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Is the MMO dying?

By Chris Morris | Plugged In – Fri, Aug 10, 2012 6:30 PM EDT

 

Just a few short years ago, massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs) were considered the future of gaming.

Virtually every publisher was running one, building one, or contemplating one. A lot of those failed. A few struggled along with small but loyal audiences. And all of them acknowledged that they lived under the shadow of perennial champ World of Warcraft.

 

These days, though, massively-multiplayer online worlds are beset by bad news. World of Warcraft lost 1.1 million customers in the last three months. It's lost 2 million in the past year. Meanwhile, EA's highly anticipated entry in the field -- Star Wars: The Old Republic -- failed to take off, with subscriptions dropping to under 1 million last quarter. It was an incredibly rapid drop from the 2 million subscriber peak of earlier this year.

 

With these two behemoths having serious issues, is the entire genre on the outs? Not necessarily, but it's definitely changing -- and that could be great news for consumers who have grown sick and tired of forking over monthly fees for online games.

 

The Old Republic, in fact, will be turned into a free to play games later this year. A year ago, that move would have been unthinkable. EA spent $200 million to develop The Old Republic with the expectation it would be the first serious competitor to World of Warcraft. Given the pedigree of Bioware and the popularity of the Star Wars franchise, that seemed within the realm of possibility. But a weak player vs. player component and easily attained level caps hurt the game. And as players began to leave, so did their friends, causing a slippery slope that led to the drop-off.

 

In addition to lowering the retail price of The Old Republic to $15 and adding a free-to-play option, Bioware is pledging to speed up the pace of expansions -- a vow that sounds a lot like the one Blizzard made a year ago, when World of Warcraft subscriptions began to decline.

 

While World of Warcraft lost 10 percent of its player base last quarter, the developer says it's not overly concerned and expects those players (and more) to return later this year when the Mists of Pandaria expansion hits shelves.

 

You can read the rest via the link on top.

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Honestly, what many of these pundits are missing is the economy as a factor in declining numbers. Lost subscriptions may not be indicative of lost players - just people downsizing the number of accounts they have.

 

From personal experience, I've seldom known anyone that either didn't have multiple accounts, or, as equally common, a multiple account household. At my peak, it wasn't uncommon for me to have at least 2 active accounts going, sometimes on multiple games. For me, it was more time constraints than economic - if I couldn't find time to play one account, why pay for more?

 

In other cases, the market has gone stale. There's really nothing new under the sun lately. The old games (UO, EQ) have stabilized, and will keep chugging along. WoW will eventually drop down to 7-8 million, and stabilize.

 

I keep seeing people bemoaning the fates of the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises - what I wonder is, has anyone stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe, there's really not enough interest to warrant the games in the first place? While I'm sure a ton of the fans of both franchises checked out the game, just as many, if not more, checked it out to see if it was something new, or different. They weren't. The true fans were disappointed by lack of depth, or lack of story continuity, or even a lack of relevance to the story - just because you slap a name on something doesn't mean it's actually part of something. Lords of Ultima, anyone?

 

Is the MMO dying? No, I don't think so. It's leveling off, and people are waiting for the next big thing, and they are waiting for it to come from someone other than Blizzard, or EA, or Sony - all companies notorious for their bad customer service, account protection, etc. And I personally hope that it's a pay to play offering. Microtransactions to get a leg up is not the answer.

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ToR was great the first month. After that I found myself extremely bored with it. WoW actually held my interest for a couple of years before it seemed mind numbingly repetitive.

 

Personally, I want to game - but I want something I don't feel like I have to be slave to for advancement. I also like variety. Currently that's what UO offers.

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Given how Minecraft has almost 7m copies sold, I'm wondering if a lot of people just want to do something different than level/stat/gear/rep up, which pretty much seems to be the crux of all modern MMO's. I think players want to be able to customize their world and game experience, not just the shade of color of their gorget.

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The concept of MMO is not dying, there just so many of them now, scattered all over the place.. If anything it's growing.

 

These two examples mentioned are both sub games, where you cant do much if you don't pay a sub.. and this is what is dying, cause F2P or B2P games are far more attractive to both developer and players.

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I think F2P games are the worst rip-off games ever.

If you want to compete in those games you will -need- to buy things afterwards.. more than one time. This is a huge income for the companies and I understand why they do it. Then I'd rather pay the 13 bucks a month and know its equal for all.

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I think F2P games are the worst rip-off games ever.

If you want to compete in those games you will -need- to buy things afterwards.. more than one time. This is a huge income for the companies and I understand why they do it. Then I'd rather pay the 13 bucks a month and know its equal for all.

 

Yup - totally.

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I think F2P games are the worst rip-off games ever.

If you want to compete in those games you will -need- to buy things afterwards.. more than one time. This is a huge income for the companies and I understand why they do it. Then I'd rather pay the 13 bucks a month and know its equal for all.

