Global Chat: What can fill that ‘new MMO’ void?

    
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Sorry, guy.

MMO blogger Digital Visceral asked the question, “Where have all the good MMORPGs gone?” but the underlying question isn’t one of scarcity or burnout. Rather, it’s a search for new games to fill the still-burning desire to play online games in an era that seems more hesitant than ever to make them.

“It’s easy to see that the genre is in a rut,” the author writes. “And until we see new MMORPGs that build on the foundations of their progenitors, embrace new technology, and retool their formulas in-line with market trends, I expect it to stay that way.”

Many Welps: My Entropia Universe project begins

“Yes you read that right: Entropia Universe. That game with the real cash economy that you probably last saw an ad for in, like, 2010. It’s one of those games that get’ an article someone making six figures selling virtual property every once and a while and then goes back to the niche corner it’s been hiding in. The game I lovingly refer to as the Flea Market of MMOs. I have a long and storied history with Entropia Universe and I’ve never played it.”

Gamer Reverie: LOTRO guides and resources

“Not sure where to find information about something in Lord of the Rings Online? Something more advanced than Learning LOTRO has covered so far? I got you. Here’s a brief collection of helpful links to guides and resources on various topics from our amazing game community! There are probably a lot more, but I stuck with some basics compiled with the help of a kinmate.”

24 Hours In: You all meet in a tavern…

“I’ve written before about the sometimes baffling structure of questing in DDO. Unlike most MMOs which lead the player from one quest hub to the next the adventurer in DDO arrives in Stormreach and… stays there. The city is a one big hub, or rather a series of connected hubs, and finding something to do that’s on-level isn’t always easy.”

MMO Juggler: Champion points in Elder Scrolls Online

“Well, I finally did it. Got to level 50 in ESO! Now I switch over from gaining levels to gaining Champion Points instead. I’ve read about this system, and the UESP link has a lot of info, but there is nothing like experiencing it first hand. Next goal: CP 160.”

Priest With a Cause: Burning Crusade Classic, yay, I guess?

“It was just a matter of getting the details, most importantly the actual launch date – and that we didn’t get. On the one hand I’m a bit disappointed because I was really hoping to be able to book time off work soon (hah), but on the other hand Blizzard not wanting to commit to a date yet implies to me that the rumours about an early summer launch may well turn out to have been overly optimistic, and that wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing for me as it would give my guild more time to clear (and re-clear) Naxx.”

Leo’s Life: End of the road for Anthem

Anthem is a failure of BioWare management, full stop. The devs built some spectacular systems, and as a proof of concept, Anthem just knocks it out of the park. When taken as a whole, that’s where the game fails, and that is entirely at the feet of the directors. ”

Every day there are tons of terrific, insightful, and unusual articles posted across the MMO gaming blogosphere — and every day, Justin reads as many as he can. Global Chat is a sampling of noteworthy essays, rants, and guides from the past few weeks of MMO discourse.
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David Goodman

I don’t think the genre is in a rut. I think the genre isn’t capable of sustaining a profit to the extent that a publisher will be satisfied by, because the only people willing to push themselves towards new games are people whose nature compels them to always seek out the next, fresh new thing.

The second that an MMO ’embraces new technology’, there will be people who finish it and then wonder where the next thing is.

At this point, I’m pretty sure that most developers have realized that you cannot sustain a game based on the early launch rush when it’s released; there is a subsection of gamers who will jump to each new game, play it hard until they “beat” it (or beat all current content), and then move on.

I like to call them content locusts, but y’know… in a tongue-in-cheek way. With a smirk and a wink and a tip of the hat. A friendly nudge, finger guns, a knowing nod. A secret handshake, a crude drawing of an all-seeing eye.

What a MMO developer wants are the lifers – the people who will hunker down in your world, immerse themselves in the lore, build a circle of friends they interact with and progress at a (happy) snail’s pace.

