Every Year That Passes Makes It Harder For New MMOs To Compete

RIFT MMO

RIFT knows how to compete for its audience

Today’s an interesting day as it sees the simultaneous launch of the RIFT open beta (the new) and the new Everquest progression server (the old). It’s funny how we have one game, for all intents and purposes, opening its doors to the general public for the first time going up against another game that’s been kicking around for twelve years. There are literally kids who have been born and gone to school and grown up within the lifespan of Everquest (and if you happen to live in Scotland, become parents themselves) and that’s pretty incredible. But I can’t think of many of other genres where new games not only have to compete with every other release that year but also archaic dinosaurs from last century. Talk about tough.

It’s kinda funny even thinking that World of Warcraft is six years old and still entertains enough players to constitute an entire country in it’s own right. I don’t see many single player games still being so popular after so long (unless you happen to be Korean and play Starcraft) and that’s downright amazing. This huge lifespan, not just with WoW but almost all MMOs, presents a big issue for new games looking to establish themselves on the market though and makes competition even more fierce. New MMOs aren’t just fighting it out with other candidates releasing that month or that year but also against hugely established franchises with hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of loyal players.

One of the greatest things about MMOs is there ability to evolve and change over time and it’s why so many of them can remain so current. Every year developers add a slew of new features and new content and new expansions to their MMOs, making them bigger and better and more involved and streamlined than ever before. And this presents a massive challenge to new games. They aren’t just competing with features from a game two or three years ago when they were first commissioned but with features that might have been added only a few months or weeks ago.

The features that player’s demand has also increased massively in a short space of time too. It’s not what we want either but rather now what we expect and what we’re going to measure every new MMORPG against. For instance, wWe don’t want to just view or equip an item but we want to be able to link its stats in chat, preview it on our character, compare it side-by-side to the current item equipped, store in an our equipment manager and even use it solely as a vanity item.

This little sub-set of features is a perfect example of how usability and functionality has rapidly evolved in a short space of time and how every year that passes throws up another ton of hurdles to overcome and features that have to be included. It might be OK for Blizzard or Turbine or CCP to keep enhancing their games every year with new stuff but what about the company that’s trying to get their game out to a fixed deadline on a fixed budget? Are they really going to be able to compete?

All of this means that new MMOs are faced with bigger costs than ever before and even steeper mountains to climb to establish themselves in a competitive market. Some might rely on powerful franchises or innovate approaches but ultimately the things that they are going to be compared and reviewed against are growing more potent and common each day. It’s almost little wonder why we’ve barely seen any MMO make a strong impact in the market in the past three years.

-Gordon

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27 Comments

  1. Millen says:

    Personally I feel that MMO developers of today seem to be in it more for the money than actually to make a grate game. I guess that it’s not strange with the amount of money you need to put up to make a MMORPG with the standard of today. But anyway…
    Hopefully Rift will be one of those games that can bring something fresh to the community without having the need to pump every cent out of every gamer. And always need to find the next way to squeeze out more dough out of the product.

    • Gordon says:

      Having played the RIFT OB a little now I think it will do well but I doubt it’s going to set the world on fire. I think it will have a big drop off after the first month as people return to WoW. It’s a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nothing new.

  2. Longasc says:

    An IP, amazing quality or a niche are what a MMO needs to thrive nowadays.

    Quality seems to cost the most money, take a look at SWTOR, RIFT and SWTOR. Earthrise suffers from bugs and all that, Perpetuum seems to do better.

    • Shadow-war says:

      As long as it’s not an existing IP, I’ll agree!

      All glib aside, I’m convinced more than ever that existing IPs only lead to disapointment and hard feelings. The game usually has to cater to the IP’s requirements even if it won’t be the best design choice, and the fans ALWAYS end up just feeling let down and underwhelemed. Unless the company making the game also owns the IP and is able to introduce Space Goats.

    • Gordon says:

      Totally agree. Will be very interesting to see how SWOTR performs as it has the big IP and should have good quality.

  3. rowan says:

    I think one of the biggest hurdles is player inertia. They–we–have invested so much time and effort with our characters that we can be reluctant to leave them behind even to try something new.

    It’s also why MMO players tend to measure cost/benefit in terms of time investment rather than monetary investment.

  4. Epiny says:

    A MMO has to get my friends to play. I’m very easy to convince to try a MMO out, my friends are not. They are so dedicated to WoW they wont even give another MMO a chance. Those are the people they need to get to play. I will go, try out the new MMO. I may even convince a few friends to play it. However if my friends, or my friends friends all don’t come then we will all slowly trickle back to our original MMO.

