Leaderboard: How much does an MMO’s IP influence your interest in it?

    
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Here’s a fun thought exercise: What if standard assumptions about IPs and games is wrong? To hear some people tell it, games like Star Wars Galaxies and Lord of the Rings Online would’ve gone nowhere but for the popularity of their IPs. But Raph Koster contradicted that in a thread originally about the diversity of the modern MMO genre earlier this week.

“Historically, videogame IPs have ALWAYS outperformed non-videgame IPs in games, on average and in general. It’s less of a boost than people think,” he tweeted. “[IPs] definitely can expand audience, but the biggest franchises are all homegrown in games. Mario, Pokémon, Call of Duty, etc — it’s always been that way.”

I wonder whether your own perception about the power of IPs has an effect on your play choices, contrary to the actual metrics. How much does an MMO’s IP influence your interest in it? To the pollmobile! (This poll allows multiple answers since there’s overlap!)

Leaderboard: How much does an MMO's IP influence your interest in it?

  • I don't care at all whether an MMO has a non-gaming IP attached to it. (24%, 62 Votes)
  • I'm more likely to play an MMO with a popular non-gaming IP. (18%, 48 Votes)
  • I'm less likely to play an MMO with a popular non-gaming IP. (6%, 15 Votes)
  • I flat-out won't play an MMO with a popular non-gaming IP. (1%, 3 Votes)
  • I flat-out won't play an MMO without a popular non-gaming IP. (1%, 2 Votes)
  • I worry about longevity and licensing when an MMO uses a non-gaming IP. (18%, 47 Votes)
  • I fuss over fidelity to the IP when an MMO uses a non-gaming IP. (9%, 24 Votes)
  • I worry about the extra expenses when an MMO uses a non-gaming IP. (11%, 29 Votes)
  • I worry about non-gaming audiences flooding into MMOs using non-gaming IPs. (3%, 8 Votes)
  • Something else (tell us in the comments!) (5%, 13 Votes)
  • No answer / view tally / elf butts (4%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 175

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Raph Koster

So to clarify what I was saying in a brief tweet:

Licensing or using an IP is basically marketing money. It buys you awareness. And just like spending actual marketing money, it has a cost. Among the costs are creative restrictions, development overhead from approvals, and usually a backend licensing percentage which means the devs earn less money per head than they would have otherwise.

Something like Star Wars may seem like it’s a guaranteed win, but when you look at the complete history of Star Wars games, it’s very clear that sometimes it’s a big win and other times not — even when the games were developed internally at Lucas and some of the above costs aren’t in the mix.

Now, it also lowers risk, certainly. You are more likely to hit a baseline audience, for sure. But if the other costs put you upside-down, then… oh well. In particular, that license fee might well cut your margins in half.

You have the flip side problem, too, which is that the license makes it better for the license’s target audience — but possibly worse for people not in the target audience who may well have liked the game. Not necessarily only in terms of demographic appeal alone (say, an IP with a male fanbase, but a game that could appeal across the board; the IP may chase female players away) but also in terms of broadening the audience for a hardcore game beyond what the game can really appeal to (think a license that brings in casual players because it’s hugely popular, but the game is pretty core), and other forms of mismatch.

I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but when we ran surveys on the SWG userbase, it was half people who came because of Star Wars, and half people who came because it was an MMO.

Probably the biggest challenge, long term, though, is the creative restrictions and approvals process. It’s… suggestive that virtually none of the highest-rated games in history are IP licenses, and where they do pop, it’s often with sports not rich IPs. (See the list here). A similar picture emerges when you look at top grossing games in history.

semugh
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semugh

last good Star Wars game was KOTOR2. I’m sorry but SWG couldn’t hold onto its playerbase when a fresh new game (WOW) came along.
Anyways, I’m here under this article because the only MMO I play is Star Trek Online. It took 8 full years for STO to become a good game. It’s still not WOW but CBS keeping PWE in check is good for the game.
SWTOR is a missed opportunity and LOTRO, too.
Single player games (with maybe optional multiplayer) are another thing. You crank out the price and play it as much as you want, as long as you want. I love Skyrim, bought the SE too, but I have zero intention to buy TESO.

Vaeris
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Vaeris

I don’t remember that survey but it wasn’t exactly half and half. I came because Star Wars AND it was an MMO. Don’t remember if the survey was that thorough.

Specus
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Specus

I worry about it being nothing but a pure money grab. I’ve seen too many games where the games sucked because the companies arrogantly thought that a big-name IP would carry the game and make them loads of money, so they wouldn’t have to make a good game.

Cadaver
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Cadaver

If I dislike the IP then I’ll avoid the game. If I’m neutral about the IP then I’ll worry about playability being sacrificed for the sake of lore. If I love the IP then I’ll worry about lore being sacrificed for the sake of playability.

kjempff
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kjempff

I can’t think of any mmos or maybe also games based on a non-gaming ip, that I found any good. There might be an exception or two if I go through a list, but it is certainly almost always a indicator of a game type that doesn’t attract me (mind, my taste is often not attuned to mainstream games)

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Robert Mann

I am less likely to play, but only very minimally. I care more about what the game itself is doing, and whether I will enjoy it. I do tend to believe it stifles a lot of options, and since I find LOTRO to be perhaps the best such MMO I will use it for examples from here out.

