Is The MMO Industry Less Sympathetic Now?
Maybe it’s just my imagination but the MMO industry seems to be quite brutal these days. Harsh words are spoken on a consistent basis by both amateurs and professionals, whether that be bloggers, podcasters, reviewers or the guys and gals who actually work in the industry and there’s almost no room for error on any front. The smallest mistake, the slightest dent in quality, the least amount of inconvenient downtime are all slammed by critics and met with unsympathetic battle cries. It’s a tough genre to crack and MMOs, in almost all cases, live or die by their initial reception.
It seems to me that both gamers and professionals are less sympathetic towards MMOs now than they’ve ever been before. Maybe it’s because the concept of a massive multiplayer online game has become old hat and it no longer holds the same sense of technological amazement and bewilderment it once did. Perhaps we’re just so used to the idea of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people playing the same game online together across the Internet that we’ve become numb to the staggering amount of effort and complexity that goes into making them. Ten years ago no one cared much about lag or latency because, frankly, no one had even heard of the terms before and we were all too busy worrying about our dial up modems and pay-by-the-minute phone bills to care much about trivial things like death penalties or polish.
So do we have a right to be more fussy and less sympathetic towards our MMOs now? Without a doubt the industry standards have been raised slowly over the years by every game that introduced a better feature or implemented something smoother than the rest. Every MMO or expansion that has a smooth launch, every game that makes something a little more intuitive or fun, every design aspect that removes a chore or tedious feature makes it that little bit harder for any other company to compete. Each little micro decision that enhances our gaming lives becomes a core trait that we can’t live without in any other MMO and a quality that determines not only our reception of it but it’s eventual long term success.
If I’m being honest, I suppose can’t say answer my own question because I’m not sure how I feel. The basic concept of capitalism and survival of the fittest dictates that we shouldn’t flinch at slamming a game that doesn’t meet our expectations or high standards. It’s 2010 after all and players deserve basic niceties like stable, bug free games with low latency and speedy, high bandwidth patchers. If we’re going to pour our hard earned money into monthly subscriptions and “added value transactions” then we deserve perfect, polished, Triple A MMOs that envelope us in the warmth of familiarity yet gently tease and entice us with staggering innovation. Right?
But then there’s that little voice inside of me, the one that belongs to my 17 year old self who still marvels at the technology behind Ultimate Online and drools over the square polygon shaped breasts of Barbarian women in Everquest, who tells me to stop being so utterly unrealistic and just enjoy what we’re given. Who cares if a games a little buggy or a little laggy or the intro cinematic’s a little lackluster, it’s the core behind the game that matters and we should enjoy it for what it is.
It’s a tough call for sure and sometimes I envy my 17 year old self and the naive, unspoilt sense of amazement the MMO industry had at that time. And then I remember the havoc my hormones played and thank Jesus I never have to go through it all again.