[MUD-Dev] MMO Launch issues ruining potential segments of the market.

Luca Girardo girardo at ieee.org
Thu Jun 19 18:53:55 New Zealand Standard Time 2003


At 23:52 03.06.2003, Derek Licciardi wrote:

> Examples:

>   - UO had a closed economy and unfortunately a gold duplication
>   bug caused the whole experiment to be unable to live up to its
>   original design.  Now, there isn't a MMO on the planet
>   contemplating anything remotely similar to UO's system because
>   of the albatross UO created.

>   - EQ and DaoC seem to be the only long term extremely profitable
>   MMOs out there this side of UO.  (UO is really an anomaly in a
>   sea of cloned MMOs) Does this mean that publishers and
>   developers have discounted ideas that do not build from the EQ
>   and DAoC foundation?

There are other MMOGs that are long term profitable like Lineage for
example. Interesting is the fact that often successful MMOGs for the
US market perform poorly in other markets like the Asian market or
the European market. The same is true for products made for the
Asian market like Lineage and probably Final Fantasy XI (even if it
has still to be launched in US). So there are different successful
models for the different markets. At the same time understanding
what factors make a successful MMOG is for me a very rationale
step. The rationale behind it is to learn from the failures and from
the successes to build the next generation of MMOGs (sounds pretty
logic but the reality has showed several companies just doing the
opposite, landing with a perfect disaster). I suppose that nowadays
MMOG developers and publishers have to be very realistic. The MMOG
market is not just a gold mine where everyone can make money just by
throwing a product on the market. The golden age has already ended
(questionable is if there was for sure a golden age for MMOGs). We
could draw a parallel with the evolution of the Internet and the
e-companies. After the golden age, only realistic and economic
sustainable products have survived. Why should the MMOG market be
different? At the same without revolutionary ideas and concepts, you
won't have a real successful hit. The revolutionary concept have to
adjusted to the current market, to the current technology and to the
rationale and experience based on past products. To achieve the
right balance is probably the most important ingredient for the
magic formula to get the next big hit.

Interesting is the fact that in your list you miss the "Asheron's
call 2" failure. AC2 seemed to have all the good qualities to become
a hit, a talented development team with a large amount of experience
based on AC1. An innovative product based on an evolution of
AC1. Good graphic, no large disaster at release (even if it is
interesting to note the strange release strategy preventing
customers from different countries to buy/subscribe the game). And
the result? Based on daily population numbers, I would say the total
number of subscribers could be between 14k and 25k. What went wrong?
And what can we learn from that?

>   - Did TSO's failure to meet expectations sour the idea that a
>   non-combat social MMO is commercially viable?

Depends from the expectations. If we believe this article

  http://news.com.com/2100-1040-977912.html?tag=fd_top

$25 million have been invested in the development of TSO, implying
an adequate ROI point of around 400k to 500k subscribers, we see it
is a very high expectation. And higher is the expectation, more is
the pressure to achieve the expectation as soon as possible. Is a
non-combat social MMOGs commercially viable? Could be. There are
also other examples of non-combat MMOGs like the new "Legacy online"
http://www.legacyonline.net/ . "Boring" if a word you will often see
connected with the TSO name. Is TSO boring because of the non-combat
social aspect? Is it boring because of the lack of content? Or is it
boring because it did not attract the right type of customer group
at the beginning? Only time will tell us what went wrong and what
will go right. For sure EA has already taken its own conclusion
after the unsuccess of E&B, TSO and TMO. From EA`s sec filling 10-K:

  http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/NSD/ERTS/reports/F90122conformed6_03.pdf

  "We expected The Sims Online to be our Flagship online
  subscription offering. Through March 31, 2003, however, the number
  of units sold and number of subscribers for The Sims Online and
  Earth & Beyond have been below our expectations. As a result, we
  canceled most of our plans to develop similar online products and
  have consolidated the operations of our online games business into
  our core business. "

Right decision? Wrong decision? Rushed decision?

> Will SWG send a signal to investors/publishers/players that MMOs
> can only be accomplished with massive budgets and high profile
> licenses if it is the only successful launch of the year?  God
> forbid if even SWG fails to launch smoothly.  I hate to see the
> opinion of the investors/publishers if the MMO flagship product
> doesn't go off with a bang. (i.e. the one with the experienced
> team, the big budget, and the great license)

I can for sure say that the press coverage of SWG is the best I have
ever seen till now for a MMOG product. If that depends from the high
profile license or the massive budget or a very skilled PR team, is
open. But for sure the coverage has reached also media you would
never expect to report anything about a MMOG. Just as example, I was
reading an article about SWG. It was a good article even if nothing
extraordinary. What was extraordinary is that the report was on one
of the most serious Italian daily newspaper with around 1 million
readers a day. You would never expect an article about a MMOG ( and
very unlikely about a Video Game) on such a newspaper. And that is
just an example of the hype around SWG not only in US. What is the
reason? And what will it bring?  Soon we will know. A limitation
will be the fact the current release will target only the US-market.

Luca Girardo
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