Have MMOs Affected The Success Of Single Player Games?

WoW screenshot

World of Warcraft. The greatest single player game there is.

Gazimoff from Mana Obscura made an interesting off-the-cuff remark in my post the other day about a world without Warcraft. He commented on how if WoW didn’t exist, he’d have a much more extensive games collection. And he’s right, so would I (at least if MMOs didn’t exist at all) and I’m sure a lot of other folk would too. In fact it seems to be that MMOs, by nature, conflict with the concept of single player games almost to the extent that the two can’t mutually exist. Single player games entertain us for a fixed period of time until we’ve completed them and move on to the next one whereas MMOs are endless and designed specifically to engross us to the exclusion of almost everything else. I don’t know about you but I barely touch single player games.

I used to buy a fair number of single player games for both the PC and console but it’s dropped off dramatically over the past few years, not because I’ve lost interest in them but rather that I’ve come to realise that most of them just sat around gathering dust with only a handful of hours invested in them. MMOs always took priority for me and it was very rare that I ever even completed a single player game so now I barely bother. Fact is, MMOs are so consuming and so compelling that it’s almost impossible for me to find the time to play anything else and I have no doubt that it’s a common feeling amongst MMO gamers.

Of course sometimes I take “holidays” from my current MMORPG of choice just so I can focus on another type of game but that’s a rare thing to happen. A couple of weeks ago I bought Dead Space 2 and last year I probably bought three PC games, two of them being Starcraft 2 and Dragon Age: Origins, both of which I completed and had finished with within two weeks. The other game was Fallout 3 although I don’t think I really invested a lot of time in it and probably could have done without buying it (it was on sale though!).

Money wise that’s still a fair chunk of change going to non-MMO games but I can’t help but think that had I not had MMOs in my life, I would’ve probably spent a vast amount more, maybe buying a game or two every month as opposed to one every four. Indeed, as the perfect target market for the gaming industry (male, 20-something, grew up playing games, disposable income), I can’t help but wonder if a lot of companies are losing out on a lot of cash simply because I’m hooked on games like WoW.

For me though, having an avid interest in MMOs is probably a good thing for my wallet and forking out £10 or £15 a month for a subscription to WoW, EVE or Everquest or something is a lot better value for money than buying a single player game every few weeks. Certainly MMOs have saved me a lot of cash over the years but maybe they’ve unknowingly damaged the viability and success of all of the other types of games out there as some sort of unseen side affect.

What do you think?


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  1. Naithin says:

    I have a much better balance of SP/Small MP to MMO ratio these days.

    However, when I first got into MMOs back in the days of AC1, yeah, all SP purchases pretty much went out the window for a good number of years.

    There are still patches now where I go through MMOMMOMMONOTHINGELSE,GOTTADOALLTHETHINGS! And then only the best of the SP games can bust through (Dragon Age: Origins for example busted through such a patch because I’d been wanting it forever, The Witcher didn’t and ended up getting shelved for a long time, although this ended up being in my favour as the devs released a LOT of post-launch content and patches to improve the game).

    But yeah, for the most part, can balance both. For instance, diving into NWN2:MotB and Just Cause 2 lately while not raiding in WoW. :)

    As to actually directly answering the question?

    If MMOs didn’t exist, yeah, I likely would’ve bought more of the ‘marginal’ games as a time sink. You know the ones. Ones you are sort of half interested in, and maybe if you didn’t have x, y and z to do you might get them, but because you do you don’t.

    So I suppose yes. Games that might have been right on the edge of being considered ’successful’ may have been impacted if enough MMOers felt the same way about them, or, were in the MMO trance that comes with discovering the genre or finding a new goal you really want to achieve ingame.

    • Gordon says:

      I’m actually thinking of getting more into the SP industry again because I feel like I’m missing out on so many gems these past few years. The problem is that MMOs keep me so occupied and I have no more time for anything else :(

  2. Stubborn says:

    I think you’re right, that the SP market has been damaged by MMOs. I think it’s not only in terms of our play time and purchases, though, but also in design. If MMOs weren’t out there, making as much money as they are, then the SP market might have hundreds more developing houses producing more innovative, interesting ideas that we would want to buy.

    The list of games that you have purchased (Fallout 3, Dragon Age, etc) mirrors my purchases almost identically, because those are the only ones that have really caught my eye, but who knows how many more in that vein, or perhaps even a new vein totally unrealized in the MMO world, would be out there?

    The steady morphine drip cash flow that the MMO market has produced, though, makes the SP market less attractive. Even with the advent and popularization of DLC, there’s still a limit to how much each game can make, a limit not present in MMOs. Why would any developer want to make less money?

