- Once again Green Armadillo from Player Versus Developer hits us with an insightful piece on the financial state of the MMO industry. And once again he makes me put on my blogger cap. I can't keep my thoughts to myself. Guess it's a good thing I have a blog.
- The big news of the day is that Mythic is losing 40% of its staff. Everyone has their theories, but the prevailing one is that Warhammer Online is going on life support and someone signed a DNR. (I've been watching too much Grey's Anatomy, I see.) If true, they might as well turn the servers off the save everyone the heartbreak. I guess EA wouldn't turn down a few more months of subscriptions (even as people stop renewing) as long as there are fewer mouths to feed. But instead of mourning the loss of one MMO, it might be time to look at them all.
- Everyone agrees that World of Warcraft has set unreal expectations for what an MMO game should be. It's that number: eleven million (however true it may be now). Every developer has to build a game that will compete with that number, even as they tell us in interviews that they are most assuredly not trying to be the next WoW Killer. And the reason they have to do that is because of us. We expect too much from our Triple-A MMOs.
- The signs are everywhere that fifteen dollars a month is not enough money to compete in this market. With Blizzard finally joining the cash shop movement, every major MMO has additional sources of revenue outside of the subscription and boxed expansion model. I don't think these people are greedy (at least, not all of them). I think that we as consumers ask so much from our games while at the same time balking at the idea of increases subscription costs that developers have to fund their games with alternate sources.
- You'll notice that it's not just Mythic that got cut. EA slashed employees in several underperforming studios as well as at least twelve unannounced projects. (You'll notice Bioware was never mentioned. However SWTOR better hit it big or their Austin studio will go up in a cloud of smoke like Alderaan.) That means more sequels and less something amazing and new. It's the same with television and movies. If you're not going to produce a blockbuster, you may not get produced at all. As much as I want to blame the studios, it all comes back to the public that only wants to go with the sure thing. Just watch what happens with Modern Warfare 2 over the next week. MMOs are going down that same path. I don't think they have to.
- Every medium I just listed except for MMOs has an indie scene. They make small products made on a limited budget that don't compete with the blockbusters. And those mediums are flourishing because creativity can trump a huge budget every time. At least for the people that prize quality over spectacle. MMOs are all spectacle now. We need to encourage developers to think smaller and more creatively.
- We, the MMO players, will be the one who decide if that is what we want. Do we keep asking so much from our MMOs that they have to beat WoW or die trying? Or do we encourage developers to make smaller, more focused games? The masses will flock to the next-big-thing, but we have the power to make sure indie development can flourish. But only if we can change our expectations.
© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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