The biggest thing is that I find the licensed IP games to usually lack in the creative elements even more than other games. Not only does licensing an IP lock in a lot of things they cannot change, but in general it means there are easy answers for what they can do. This even applies to some of the best Licensed MMOs around, for example LOTRO from day one had their races pre-defined. Not much room for creativity there. Not that most MMOs are exactly looking to do anything beyond ‘Reskin of human #xxxxxxx in MMOs’.

I think IPs are an easy way out, something that draws a lot of interest from the business people for investment money, but something which at the same time leaves it far more likely for a game, and even more so an MMO, to do something beyond trying to be a faithful adaptation of existing lore (I do give props to LOTRO for following the fellowship without changing it, that was probably one of the best methods of doing that I have seen). That’s a challenge most MMO writing teams do NOT seem to be up to.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Features and quality bring my attention more, but I definetly would be more excited about IP i love (like Mass Effect, Warhammer 40k, Legend of Five Rings) than a new IP or some that I never heard about.

I hope I live to see Mass Effect MMO one day

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

I’ll admit that the Star Wars IP + the BioWare name brought me to MMO’s. I was extremely wary of EA having seen them destroy beloved studios in the past but… TOR went F2P so what did I have to lose except a bit of time?

It was fun. Eventually I subbed and got into raiding and had an absolute blast until… EA dragged their feet of even hinting about Shadow of Revan. By early 2014 our guild had cleared all Hard Mode raids and were toying with giving Nightmare Mode a shot because we were bored out of our skulls. For those playing along at home 2014 saw the launch of both Wildstar and ESO.

Since EA seemed disinterested in providing us content we set out for greener pastures. I did eventually dip back in towards the tail end of 4.x. 5.0 pretty much killed the game for me. I tried going back a few months ago because there was a romance arc I had been meaning to pursue. I never got off the starting world. Heck I don’t know if I even managed to log in after my first session.

EA has completely mishandled SW:TOR. It absolutely should be printing money yet its financial results are so bad they have to be buried in a miscellaneous category. Why? Greed and neglect. The only surprise is why EA lets it bleed funds instead of putting it out of its misery.

IP means nothing to me when it comes to evaluating MMO’s. The most important things are if I can trust its operators to have a clue how to run an online entertainment service (spoiler: it’s not a 9-5 job) to produce content at a reasonable rate, and to not be greedy or stingy over a few electrons.

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starbuck1771

How about a stumper? If Dungeon & Dragons was the basis of RPG’s wouldn’t therefore all preceding games be based off a IP since they still use systems like rng. Basically like using D&D’s chit dice?

Vaeris
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Vaeris

So, it used to be that if a game had Star Wars as an IP it was a given I’d buy it. Now, after SWG NGE and the “Were’ about class stories…then not” with SWTOR I don’t know that I’d buy another Star Wars games. I’m already out on watching the movies so it’d seem natural to be so on the games as well. The only things Star Wars I’m a shoe in for is if episodes IV,V or VI are on. I’ll watch those.

I used to wish upon wish that my favorite IPs were made into MMORPGs. Star Wars, Shadowrun and Fallout. Now…seeing what game companies have done in not really efforting making a “worlds” and instead linear genocide simulators…kinda have no interest. Star Wars is about 90% ruined for me and I’d hate to see the other two irreparably damaged. Darned if Bethesda isn’t trying.

cdnbison
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cdnbison

Just make a good game. Most of the big gaming franchises start simply because someone made a really good game.

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Raph Koster

Right… I’d contend that licenses make that harder.

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starbuck1771

So Raph old friend you willing to take another shot at a Star Wars MMO?

Vaeris
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Vaeris

If Raph made another attempt at making an MMO that had all the features and framework of SWG at launch and before the NGE, but was a brand new science fiction IP…I’d sign up day 0. Having the Star Wars IP I think, based on all the baggage attached to it after NGE, SWTOR and the movies, would hamstring it greatly. Now if Raph gave Jordan Weisman (Harebrained Schemes) a call and worked out a deal to do Shadowrun Online…in an actual manner like I suggest above and not what Cliffhanger Games put out (and which is shutting down soon), I think that IP has enough good faith for one strong attempt.

He’s one of the tiny, tiny few MMORPG game developers that I believe understands and embraces that there is way more possibility to an MMORPG than just “combat, combat, combat” (Gaute Godager if you’re watching I told you I’d never let it drop, lol!)

Uncle Owens matter.

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Toy Clown

While an IP will grab my attention enough to start browsing through the game’s potential features, there are a few things that will kill that interest – beloved IP or not – and that’s forced PvP, no female avatars (Really? I’m shocked some MMOs don’t have both sexes to play in full release), no housing, no RP features, and no accessibility features.

There aren’t many MMOs that catch my attention anymore because of the above factors and too many new MMOs are missing them.