[MUD-Dev] Changing Midstream (SWG's New Look)

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Tue Feb 21 04:59:34 New Zealand Daylight Time 2006

"Caliban Darklock" <caliban at darklock.com> wrote:
> Is the MMO market today like the RPG market of the 80s?

What isn't? :)

> Is that what WoW has done? Are the other MMO games on the market
> inevitably going to be viewed as "the next WoW" or "a WoW clone" or "a
> WoW wanna-be"?

That's how it worked with Everquest, but to be fair, at the time,
everybody wanted in on that piece of pie. Every game company and their
brother had a MMORPG under development. This lead to people branching out
to differentiate themselves amongst a VERY crowded marketplace - it's also
why WoW, being a better Everquest, quickly rose to the leader of the pack.
If WoW tried to differentiate itself in any way, it wouldn't have gained
the support of both the hardcore and casual player so quickly.

> Are we waiting for WoW's different-demographic counterparts to show up?
> Are they likely to show up? Can the market handle more than one or two
> MMOs?

Unfortunately, so long as MMORPGs use a subscription model, there will be
preciously little room for true competitors. There's only so much money
per month that people are willing to pay, and many people can't afford to
play more than one MMORPG at a time (barring SOE's Station Access). This
leads to a situation of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poor
as established games quickly gain enough money to stay competitive while
new products live or die based on their release and aren't given the time
to find their groove.

Obviously, this is not a total dead end. If someone were to release a
MMORPG in the state that WoW was (few bugs, clear communicatable vision,
not boring newbie areas, lots of hype), it will have the tools needed to
succeed. I can think of a few games that this worked well for (City of
Heroes, for example). But, like a school graded on standardized test
scores, we run a very real risk of students only studying for what's on
the test and nothing else. We'll end up with more games like Guild Wars
and City of Heroes which have great first impressions and not much else.

Ultimately, the subscription thing is going to go away, and I believe that
WoW will be to thank for that. WoW has such a significant lead that no
established game can compete and nothing coming out has much of a chance
of beating the game which brought most new MMORPG players to the table.
Instead of fighting over scraps, I think WoW's main competitors will seek
more aggressive means by which to steal WoW's marketshare and make money
above or instead of subscription fees - we're already seeing that happen
with SOE (station exchange, adventure packs, eq2players, free EQ2 for
fileplanet subscribers, $40 Station Access set which include a half dozen
mmorpgs for one monthly fee, free self contained trials for the games,
announced subscriptionless game) and I won't be surprised if NCSoft
decides to do similar things with their properties.

I think the market can easily handle more than one MMORPG if it become
financially viable for players to be active in more than one at a time.
Right now, unfortunately, I don't think it can. I mean, I play all the
MMORPGs on and off and follow their development closely, but I only
subscribe to SOE's Station Access because it allows me to play more than
one game, and just drop in the other games as they release expansions.

- Sean

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