Heroes, but it fell into this same trap. It began with two zones and six contacts. That got boiled down to a single contact who forked out to two stories.
Now the twelve stories were sort of average, and the Y fork story was much better written, so you’d *think* it was an improvement.
But it’s the reverse, and in a very big way. Look at NWO or STO…. Pretty well written stories…. but always starting with the same mission, always knowing what mission will be next…. BLARG.
Not many are reading your cooler better story the third time through. You’ll lose even the most dedicated fan the fourth or sixth time through. It IS a boring average story at that point, or rather it becomes one. You must have several story paths. Redundant paths, even. Remember your goal is to get customers…and RETAIN them.
The twelve average starter stories IS superior to the one well written one.
So where do we stand? Simply put, Dev’s say “Meh. That’s too hard. They’re asking for the maximum.” when in reality, the fans are asking for the minimum. Something done a DECADE ago. Devs don’t want to impress us with a cool costume designer and how individual we look… they want “recognizable profiles” and they want to impress us with their cool orginal world…which is neither original nor cool.
Why wouldn’t this decline? It should decline.
But actually, I’ll tell you a bigger reason they decline. The Devs…and more importantly, their bosses… do not read Massively Overpowered, or a rival, or a peer. They neither care nor even know what we think. They plan in a vacuum, watching their rivals moves, making counter moves, and their motto is “What’s new, copy-cat?”

BryanCo
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BryanCo

Veldan BryanCo Werewolf Finds Dragon  Well, let’s say the (for the sake of argument) peed of gear acquisition would be roughly the same across all methods.  How many ‘raiders’ do you honestly think would continue to raid?  Let’s even theorize that non-raid paths would take 10% longer than raiding.  My guess is even then the raiding community would nearly disappear.  Raiders are a minority of players even when developers subsidize that style of gameplay by making it the only path to the best shinies.

Ekphrasis
Guest
Ekphrasis

dirtyklingon Ekphrasis

Interesting perspective, thank you – appreciate your thoughts.
I can see some of the design decisions consistent across the genres but I’m not convinced that there’s a conscious and direct targeting of FPS gamers.
To me, it feels like MMOs are evolving in their own space only – with the focus on quicker content being indicative of a broader shift in play style of people these days rather than a direct result of a particular genre influencing another as far as I can see.
Regardless, I’ve probably not been paying attention to where people are coming from – only that they’re here now and in an MMO.

MewmewGirl
Guest
MewmewGirl

No, they have not been in decline.  That he thinks EVE and PlanetSide 2 were the only titles that came close to capturing the magic of WoW shows how off his opinion is too.

WoW was super popular for a lot of reasons, and one of the major ones wasn’t just that it was new, it was that there was hardly any competition.  I realize that there were a small number of other graphical MMOs out first, but none of them had that mass appeal that WoW had.  So it didn’t have much competition at all.

Look at how many games are out now.  Crazy numbers of them.  There are hundreds of little games that the majority of people don’t even know about, but there are just so many MMOs out there now to pick from.  We’re spread out across them all.  There are millions and millions of us spread all over the place.  MMOs aren’t in decline, we’re just all on different games rather than the majority of us all playing a single game.  There are more people than ever playing MMOs today.  That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact.  To read someone saying that they are in decline is just silly.