MMORPG: Rise Of The Yuppie
For a long time after I finished University and was forced to get a real job, I used to moan and complain about how MMORPGs rewarded those that had the most time. No longer could I wallow alone in darkness all day hooked in front of a computer screen battling the evils of Norrath with my cyber companions. MMOs, especially older ones like Everquest, were incredibly time intensive and you practically couldn’t play them at the higher levels with anything less than a solid 4 hour window. Time was the biggest single contributing factor to progress, rewarding the unemployed and penalising the money rich/time poor player. All of this meant that my new found 9-5 lifestyle left my gaming progress in the dust and me desperately trying to claw together any spare hours I could to fuel my hobby.
A few years later though and we’re now seeing a new trend emerging: the rise of the yuppie. MMORPG developers/publishers have twigged to the fact that the majority of gamers aren’t poor kids and teenagers but instead 20 & 30 somethings with full time jobs and an income. To these yuppies gaming is a hobby and one they’re willing to spend money on (just like any hobby) and companies are taking full advantage of this fact. Even if we look outside of the MMORPG and PC genres other platforms, such as the PS3, Xbox and iPhone, go as far as requiring a credit card connected to your online account. These devices are obviously not targeted at little Billy who’s only source of income is the $5 he gets every week for mowing the lawn of the creepy old neighbour next door.
However, money takes a job to earn it and that takes time which leads to the ultimate situation of those having the cash not having the time to spend it. A game that requires a vast amount of time to participate in is not going to attract busy people, especially those with disposable incomes. Blizzard caught onto this pretty quickly and through studying the metrics of their player base decided to make their content more accessible. Other MMORPGs soon followed suit.
I don’t believe Blizzard intentionally set out to make World of Warcraft a “casual” game for yuppies, instead I think they just cleverly looked at the statistics of their players and realised that only a small percentage of people taking advantage of raids and high level content is waste of everyone’s resources. They deduced that only a small fraction of their subscribers have the time to grind and jump through all of the time-sink hoops that MMORPGs often require and decided that they wanted to appeal to a more mass market. The resulting side effect (perhaps even purposeful result) was a game ideally targeted towards the modern geek yuppie who wants quick fun, easy rewards and has cash to burn.
So what does the future hold? I think obviously we’re going to start seeing a lot more games designed specifically with the yuppie in mind, games that are easy to access, quick to play and come with plenty of added value incentives in addition to their subscription fees. They won’t be F2P games, they won’t even be subscription games, they will be Premium Reward MMO-Action Experiences. It’s going to be like the yuppie revolution of the 1980s all over again except this time instead of comparing gold Rolexes and business cards, it will be sparkly mounts and dancing pets.