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