    I am happy that most of my friends are getting tired with WoW faster and faster after each expansion. I think they will play for one more at most.

  5. browolf says:

    What people want and what’s good for them and the future of MMO development aren’t necessarily the same things.

  6. Pretty much each of the comments above is part of the contributing reason why its so hard for new MMO’s to compete. Also very much agree with what browolf said which is also very much preventing real innovation, growth and change in the MMO community. What people want and whats really needed in the MMO community/innovation indeed aren’t really the same thing.

  7. SlothBear says:

    If you’re trying to sell a new car, you can’t target people who already own one unless you’ve got something new to offer.

    I have yet to see an MMO company make a real effort to draw in people who don’t already play MMOs. Perhaps if MMO companies would design products aimed at something other than people who are already playing them, they’d find their audiences less demanding of features that are already found in other games. Just a thought.

  8. tinker says:

    i’d say the comments here explain a lot.

    Like Epiny, I am fairly willing to try out new games. I may even play them long-term, time and cost permitting… but it is much harder to get my money if no friends play–I am very much a social gamer.

    @Sloth There are a ton of MMOs that appeal to those that haven’t had much experience. For family-friendly audiences, there’s maplestory, free realms, lego universe, hello kitty online, and iirc a barbie/fairytopia mmo. I believe all except LU are freemium games (LU is $10usd/month).

    A really big trend in games is the Facebook style of multiple people playing in the same spaces and interacting, but being easier to drop/pause than say… killing internet dragons. It’s a mmo of sorts, but you don’t require large groups and can play on individual schedules. Those games grab “non-gamers” in droves, and I think the steep learning curve in MMOs that appeal to gamers runs them off (as does the poison attitude that is so prevalent in MMOs).

    Also, similar styles of games will have similarities. Fantasy MMOs all draw heavily from standard fantasy tropes. Controls are similar (just like puzzles and platformers and fps and fighting games have similar controls), and each game builds off successes and failures in the world around them. Breaking too far from standard mmo controls is basically a kiss of death, and moving out of space, fantasy, or cartoon seems to be a dealbreaker.

    • Gordon says:

      A few MMOs now are offering whole guild beta invites which is a smart move. Essentially the open beta now seems to be a way to get large numbers of people to try the game for free and, hopefully, convince their friends to buy it too.

  9. vortal says:

    Everyone has their own MMO that they have followed from the very start, and they probably won’t be giving it up anytime soon. Even if you didn’t follow it from the very start, you can still be a loyal fan towards the game, and most of the people who are reading this website are probably loyal fans to a MMO. People like us don’t really buy other games a lot except out of pure curiosity or maybe it was a fad. We stick to our games.

    For example mine was World of Warcraft, before that I was playing Halo (and Starcraft) and constantly stocking on games for my Xbox but no more. I probably only play WoW and sometimes Starcraft 2. And because of WoW I began to find out more about other MMOs, If I never played WoW I would have cared about MMOs.

  10. Thac0 says:

    Older games die out too and the only older games that can really compete are the ones backed by big money. I can think of more than a few old smaller games that are still up like AO and UO etc. that in no way inhibit new games from picking up players. In a few short years eve WoW will be too archaic to play just based on looks alone and the fact that its quickly boring gamers and becoming old hat. If you think about it it just had an expansion a short few months ago and all the buzz evaporated quicker than i could ever imagine.

    Yes to release polished feature rich games cost money and smaller companies have a hard time competing but that has always been the case. Its not like Blizzard was a tiny company LOL. If your game is interesting, innovative and fun it will succeed; although not really an mmo the huge success of minecraft shows us the small guys can win by thinking, innovating and being themselves and not trying to clone existing mmos and games.

    • Gordon says:

      Thing is, if Blizzard have the cash and the willingness they could keep revitalising the WoW engine with new graphics and keep it running for decades. They’ve proven that they have no problem is rebuilding the new entire world. It’s quite excited actually to think about how the game might change over the years. I just hope they add some more classes :P

  11. zahraah says:

    I want another wow if I were to really get into another mmo.. or at least another game that will make me invest as much as I have in wow, Make me want to write about it, and the games I thought I would get into don’t hold my interest, everyone raves about the next one mmo, but most come back..

  12. Bhagpuss says:

    I am beginning to think that MMOs have more in common with superhero comics or soap operas than computer games. Those are serial forms that can pump out endless episodes of a continuing storyline in which, despite a continual pitch of hysterical melodrama nothing ever really changes.

    Soem of the superhero comics have been with us for well over half a century. Soap operas routinely last for decades. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Everquest outlives me.

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