    Well, the hope is that the actual act of producing a well-designed game – a work of gaming art – would be enough to make designers chase whatever platform (SP or MMO in this case) would be the best fit for their game. That’s the hope. The perhaps naive hope.

    Great post!

  3. Pathak says:

    One of my self justifications for subscribing to WoW is that I save a whole bunch of money by not buying single player games. Having said that, I have made purchases like The Witcher, Bioshock, CoD:MW2, SC2, Assassins Creed and the Diablo battlechest during the 5 and a half years I’ve been playing WoW, plus a Wii and a handful of games that only get played once or twice a year. I’ve also had a go at F2P DDO, F2P LotRO, Battle of the Immortals and even Free Realms. Hell, even the long play Farmville and Cityville seem to hold my attention over WoW, when I sit down to put in a few hours of gaming each night.

    There’s definitely been a lethargy in my interest in WoW, however. After TBC and the regular Kara raiding that went on, to the detriment of my relationship, I swore off raiding for WotLK. This time around, I cant even bring myself to run dungeons, not even normals. The idea of having to learn another bunch of boss fights just doesn’t interest me. In fact, it makes me shudder. I’d much rather get into some PvP, and even then, it’s just BGs that I’m doing, although if I do find some likeminded people that will do a weekly run of 10 arena matches for sh*ts and giggles, then a few arena points would come in handy).

    I will be looking forward to Diablo III, when it is released, but given the extended beta testing that was SC2 (well deserved beta testing, I’m sure), and no release date to actually look forward to, I’m not going to hold my breath.

    And I’m not even sure I’d bother trading in the WoW subscription for some of the other shinier MMOs that are coming out… RIFT, ToR and GW2. I’ll probably keep riding out WoW, just like I’m going to do with my first and current car (a Mazda 323, 1998). Ghostcrawler coined the phase best… “Into the ground, baby!”

    • Gordon says:

      For sure I’m still going to buy SP games (and I’ll certainly get DA2 and D3) but now I suppose I just buy only the “best” ones rather than all of the “good” ones. I think that saves me money in the long run even when you add in my MMO subscriptions.

  4. Andrew says:

    I don’t think that the single player game market has been damaged at all, financially, by MMOs. MMOs are still niche in terms of numbers, with WoW being the one exception. But look at the number of units something like Call of Duty moves in a single week (and long term) and MMOs seem like peanuts.

    For me though, having an avid interest in MMOs is probably a good thing for my wallet and forking out £10 or £15 a month for a subscription to WoW, EVE or Everquest or something is a lot better value for money than buying a single player game every few weeks.

    I used to deceive myself thinking this too. But I have a one word rebuttal that I learned after growing sick of MMOs: Steam.

    The amount of content that a frugal gamer can buy on Steam and the other digital download services for dirt cheap makes a $15/month MMO subscription seem like an extravagance. $5 for 60 hours of The Witcher? Yes please. $5 for the 25 hour Mass Effect campaign? A steal! $1.50 for KotR… okay, twist my rubber arm. $50 for the entire THQ library….. holy hell, why not?!?!?

    Subscription MMOs are not as good a deal as they seem like when that’s all you’re playing…. trust me.

    • Tesh says:

      Seconded. I get a LOT better bang for my buck if I stay far away from MMO spending, and even though I do still like dabbling in something like Puzzle Pirates or Wizard 101, most of my gaming time is still offline single player gaming. Maybe it’s because I treat gaming as a hobby rather than a commitment. I refuse to commit to an MMO to get my money’s worth.

    • Gazimoff says:

      This is a great point – I have a nice Steam account as well slowly building up a collection of games. There’s only one snag.

      I never ever buy games on Steam at full price.

      Don’t get me wrong, I check the store regularly, but I only pick things up when they’re at a substantial discount. I don’t feel the need to buy games on launch day because I have other stuff I can play instead, and I’m happy to wait for the price to drop.

      But doesn’t this devalue the developer’s work? Sure, a sale’s a sale and they’re getting some money rather than no money, but I think the argument’s still valid.

      I’m curious to understand from yourself – do you buy games at full price on Steam, or do you wait for the sales/promotions/discount?

      • Andrew says:

        I buy very few games at full release price, ever. I have a substantial backlog of titles (PC, Wii, PS3) almost all of which were purchased on the cheap.

        Going off on a tangent:
        I wish – for a variety of reasons – that the model of charging $60/game would die off….. developers would make a lot more money if they charged LESS for their titles and thus made more sales. If new games released for $20 then they would move a lot more than the 3x copies necessary to make the same amount of money as if they released at $60. AND piracy would take a hit, because a lot of people pirate because they can’t afford full priced games.

