Friday, November 4, 2011

Random Shots: The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass

  • I briefly alluded to this in regards to the annoucement that Diablo III would be free to WoW annual pass subscribers, but I think it deserves its own post. Very likely, if reports are to be believed, the Golden Age of the MMO is coming to an end.

  • Don't panic.

  • (I've used that joke before, right?)

  • The thing to keep in mind is that this is the natural evolution of any cultural phenomenon. It is a cycle that has repeated time and again in gaming. Board wargaming had its hayday in 1970s. Tabletop role-playing games were huge in the 1980s. Collectable card games were everywhere in the 1990s. None of these genres are the colossi that they once were. Neither is the Nindento Wii. And so too will go the MMO.

  • People try to blame the games, the companies, or even their fellow players for the loss of popularity. However each of these genres exploded because they caught the attention of the mainstream for a time. People bought and played Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and World of Warcraft who had no intention of looking at anything else. They were caught up in the cultural zeitgeist and were done when it passed. That is what the golden age of each of these genres looks like.

  • Some people will tell you that games in these dead genres have never been better. They may be niche games instead of mainstream, but they are still around for those of us who care about them. The same thing will happen with MMOs. We may never again see a WoW sized juggernaut. But in a way, we don't want that again. If real innovation is to take place, we need the people making MMOs to do it because they love games, not because they love money.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. I don't think Free to Try MMOs have hit their zenith yet. The zenith they reach may involve games so shallow that they will interest few of us oldtimers (see Club Penguin). In terms of games we geezers care about, I suspect we will see more niche designs explored by smallish studios in the next decade or so. In some cases, niche designs we like but no one else much seems to care about will flourish to a greater degree than they ever could now.

    That's sort of exactly what happened with board games. The diversity of products available from small publishers currently on the market is remarkable. Even the big boys like WoC are starting to stepin.

    One genre that I really have always dug is RPG-"board game" hybrids. Talisman is on the boardgame side of that, Warhammer Quest was closer to the PnP RPG sided of it...but still clearly a board game. Now we see Runebound, Cuthulu (a co-op RPG BG hybrid), revamped Talisman, and even "The Legend of Drizzt" which is mechanically very similar to Warhammer Quest in several key ways.

    This is one random example of a subgenre, but the selection of neat boardgames that I find fun is more diverse than at any time other I have been alive. The big boys losing interest in your hobby is more than likely a good thing.

  2. Yeah, you've pretty much just described life. To be honest, I don't understand how some gamers who've been around longer than I have aren't used to seeing this already. Even I look back on my life now and see a ton of things where I'm like, "aww, those were the days," or "I wish things could still be like that" and it's not just games, it's everything. But people age, new generations come and go, tastes change, and technology evolves. Like I said, life!

  3. That's easy, GC, it's because they don't want to see it.