A while back I spied a thread on the MMORPG subreddit that was lamenting the fact that Final Fantasy XIV has been blowing up. It’s deleted now, as so many of these threads are, but it’s worth discussing.
“[FFXIV’s] rise in popularity has to be frustrating to people who already know they don’t enjoy it,” the original poster wrote. “[T]he game just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. People who don’t like rotations don’t like it, people who want to explore the world freely don’t like the mandatory MSQ progression, and the fact it’s general endgame is just matchmaking for content people want to speedrun through for currency is not what a lot of people would call a good time. But the hype is so immense and getting out of hand. I feel like I’m going to have to mute the game to stop hearing about it. I’m glad they’re enjoying something, but it’s like a weird FOMO.”
Now, I am not a big fan of FFXIV personally myself. I appreciate that it’s solid and that it has a good studio behind it, and I have happily voted for it when it’s won MMO of the year, even though I know it’s not for me. But the way I look at its recent popularity is that a rising tide lifts all boats. If FFXIV and other MMOs are on the rise, fantastic. It’s good for gamers, it’s good for nice communities, it’s good for developers, it’s good for investors, it’s good for streamers, and it’s good for us!
Other folks prefer to see this as a zero-sum game – that if FFXIV is winning, it means something else (WoW, in this case) is losing. But I still consider that a win for the genre overall since it means an MMO is keeping MMO players, devs, and money in the genre instead of letting it spill out into other genres, which ultimately could turn into even more money and fresh ideas being poured in if investors start to think of the genre as a blue ocean again instead of just one dominated by an aging and innovation-poor Blizzard title.
Is the MMO industry a zero-sum game? Or does a rising tide lift all boats?