Those are the people who provide long-term revenue, and the problem with that is, those people have been playing World of Warcraft for two decades and are happy picking herbs and doing dailies while they listen to true crime podcasts. *waves behind him to his wife*

I’m a bad person to market to; she’s impossible to market to.

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Jon Wax

The game I designed would do it. Alas… Do not have enough brrrrrr

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Arktouros

The MMORPG market is at saturation and has been for years. While there’s certainly a small percentage of audiences who don’t have a MMO they regular play or go back to (IE: PvE sandboxes or PvP crowds) the vast majority of the MMORPG player base does.

There isn’t some tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands market of MMO themepark players that doesn’t already have a game that’s servicing them between WOW, FFMDCVIDIV, ESO, GW2, SWTOR and the list goes on. You can certainly pull from these player bases temporarily, everyone likes to be there to fill that “new MMO void” but a few months down the line people abandon that new title and go back to their familiar games. We saw this time and time again to the point even games we consider big or successful (ESO, FFMDCLDVIDIV, etc) failed initially on their launches and only made it by throwing even more money at their issues.

This makes the only kind of MMOs worth making extremely risk oriented. They’re risky because you’re either going after a fringe audience that other games have failed to capture or trying something new to attract people. We’re seeing lots of people taking a stab at the PvP fringe audience (Albion so far being the most successful) but not much of the others. Trying something new or experimental is risky and most companies are extremely risk adverse.

Like just straight up designing MMOs is a terrible market to go after. They aren’t “in a rut” in the sense they can just course correct and go back to how things used to be.

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Blake

Not sure I agree with your premise there aren’t enough people waiting for a new MMO. In my guild there are a lot of us playing Valhiem, Shooters and other survival/co-op games waiting for a new MMO.

We all used to be ESO and WoW players and a lot of us have totally unsubbed out of boredom. Where there’s be sixty plus people online a night in wow and thirty to forty a night in ESO there might be forty total between them now.

Right now we have our sights set on New World and in the last test we had to make three Guilds to fit the players.

Us un-housed MMO players are out there and are looking for something to play.

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Arktouros

The important part in these discussions is the scope of what you’re talking about. When we’re talking about the genre as a whole, you’re talking about literally millions of players across all those MMOs of which your “needed 3 guilds to fit the players” represents less than 0.001% of players in that genre.

At this point there’s no way New World is not a smashing success at launch. Provided none of the developers pull a sneaky and launch a new expansion right before August I would imagine we can expect large chunks from each game to go check out Amazons new MMO. That’s not really in dispute.

What is in dispute is what kind of audience are they going to keep after it’s launch. For example sure you have your 40-60 people per night of people that came from ESO and WOW. However you also unsubbed from that game out of boredom. With New World offering more of that same level of scripted dungeon content you already grew bored of in ESO and WOW how long before your “three guilds of people” are shoving off again looking for something new to do? Something tells me you’ll swear up and down the board you’ll stick with it, but again that’s less than 0.001% speaking, and past precedent has shown most people don’t stick with it.

This is all before we even discuss the real issue with these kinds of setups, the “call home” from their past games. There’s some really great postmortems of games like Warhammer Age of Recknoning which had the misfortune of launching months before a new WOW expansion where they went from catered feasts to slowly being called in to be fired one by one. How will New World fare if Blizzard decides to drop Burning Crusade right smack in October or November? Yikes.

I’ve been an un-housed MMO player for an extremely long time being a PvP focused player. We’ve seen this cycle before and we’ll likely see it again.

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Dug From The Earth

Id have to agree with this. Saying that there arent enough people waiting for a new MMO based on what? The total number of people currently playing other mmorpgs?

Thats horribly inaccurate if thats why its being based on.

Tons of mmorpgs players simply arent playing an mmorpg right now, because they are tired of the current offerings.

The mmorpg industry didnt end up in its current state because of the lack of players. It ended up in this state because companies tried to make quick money by throwing in their badly made hat into the arena back when the genre was booming. Players werent having any of the poorly made cloned garbage, which made companies shun the idea of spending years of development and money on something they felt would just fail.

