MMOs And The Power Of Capitalism
I read an interesting post over at Tobold’s today about how Final Fantasy XIV is now entering it’s third free month of play. Apparently it’s not sold tremendously well and has had some bad press, so much so that Square Enix are visibly concerned about the future of the game. We know from past experiences that the first free month of any MMO is vital is generating momentum and sustaining a healthy player base so it’s no surprise that FFIX’s developers are crapping themselves at the prospect of a mass exodus of subscribers. Still, Tobold wonders Square Enix didn’t pick up on all of the problems earlier and try and do something about it before launch.
It’s a good question and, frankly, I think the answer boils down to hubris and cold, hard cash. Having never worked in the games industry I can only speak from an observers point of view but, considering what I’ve seen in other industries over the years, it seems like there’s a true sense of underestimating the customer in a lot of places. Businesses assume that people aren’t particularly fussy in what they spend their money on and although that’s probably true during periods of booming financial grow, it’s certainly not the case when people are feeling the pinch. Fact is, consumers are more picky about what they’re spending their money on now than ever before.
Of course, putting down bugs and problems in MMOs to arrogance is a huge generalisation and I’d bet that part of the decision was also financially motivated. And I don’t just mean the publishers running out of money to fund the project either but rather also that it’s a lot easier to ignore the cries of the beta tester than someone who’s actually voting with their wallet and when a subscription is at stake. Free open beta testers can highlighti ssues and complain about bugs as much as they want but I have no doubt that their feedback is valued a lot less than from those folk who are actually posed to fork out cash for the honour of playing.
Now I don’t have a huge amount of faith in the ideologies of capitalism but I’m feeling slightly warmer and fussier towards it all these days when we’re seeing moves by MMO games that are directly influenced by the customer. In an almost unbelievable way we, the players, are making these companies sit up and take notice of our feedback. Whether it be FFXIV giving out months of free play, or games like Champions Online 2 and Everquest 2 going Free-2-Play, it seems as if these guys are finally getting the message that we want good quality products at fair, reasonable prices.
Although I don’t necessarily agree with the black and white nature of capitalism, I do understand it’s business principle of survival of the fittest and I can’t help but appreciate at how it’s being played out in front of us with our MMOs. Recession removes our feeling of comfort and makes us all fussier consumers. My company has to be fight harder to earn it’s way meaning me, and all the other employees, have to work harder every day to ensure good quality and competitive value. As a knock on affect I’m a heck of a lot more aware about what I’m spending my cash on. Gone are the days of maintaining three MMO subscriptions a month and instead here are the days of waiting and reading reviews before buying absolutely anything. Bottom line is there’s now a lot less tolerance for subpar games in the MMOsphere than ever before.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little tête à tête about MMOs and capitalism. Tomorrow, why World of Warcraft reminds me of communist Russia.