    • Gordon says:

      True, buying stuff on sale is a great way to get a bargin. I got Fallout 3 that way and probably should do it more often. One of the things I do like about single player games that I didn’t mention and is a draw for me is the fact you don’t need to be online to play them. Sometimes I had having an umbilical cord directly to the Internet.

  5. ScytheNoire says:

    Gaming companies have pulled out of the PC market so much, or choose to release console versions of PC games, that frankly, I hope MMO’s have hurt them. They abandoned us, the PC gamers, first. If all they are going to offer are really lame ports, then they can keep those single player games. Gone it seems are the days of companies pushing the edge of PC gaming and making games that have deepth. So few of those these days that aren’t either buggy as hell or crappy console ports.

    • Andrew says:

      What console-only games are you missing? Sure, there are a few PS3/XBox exclusives…. but there have ALWAYS been console exclusives. (In fact, if anything the existance of the XBox has made it so there are fewer and fewer titles that don’t come to the PC).

      PC gaming is vibrant right now…. but it’s all direct download; if you go to a brick & mortar shop it’ll look dead.

  6. Stabs says:

    More people are playing games. So sure people like you and me (and my switch from SP to MMO has been just like yours) are lost revenue to the SP makers but other customers have come in.

    In some respects it’s an artificial distinction. If you’re a professional game designer with skills in computer programming, art, world building, quest design, game design and incentivisation then surely you can work with either type of game? So the games companies are not losing money because some of us prefer passing characters to have a player controlling them.

    As for spend some people spend a lot on MMOs. People in Eve can spend a fantastic amount, it’s a pay to win game. I usually try a few different MMOs each year. F2p has made a lot of money off people with poor impulse control or more money than sense – one healer in DDO when it went F2P blew $200 on mana potions healing strangers in pugs.

    • Gordon says:

      I think the whole F2P strategy and micro transaction fad we’re seeing now is in response to MMO players no longer buying so many single player games and thus having more disposable cash. If you used to buy a PC game every 2 or 4 weeks, you’d probably not think twice about dropping down some bucks in a MMO cash shop.

  7. Bhagpuss says:

    Before I bought EQ in late 1999 I had been playing offline, single-player CRPGs and Adventure games. I bought EQ mostly because I could not find enough good offline games to meet my demand and it looked similar to the kind of games I liked.

    Since then, the only offline games I have bought are Baldur’s Gate 2 (finished), Morrowind (barely started), Knights of the Old Republic (never even installed) and Dragon Age (half-finished and abandoned). I also bought Neverwinter Nights, but I never played the single-player game and played mostly online as a pseudo-MMO.

    I don’t play computer games other than RPGs. I’ve never played any of Blizzard’s games other than WoW, no Diablo or Warcraft. If it wasn’t for WoW I wouldn’t even have heard of them. If it wasn’t for MMOs I’d probably only buy two or three offline games a year, if that. Chances are I wouldn’t even be playing games at all.

  8. vortal says:

    Ever since I started playing MMOs I lost all interest in single player games, I would never have the same fun I get from playing a single player game ever. I also gave up on consoles, but I did continue to play RTS games a lot despite MMOs being around.

  9. browolf says:

    I imagine if they made an MMO version of a call of duty (not infeasible I reckon) that would pretty much be the last nail in the SP coffin.

    I think i’ve bought 3 sp games in the last 5 years since i got into ffxi.

  10. Epiny says:

    Before MMOs I would rent 2-3 games a week for the console and typically buy 1 a month. I would typically get 2 games as presents for my Birtday and 2 more for Christmas… or a new console if one came out I wanted.

    Now I don’t rent games any more. I buy maybe 1 console game a year and 2-3 PC games a year, those end up being shitty MMOs though.

    So I went on average from purchasing 14-16 games a year and renting another 50-100 to buying 2-3 a year and never renting.

  11. Phaedra says:

    My husband and I both noticed this. We’re both pretty avid WoW players, coming up on our 5 year anniversary of playing the game. Aside from a few DS games (Pokemon, Scribblenauts, Prof Layton, Mario Party – mostly while traveling or with our neice and nephew), and a brief foray with DA:O, we don’t really play any other games. Part of it saving money, but mostly, there’s so much we do in WoW – we don’t have time to commit to another game. I briefly tried Fable 3 on the Xbox for an hour one day and kinda felt guilty about gaming and not being in WoW.

  12. [...] posted wondering what impact MMO’s have on SP games just the other day and to begin with I was fairly happy to let my comment stand as my response to [...]

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