Its stupid logic really. Build a shitty car, people wont want to drive/buy it. It doesnt mean people wouldnt buy a well built car.

To make the situation worse though, these companies found other cheap ways to make money much faster, with the introduction of Free 2 play and the universe of various microtransactions. Now they could slap together a mediocre game, with pretty visuals, make TONS of money on it up front, and then shut it down in under 2 years (Rinse, and repeat).

The only thing at this point that is going to save the genre is for companies to have the passion AND money to make a good game.

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Arktouros

Most of my opinions represented are based on past precedent from back when new MMO games were being released in the early 2010s. There was a repeated pattern that occurred where a new game would launch and then a major expansion would be released for a particular game (IE: WOW) and people would abandon the new game in droves. This happened a lot. Even now successful titles like Final Fantasy or ESO both failed extremely hard at their launches to the point they had to relaunch later with major updates. This is why we went from multiple new MMOs being released every year to basically none outside of translation cash grabs from Korea/China. This isn’t opinion or conjecture based on assumption this is history at this point.

My arguement was also not that the MMO market ended up in it’s current state due to a lack of players, but rather than the players it does have are tied to the games they already playing. To put this in more economic terms their needs and desires are already being fulfilled by current products on the market. That doesn’t mean they are 100% happy with their entertainment product all the time, and delays in content drops can cause them to look for other products temporarily. However when their game rings that dinner bell and the next expansion drops many have abandoned those new games. Again this is based on past precedent and there’s historical examples where WOW launches months after a new game release and the new game is left with no one playing.

You can certainly place some of the blame on that on new games being “a shitty car” but it’s hard to compete with existing products who launched as “a shitty car” but have had years to tune their cars up into good cars. That works for mega corps like ESO backed by Bethesda or Final Fantasy backed by Square. Many MMOs by comparison ended up having to convert to contentious business models in order to keep the lights going which just doubles down on their problems as you discuss.

There’s no way to “save” the genre because it doesn’t need saving. Most MMO players already have their needs met by the existing options. Even if a mega corp like Amazon launches their game into the market and for some reason backs it fully if it fails (unlike all their other games they pulled the plug on) that game will just end up pulling audience from other existing games. That again assumes that the “huge market” of people without a game are looking for yet another themepark MMO with similar game design to the other games they already quit/got bored with (Blake’s words). Which “shitty logic” states if they already grew tired of that model one time why wouldn’t get bored with it another?

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Dug From The Earth

Most MMO players already have their needs met by the existing options

There are “needs”… and then there are “wants”

The top 5 fill most mmorpg players “needs”… sure.

The top 5 still are very lacking when it comes to many mmorpg players “wants” however.

So in the mean time, they stick with what there is, until something better comes out. If that never happens, then they just say where they are at.

Meanwhile, the millions of players that left the genre over the years because they “wanted” more than just what was available, wont come back until a game can give them what they want.

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Arktouros

I mean we’re talking about an entertainment product, a video game. Needs/Wants are all wrapped up pretty closely to one another for something that’s entirely a voluntary, for-entertainment purposes participation.

Your explanation also fails to explain things like retention with game expansions, as most game expansions are simply more of the same content with minor variations. It also doesn’t explain the kind of feedback we see when developers do offer something new which in turn people complain why it isn’t more like the old system.

The far more likely case is that their wants are being met in most cases but their needs can temporarily not be fulfilled. Like someone who’s beaten all a game’s content then has to sit through a content lull at that temporary point in time their needs aren’t being met. However soon as more content is released they come back to what they want.

The tricky issue with more is that we’re capable of conceptualizing a more but have no route to realistically deliver it. Like we can cram words like “better mechanics” or “improved systems” or “more good combat” but when you start to functionally break down what any of that actually means it’s really a big mess that is based on nothing but cramming adjectives next to nouns.

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Dug From The Earth

except when you break down that simplicity into more than just saying its a game… for example

Players “need” a virtual, persistent, shared world for it to be an mmorpg, otherwise its just a single player game.