 

It depends on the game. I know many F2P that all the items for sale are cosmetics. Or mostly cosmetics with like double XP potions for those that want to level faster etc.

 

it all depends on what the game is and what you're looking for. So many people are willing to spend cash on pixels to make their characters pretty.

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I think the problem with the large lot of MMO's is that they are too limited and "linear." One you reach the highest level, and kill the toughest boss, you are basically done. There has been no 3d game put out there that is a deep and complex as UO.

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I think the problem with the large lot of MMO's is that they are too limited and "linear." One you reach the highest level, and kill the toughest boss, you are basically done. There has been no 3d game put out there that is a deep and complex as UO.

 

I disagree with you there.

 

The original version of SWG was until they did CU and NGE. SWG was more complex than and as immersive as UO.

 

Then the game was dumbed down because a limited number of players found the game too difficult to understand. Which may be why UO has so few players - younger generations find the game too difficult to understand, too many choices. They want it simple.

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'These days, though, massively-multiplayer online worlds are beset by bad news.'

 

This sentence says it for me.

Games after wow did not try to make world but a game where you level up, ignoring many side features that kept people playing for years.

 

In my opinion one of the main successes of wow is that it gets as close to a world as a mainstream game can get. Fishig, cooking, pets and other sidegames keep the casual player subbed for years and not the mostly liniear quest for the next level/item.

 

MMOs these days are games you play through and then go to the next one.

Edited by Kaelyn
really should proofread before hitting post :P
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Kaelyn is right - many people go into a MMO today wanting to "beat it" or "reach end game." WoW is definitely one those games - it's a race to clear content before the next expansion comes out. While UO definitely has parts that are time sensitive, you don't miss on much if you opt out of that part. Ultima Online also seems to give you ample time in most cases to complete something. I might shy away from the "end game" types these days because I don't have time to be a slave to a game anymore. I don't think MMOs are dying but I do think future MMOs need to refocus if they want longevity. In UO's case, I'm seeing a new generation fall in love with one of the older generation's games. That says something doesn't it?

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I am sure that I read recently that Runescape had over 200 million subs in China.

I cannot say for certain that is the correct figure or even if it was Runescape... I saw it on the internet, but it could be that MMO's are actually becoming even more popular, just not within the Western markets. Possibly.

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Honestly, what many of these pundits are missing is the economy as a factor in declining numbers. Lost subscriptions may not be indicative of lost players - just people downsizing the number of accounts they have.

 

From personal experience, I've seldom known anyone that either didn't have multiple accounts, or, as equally common, a multiple account household. At my peak, it wasn't uncommon for me to have at least 2 active accounts going, sometimes on multiple games. For me, it was more time constraints than economic - if I couldn't find time to play one account, why pay for more?

 

In other cases, the market has gone stale. There's really nothing new under the sun lately. The old games (UO, EQ) have stabilized, and will keep chugging along. WoW will eventually drop down to 7-8 million, and stabilize.

 

I keep seeing people bemoaning the fates of the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises - what I wonder is, has anyone stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe, there's really not enough interest to warrant the games in the first place? While I'm sure a ton of the fans of both franchises checked out the game, just as many, if not more, checked it out to see if it was something new, or different. They weren't. The true fans were disappointed by lack of depth, or lack of story continuity, or even a lack of relevance to the story - just because you slap a name on something doesn't mean it's actually part of something. Lords of Ultima, anyone?

 

Is the MMO dying? No, I don't think so. It's leveling off, and people are waiting for the next big thing, and they are waiting for it to come from someone other than Blizzard, or EA, or Sony - all companies notorious for their bad customer service, account protection, etc. And I personally hope that it's a pay to play offering. Microtransactions to get a leg up is not the answer.

 

That actually sums things up pretty well if you ask me.

 

I have to admit though microtransaction games can and do work well on occasion. It must be done properly though and that is why most people get turned off to the idea. If you are going to offer a game that is free to play but has a cash shop setting you need to make that cash shop or optional membership worthwhile and in such a way as to not wreck the economy or player experience in the process.

 

The biggest problem I see today though is that AAA titles are nothing of the such. I actually see better quality products coming from smaller companies because the larger ones have gotten exceptionally greedy. They think they can do anything they want and people will buy it up and guess what? That is exactly what happens. You can't complain by shaking your fist at company and how they operate if you are going to continue to support that company with the other hand.

 

Take a look back in time at the last game industry crash. Why did it crash? Everyone was pumping out crap games for everything from kool aid to ET and then no one wanted to buy games because they were crap. Boom industry crash right there. The same exact thing is happening again but at a slower pace than the first time around.

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F2P doesn't always equal pay 2 win, are many examples of f2p games maintaining competition level as f2p as ones who buy stuff. Like my shooter for example there is no item that help you fight, to buy for rl money, that you can't get with time. And that is how it should be.

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