The MMO Industry Isn’t Dying, It’s Just Evolving
I gotta agree with Syp on this one - I don’t think the MMO genre is dying out. Although one could easily point to abundance of new titles and expansions on the horizon as clear proof of this (which Syp did), I actually think what we’re witnessing these days is simply an evolution of the industry. In fact, I’d be more worried if the genre was just sitting still and stagnating. Sure, 38 Studios went belly up and SW:TOR isn’t exactly proving to be the huge success BioWare was hoping (there’s a shocker) but that doesn’t mean the genre is crumbling. It just means it’s changing.
As is natural with change, it can be a scary and painful process. MMOs are diverging and what it means to be one is altering right before our very eyes. Heck, technically we could call Diablo 3 a MMO as, after all, it’s massive, it’s multiplayer and it’s online. Indeed, with new games on the horizon like Marvel Heroes and the success of free-2-play, I think we’re going to be seeing a new breed of MMOs that change the way we think about the genre. No longer is going to be a realm that belongs to the gigantic budget, triple-A titles or World of Warcraft or Everquest or Ultimate Online or whatever clones.
I think the negativity surrounding around the future of the MMO industry has been tied to the fact that we’ve never witnessed another success story like WoW even though several companies have thrown ridiculous amounts of money at trying to recreate it. We used to think (and perhaps some people still do) that this was only option for MMOs, a handful of 200 to 300 million dollar games that dominating the landscape with tens of millions of users, fighting for all the glory like Titans, leaving nothing but scraps for anyone else. If we’re learnt anything by the death of Copernicus and lackluster success of games like SW:TOR, Warhammer Online and Age of Conan is that this is never, ever going to happen.
(And yes, I’ll take those words back if Titan turns out to be a staggering WoW-esque success.)
What we’re seeing instead though is the marketplace determining the success of different types of games. Smaller budget MMOs with more modest expectations and player-friendly payment models combined with solid gameplay are proving to do just fine and I take my hat off to companies like Trion, Turbine and CCP who can continue to happily run and expand high quality games without the prerequisite of 2 million subscribers plus. Used to be the day when “massively multiplayer online” meant 500,000 players – why do we need it to be 5 million?
So I don’t think the industry is dying, far from it, I think it’s just evolving away from this idea that all MMOs need to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and draw in millions of players. Instead it looks likes we’ll just be seeing a lot more smaller scale games being created on less extravagant budgets and with less unrealistic predictions.
And personally I find this prospect quite exciting as it will hopefully mean more room for innovation and, ultimately, more choice to the end consumer – us, the gamers.
What do you think?