Vague Patch Notes: Skewed perspectives of the MMO industry


So there were some surprises when Fractured announced that it had secured a publishing deal with Gamigo, or rather that Gamigo announced that Fractured was going to be published under its umbrella and then Fractured chimed in with explanations. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that both the game and the publisher were sailing through the night when suddenly, unexpectedly, they were roommates. Mixed metaphors aside, not everyone was exactly happy about this fact because “Gamigo” is not generally what people think of when they think of “publisher with lots of MMOs that treats them well” after all the games it killed off in 2021.

This prompted some questions about why in the world Dynamight Studios would do this. And it makes sense to me… but I also get why people are asking the question.

This column isn’t really about Fractured, which in the court of my personal interest occupies my usual spot of “this is not a game I have any personal interest in, but I want it to launch and do well and make its fans happy.” But I think it’s worth examining why this deal probably looked very good to Dynamight in the first place as the first step to understanding, well… how skewed our perspectives on this stuff really can be.

See, for Fractured, I can see the upside almost immediately. Signing on with a publisher the size of Gamigo means, first and foremost, that more than five people are likely to hear of Fractured. All of the discussion sounds like the same creative team remains in charge, and this deal allows the developers to actually boost the team, make meaningful progress, and yes, market to an audience that stretches into potentially profitable numbers.

You might think that’s a weird sentiment to hold because people know about Fractured already. It successfully crowdfunded, even! Clearly, this was a game with a major fanbase already, and obviously we report on it, so it must be sort of a big deal, right? It has to have a substantial base already, doesn’t it?


Again, I want to make this clear: This is in no way a mark against the tiny studio making its tiny MMO passion project toiling away in obscurity. This is not about them somehow failing or an indictment of their ideas. Rather, it’s about the reality of this subgenre and the fact that it’s easy to forget if you hang out in the comment section of this site that this subgenre is very, very capable of being tiny.

How are you... you're still... what

The average video game fan has not heard of Fractured. Heck, the average video game fan probably hasn’t heard of a lot of games that you think of as being reasonably well-known. Part of why we classify certain games as the “big five” is that those five games are the ones that are most likely for an “average” person to have heard of them… and even that is far from certain.

And outside of video game fans? I know a lot of people who have to struggle remembering the title of World of Warcraft. You’d better believe that they have no knowledge of something more obscure. The average person cannot name 30 MMOs from memory; heck, I’d wager that the average person is remarkably savvy if that number reaches one. You think everyone knows that Gamigo is a bad company that kills tons of MMOs? Dude, I hate to break it to you, but most people would need you to explain what Defiance even was before explaining how Gamigo killed it.

Yes, all of it. The show, the game, the game reboot after the show had long since ceased broadcasting, the whole package from top to bottom. I’d say you have low odds of anyone listening after the first few lines of explanation, but I applaud your valiant efforts nonetheless.

This is not to imply that I think Gamigo is a great company; that’s not the point. The point is that the average person who is hearing about Fractured for the first time is not going to see this and know that this is an indie crowdfunded title which now has a publishing deal with a company that has a bad track record of shuttering games. The average person is, hopefully, going to see what looks like a potentially cool MMO and see that it has the backing of a major publisher with some muscle to put behind it, so it’s not going to sputter out in a few months.

But then, that’s kind of the difference between people who are familiar with this field and those who aren’t. I’m willing to bet that most of the people who comment on this article or even read this article in the first place are probably already far more informed about this genre than the average fan. Heck, if you know what Fractured is, you’re already ahead of the game there.

What does that mean? It means we sometimes need to adjust our expectations.

I suppose.

There was a great xkcd about how experts in a field tend to overestimate even their lowball targets for what an average person knows about the field in question. The same is true of hobbyists. It’s very easy to think that names we all know by heart like Raph Koster are common knowledge even outside of this field, but the reality is that even Richard Garriott is not someone everyone knows about. I know people who have actually played World of Warcraft for years and yet have no knowledge of who Ion Hazzikostas or Steve Danuser are, much less what influence they have on the current direction of the game.

So what does this mean? Well… mostly that we all need to have a little perspective. The average person does not read sites about MMOs. Heck, the average person does not read sites about video games, period. It’s very easy to assume that certain things are general knowledge when they are really only well-known among enthusiasts and devotees.

When you see a deal that seems weird, like Gamigo picking up Fractured, it’s easy to look at it entirely from the enthusiast angle wherein you know that the company in question is bad and not someone that should be dealt with. But it’s also easy to get lost in the woods there, to not realize that for Fractured this is actually a huge win even if you think (defensibly) that you’d be happier if they were keeping better company.

It’s important to keep perspective on these things. Just because you know these things doesn’t mean they’re necessarily general knowledge, even among people who you might think would know better. And sometimes deals can be made that seem like they’d be bad decisions when you evaluate them on the basis of expertise… but they actually take on a very different cast when you look at them from a broader perspective.

In other words, remember that you are probably evaluating this based on more specialized information than someone who has never heard of any of this. And maybe take a step back to re-examine your assumptions along the way.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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