MMORPGs – The Hollywood Blockbusters Of Gaming

For a short while now, the video games industry has been compared to Hollywood based on the reasoning that games are starting to require a similar scale of development and marketing as a film does. Of course, there are lots of different types of films and different types of games, but if MMORPGs had a film comparison, isn’t it likely that they would be the summer blockbusters of the gaming world?

Although there are a few small MMO releases every so often, most tend to be very large scale and come with a gigantic push from the developers. Like those summer blockbuster films, modern MMORPGs burn through gigantic budgets and need to recuperate a lot of dough in order to see them become successful. They have huge amounts of backing, take years to develop, build hype slowly over dozen of months and then release to a frenzied onslaught like a new Star Wars film. And much like a Hollywood blockbuster, some rise to extraordinary heights of fame and success whilst some hit the water and flop to become cult classics before they’ve even gained momentum.

I think the similarities between MMORPGs and movie blockbusters can also be seen now in their production values. Take Star Wars: The Old Republic for instance. All you need to do is watch a few behind-the-scenes videos and you can literally see the money oozing out of it. Fully voiced? In several languages? Sounds a little bit like a Hollywood film saying it needs $300 million for special effects. Obviously BioWare are taking a big gamble but are betting that bigger and more spectacular production values will lead to bigger and spectacular sales and subscriptions.

Of course this is all a little worrying for me because I can’t help but wonder if MMOs will suffer the same fate as blockbuster films and end up being just about the special effects, the A-list actor, the predictable mix of action/comedy/romance suitable for all ages (PG-13). The beautiful thing about the original blockbusters (Jaws and World of Warcraft) was that the creators never intended, or imagined, that they would prove as successful as they did and thus never put any pre-conditions or expectations on them. They were what they were.

All of this is just another reason why you should be watching films like Oldboy and not Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And if you enjoyed the latter for any reason other than Megan Fox, you should be deeply, deeply ashamed.

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10 Comments

  1. Sadly, my tastes in both are changing. I am looking more to indie production companies to make the games and movies I truly desire (Fallen Earth and Paranormal Activity) because of the run-of-the-mill, lowest common denominator stuff that comes out of the big boys lately. (You’re perfectly right in using Transformers 2 for an example–worst. movie. ever.)

    I’m sur TOR is going to be great, and well worth the money spent on it, but I wonder if it’s really necessary. Bioware has enough talent to make a game on a smaller budget that’s just as fun.

  2. Jim says:

    I love blockbuster movies! There are a lot of blockbuster movies that actually live up to the hype and make a lot of money. Games on the other had have not. It is very rare that a game lives up to all the hype. I

  3. ogrebears says:

    I have a friend of a friend who knows someone in beta…. Its apparently really really buggy right now. I do hope the fix all those bugs before they push it out on us.

  4. Dickie says:

    I see the comparisons here, but I’m not sure I can agree with the analogy, if only because MMOs are still niche. Even WoW, with it’s pop culture significance, has taken years to sell as many boxes as some of gamings true blockbuster titles

    I think a better analogy would be to a Joss Whedon show. While they may not be as hugely popular as Friends, they make a crap ton of money due to fan loyalty. But then that doesn’t account for budget…. Hmmm, this analogy crap is hard! ;)

    And I do have to admit to watching Transformers 2, and it wasn’t for Megan “toe-thumb” Fox. What can I say, that Shia Lebouf is delicious! It was the only way my boyfriend could drag me to go see it lol

  5. Frank says:

    Selling a game based on gameplay and fun factor rather than hype is something plenty of MMO developers could stand to learn these days. Some of them, like Bioware, have been extremely cautious about it, not bothering to release information about TOR until it is summarily ready for prime-time. I can’t complain about this approach.

    I give Bioware a bit more slack on the blockbuster idea because this is hardly the first time they’ve accentuated story and voiced characterization to increase atmosphere and immersion. They’re doing what they’ve always done, just on a larger scale.

  6. What I wonder is how long will all the voice acting and storytelling feel new and exciting… before I turn the volume down and look for the skip button. While I love being amazed at the beauty and immersion of a new world… there are also times where I just want to put on some music and mindlessly kill stuff.

    I doubt ToR will be able to keep me focused on one main character forever… is the same storyline going to be interesting my 3rd, 4th…. 8th time? Ultimately it will take more then voice acting to give ToR Longevity.

  7. [...] Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires ponders the next generation of Hollywood-esque MMOs and Star Wars: The Old Republic’s place in the genre. [...]

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