Players “want” fun and enjoyable activities to do.

WoW is a perfect example of providing the “need” here, but often failing at the “want”

It doesnt mean games dont TRY to give players what they want, they often just fail at doing so, either by falling short, or giving them something else in place of it IE: again with a WoW example… Covenants and soulbinds… Players didnt want these, but Blizzard insisted they be added.

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Arktouros

The issue with breaking it down further is you have no basis for doing so. You can speculate and conjecture what is a “need” vs what is a “want” but you have no factual basis as many cases that comes down to an individual preference. It is likely, for example, my needs when playing a MMO will match yours.

Criticizing WOW as failing “the want” is a great example of how you can get things wrong as clearly a game that sustains millions of customers even through multiple other game launches over the years shows it’s fulfilling need/want for an extremely large audience. If we followed your logic and people were just playing WOW because there was nothing else then those game launches should have attracted them away because they were different and then they would have just remained in those new titles until something else new came along. This certainly happens, but not to the scale that we see of WOW’s population.

Games regularly attempt to improve upon their product because it increases the likelihood they will retain and acquire new market share in a saturated market. However this fundamentally comes back to “new” and “appealing” discussed below and the fact that just because it’s new doesn’t mean it will be appealing. Getting the appealing part is pretty hard because a lot of the customer base enjoys and likes the existing model. In fact we can see that making too many changes to a system just creates an audience of people who want to go backwards, not forwards to new and innovative changes, such as with WOW Classic.

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Bruno Brito

The only thing at this point that is going to save the genre is for companies to have the passion AND money to make a good game.

Good luck with that. MMOs are extremely expensive, and tripleA companies are risk-adverse ( as they should be ). Our future is in the hands of crowdfunding and smaller, unproven talent.

God help us all.

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Arktouros

MMOs are extremely expensive, and tripleA companies are risk-adverse ( as they should be ).

This is my basic premise, except I expand it even further to all companies are risk adverse. Concepts like “new” or “more” or “better” are all very abstract and not a sure thing.

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NeoWolf

Market Saturation is something of a myth, as it assumes people are playing ALL games evenly. Whereas what happens in ANY market is the best get all the consumer love and the rest get what is left in varying degrees. And then the competitor MMOs have to pull some Golden Egg out of their collective developmental backsides to jockey for a higher position in the market and win some of that consumer interest.

As such it’s a neverending cycle, there can be no saturation so long as people continue to enjoy playing MMO’s and that particular facet of this discussion has not waned for most people. Indeed the main complaint is “we want a DECENT MMO” :)

Now a market LULL that I’d buy into we had a golden age period of MMO’s being in full flow in light of WOW’s huge success with many competitors trying to replicate or one-up it (And failing in varying degrees)… and that led to an abundance of cookie-cutter nothing new wow clones.. but if someone puts something spectacular out there, something that brings something new and appealing to the table it could well be a game-changer.

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Arktouros

Market saturation does not at any point assume that people are playing all games are evenly.

What market saturation assumes is demand for a particular thing is met and the only way to gain more market share is steal from other companies providing the product, expanding the over all market numbers, or improving upon a product in a way that will accomplish either of those. Saturation doesn’t care who has the customers, only that the customers in the market are having their needs met.

Now, obviously, not 100% of all customers needs are being met as I discussed and there are fringes who want fringe style games to cater to their needs. However again such niche products are successful to the scale that most game developers will want them to be. We’ve seen a lot of companies aim at the PvP player market for example over the last 5-7 years or so with so far Albion being the most successful of those titles.

As for the “lull” and a game developer putting out something “spectacular” this is where we get back to where I talked about new games being risk oriented. You say “new and appealing” however new is difficult to accomplish while also delivering appealing. A huge chunk of the existing market likes their current games and how they operate even though they’re old. People lambasted GW2 for not having gear advancement. People regularly ask where’s the dungeons and raids for BDO. Even New World got the same treatment. So as much as we can talk about “new” the “appealing” part is much more complicated.