Watching the latest news about Pokémon Go brought to mind something I still like to say about the MMO industry: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Getting a huge number of players out of the gate means little-to-nothing if they don’t stick around and spend money, especially with a game that’s free-to-play. You can have a stellar launch and make a great first impression, but it means very little if you can’t stick the longer-term landing; WildStar managed to open to great numbers and a great launch, but the cracks started to show and the three-month mark saw a massive dropoff for the game that it’s still struggling to recover from.
Of course, this goes directly against every other part of the game industry, where your opening sales are what indicates the health and success of a game. Much like a film, you’re going to be making most of your profits within the first few weeks. So excellent opening sales/downloads reads like a success story even when it doesn’t translate to longer-term success in the marketplace.
And three months isn’t a scientific figure, either. EVE Online limped along for some time before finding its niche and really getting popular; World of Warcraft defied expectations through the launch of Cataclysm by somehow managing to just keep going up. So let’s talk about this. How long does an MMO have to be successful? Is it three months? Longer? Is it even shorter, dooming games that have later made decent money to forever be labeled failures if their initial launches were a mess?