I know I don’t post these opinion articles too often, but I wanted a place to touch upon my thoughts on just how MMORPGsa work and where they are going. Unsurprisingly I am going to mention World of Warcraft a lot in this article, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The business model of MMOs is a widely decried one. The “Why should I
have to pay more to play a game I’ve already bought?” argument is
thrown around at every opportunity, particularly by people who don’t
play MMOs. Now, these people are welcome to their opinion, but it’s very
unfortunate for them that their opinion isn’t likely to be considered
valid by most MMO players. It’s not that they can’t understand the whole
MMO appeal, but it’s because they’re not willing to experience it
because they don’t want to pay for it. For many MMO players, it’s an
expensive but affordable hobby, but unlike other hobbies it’s far, far
more to them than that. It’s a whole second life to many, many people;
They’ve got guilds full of friends and they’re constantly connected to a
world full of people that they’re very unlikely to ever meet in real
There’s a real level of disconnect between MMO players and the many
people who won’t play them which is very obvious to outsiders; MMOs are a
completely different class of games.
If you’re confounded as to why MMOs seem to continue chugging along
long after people should have got bored of them or stopped playing, then
it’s because of this disconnect. The business model is centered around
not giving people an incentive to play, but an incentive to communicate
with their fellow gamers. It’s a separate experience from the game
itself, and it’s all alongside a co-operative gaming experience.
So, moving away from why the work: Just how are they going
to continue working. The business model is sound, and whilst it can
continue indefinitely, it can become unprofitable. Every year you need
to bring tons of new content to stay ahead of your competitors to keep
people in your game, and every year more and more competitors get
announced. Just in recent months we’ve seen RIFT and Star Wars: The Old Republic both as the big contenders for the King Pin title held by World of Warcraft.
So, you need to constantly employ people to make new content and you
need to constantly maintain huge servers capable of holding your
audience. Not only that, but you’ll need to do mass technology updates;
your servers are going to run out of steam eventually and will need
replacing and updating. It costs a serious amount of dosh to keep an MMO
running and keep it on top of it’s game. People say that Blizzard are
money moochers, but they still employ hundreds of employees and have to
maintain their offices, subsidary companies, GMs, servers and keep their
game running smoothly. Sure, they’re raking money in, but they’re
spending huge amounts of it.
This is where the future of MMOs kicks in.
There is never going to be a unified MMO. It’s too lucrative a market for other companies not to try jumping in.
So, where is the MMO going? It’s going to Blizzard, that’s where it’s
going. And, I don’t think it’s going to be mystery-project Titan,
either, I think it’s going to be World of Warcraft for many
years to come. It is sheerly too difficult to overcome such a juggernaut
now, and I think that it’s completely out of Blizzard’s hands anymore.
When you’ve got 10 million players and more, you’ve got just too many
people to answer to. Imagine just what might happen to the gaming market
if World of Warcraft just vanished off the map; If even half
of those players continued to play MMOs, every single other MMO would
receive such a huge influx of players that they’d be completely
revitalised, they might even completely change for the better.
It’s because of this that I’ll never understand the concept of a “WoWKiller”, as SWTOR
was meant to be. We are currently at the point where it just can’t be
done. Even if you can get the entirety of WoW’s playerbase behind your
MMO, they’re always going to remember the MMO that bought them together
as a community and if you give them the chance they will return to it.
Many MMOs have turned to the Free 2 Play route, such as Aion. Others have resorted to giving out their game for free like RIFT. Some have introduced a permanent free trial far too early in their lifecycle (*Cough* SWTOR *Cough*). But these tactics aren’t dragging people to their MMO, they’re pushing them away in many cases. RIFT lets you know that you can pick it up whenever you want, you don’t need to now. SWTOR
has very early in it’s life said that you can play it for free up to
level 20, so you don’t need to invest in it. They’re trying to adopt a
business model to bring in more users, but they’re only trying to appeal
to MMO gamers, and those people are busy with WoW. You can’t take the
WoW playerbase, as unfortunate a truth as it is.