Do Older MMOs Have The Advantage?
I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that it’s been quite a while since any new MMO has been released that’s been a major success. I don’t mean to the degree of being a WoW-killer or anything either, I just mean a recent MMO that’s done, y’know, well. RIFT’s probably the latest MMO that I can think of that’s actually proven to be commercially viable and even then I doubt it’s flaunting hundreds of thousands of subscribers. SW:TOR, The Secret World, Final Fantasy XIV, even DCU Online and Star Trek Online, all seem to just be limping by. What gives?
A quick scan of the list on Wikipedia of all MMORPGs shows that we haven’t really had a decent commercial success since Lord of the Rings Online in 2007. Vanguard, Tabula Rasa, Age of Conan, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Warhammer Online, Mortal Online, and then the ones mentioned above, paint a depressing picture of flop after flop after flop for the past five years. And yet, the most successful MMO of all time, even with it’s massive leaking of subscribers, is still doing very, very well. As are even older MMOs like EQ2, EVE Online and City of Heroes. Hell, even 13 year old Everquest is still turning a buck. Do these older MMOs just have a natural advantage over new ones?
Of course there’s every chance that I’ve got it wrong and games like TSW and SW:TOR are raking in a nice profit regardless of units sold or current subscribers. Perhaps my other examples of ‘flops’ are all real money-spinners behind the scenes. Perhaps it’s just the public perception that’s warped. I kinda doubt it though. I think what we’re seeing is the unfortunate reality of new MMOs being unable to penetrate the marketplace to the degree they both want and need to prosper. Compare this to the old MMOs of yesteryear that seem to be holding their ground pretty darn well.
Why is that? Is it just because new MMOs plain suck or because previous MMOs have an advantage through having already acquired an audience? Maybe the former suggestion is valid in a few minor cases but for the most part of it, I think yeah, older MMOs are a tough opponent. Not necessarily because they are better games but because they offer familiarity and comfort whilst new MMOs aren’t really giving players any reason to leave. Why exactly would someone give up their friends and raid buddies of several years in a game like WoW and up and jump ship to something like SW:TOR? Is there any compelling reason? By the way players are bouncing off new MMOs, I’m guessing not.
The comfort and community factor is definitely a big advantage for existing MMOs and a difficult factor to overcome. But is it the entire reason that new MMOs aren’t doing so well? Maybe. Whilst certainly a big aspect of it, I think what we’re also seeing is increasing competition in the market which, when combined with the rising costs of developing these games and a saturated playerbase, means MMOs are facing a tougher challenge than ever before to be successful. Instead of development costing a few million dollars, it’s costing hundreds, and now that there’s more MMOs than ever before to choose from, especially ones that have had years of development under their belt, player subscription isn’t reaching the lofty heights desired. It’s almost as if there just aren’t enough MMO players to go round.
Maybe all of this is coming from a biased perspective as I find myself still playing WoW, an eight year old MMORPG, and looking forward to its expansion more than anything else on the market right now. Maybe it’s because it’s just the right game for me, maybe it’s because it’s familiar and I’m lazy or maybe it’s because no other game is doing anything to stand out from the crowd right now. I honestly can’t say – all I know is that is has an advantage in my eyes..
But what do you think? Do older MMOs have a advantage over new ones?