An economic MMO bubble

I started to respond to a reader along this line yesterday, but as I started to churn the idea over and reign in my response to be comment-appropriate, it made me realize there was probably something more significant in the topic I was just barely touching upon in my reply. In my reply itself I alluded to the fact that the industry seems to think there are millions of potential players of MMOs out there, just waiting to be seized up by an appropriately suitable title. That these players do indeed want to be a part of the MMO gaming genre. I’ve mentioned it in the past that I don’t think this is reality, and people seem to be coming around to the idea that WoW really is an aberration and not the standard.

Reality is simple: there are not 5+ million MMO players out there. What we have is a bubble of perceived worth of games in the genre.

The sooner that EVERYONE can wrap their heads around that concept, the better off the industry as a whole will be. I do mean everyone: investors, licensor, licensees, publishers, developers, and fans. We all hold equal a share of the blame in this situation. Investors see the initial cost, and don’t want to take the chance unless really huge and fast returns can be made, with the potential for astronomical returns in the long run. Licensor and -ees want to get the investor money, because these things are big, and having an entrenched IP can help shore up weak points in a product. Publishers are basically in the same boat as investors. Developers want to make games, and many find the logistical nightmare of funding and distribution impossible without the experience and backing of the others – thus they remain beholden to their monetary support. Fans geek out, expect everything, and remain violently enamored of their first experience.

We’ve been seeing an escalation in the production costs of games. Age of Conan. Warhammer Online. SW:TOR. Each game’s release potentially more expensive than the previous, and that’s just in recent history. None of these games have been the wild success hoped for at their inception, and yet, the perception of the MMO pot of gold hasn’t wavered even a little bit. The price of components surrounding the genre is going up. The believed barrier of entry is seen to be getting higher, based on the actions of the players at the perceived top.

They have forced a bubble, and eventually it will pop.

Conversely, we have those who keep their heads “low”. CCP is the Alpha of the “little dogs”, and doing fabulously well on their “meager” 300k subscribers. How many other companies hold a yearly giant party? Last I heard, Darkfall is still chugging along at a good pace, and is working at their expected snail-speed on development of DarkFall 2.0. Wurm? Xyson? These are all games that are unquestionably sandbox, and have been around for a fair bit of time.

Bubbles are always results of perceptions. The pop will occur when outsiders who think that 300k is a back-alley niche of unprofitable business have a light-switch thrown. When recognition of reality sets in; these games are meant to run for years or decades, not for a three month peek followed by a slow 5 year degradation into oblivion and neglect. Play to the strengths of the genre, and rewards will follow.

Or just keep chasing that dragon, but try not to drag the rest of us down with you.

That ol’ Norrathian bug

It bit me again. I played the free progression server weekend, which lead me to remembering my fond memories of EQ2 again, and the even more-so nostalgic days of EQ. This week saw me resubbing back to BOTH games for at least the next month. I’m going to hold off on buying the new expansions for either of them until I see if I want to stick with EQ2 for longer than a month, and until the progression server actually catches up to the newest release. That said, I officially knew I had been infected by the Norrathian flu in a bad way last night. The symptoms were strong and unavoidable, and the side-effects are being felt by me at this very moment.

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Quick Thought

I don’t really have a lot of vested stock in the outcome of SW:TOR. I’m sure I’ll play it. I loved the KotOR games, but I’m meh so far on Dragon Age, and finding it near impossible to continue with it after a certain point. I’m a SciFi nerd and Star Wars fan, so all that combined means I’m going to give it a whirl as well. What it ends up being or how well it ends up doing, is not going to be a huge impactor on me, except as a person who is interested in gaming and MMOs as a whole.

Still, there’s a part of me that wants it to just do absolutely brilliant monetarily. A part of me wants it to blow the doors off of everyone’s home and kick the snot out of doubters. Not because I have a desire for it to be great for my own enjoyment, but just because I’m sick of hearing everyone jump on the bandwagon of gloom.

So, while Ardwulf calculates failure, Tobold predict’s it, Syncaine prays for it, and Keen’s probably off in a corner somewhere twitching with anticipatory glee for it’s release, that will only turn into full-on contempt two month’s later when he realizes it’s not WoW, all the while continuing to refuse to accept reality; that he’s not a PvPer.

Being negative about upcoming games is the new, cool, hip thing to do. Honestly, I don’t think the market has room for all of these big games, but I hope it does, and I hope SWTOR blows everyone’s expectations to the Jupiter, and slaps said expectations in the face for being negative Nancys.

What playing EVE means

I’m going to regal you with a short story of what happened to me in EVE yesterday, I’ll try to keep it as jargon-free as possible, since most of you guys probably aren’t familiar with the game, and well versed on the phrases I’d be using otherwise. At first blush, this is going to seem like a depressing and frustrating story, making you wonder why the hell anyone would play this game. At second blush it might seem that way too, until you sit down to examine the reality of the game and what makes these actions possible. It started with me accepting a level 2 mission with my Rifter the night before.

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