Playing in the Pirates of the Burning Sea (PotBS) BETA left me with some impressions that inspired this post. I’ll leave my BETA specific thoughts for another day, however. From where I sit, there are three games that comprise the Holy Trinity of the MMORPG market in North America and Europe – World of WarCraft, Everquest 2 and EVEOnline. Other notable games are GuildWars and Dark Age of Camelot, along with niche games like City of Villans and City of Heroes. It’s my impression that these games combined represent the lion’s share of the gaming space.
For any new game to break into the market with a splash and hold on to subscribers beyond the hype, they must confront the Holy 3. If they don’t, players will simply drift back to one of the three or where ever they came from, once the shininess is gone. If you can’t do fantasy with as much polish, excitement and broad appeal as WOW, then why they hell are people going to stick around to play your game? If you can’t provide a game with more depth for the so-called serious gamer, and do it with the visual brilliance, diversity, lore and expansive content of EQ2 or DOAC, the question is still the same. Why the heck would I pay to play? If you’re going to base a game on out-of-body combat, whether it’s in the skies or on the seas, you’d better do it at least as good as EVE or I just can’t be bothered.
For a niche game to survive, it’s much the same criteria. Rabid lore fans or no, I’m talking to you now LOTRO, you have to maintain subscriptions or some other form of a solid revenue stream to survive. City of Villains and City of Heroes I would place also into niche, as very casual or for people who enjoy comic adventures. So again, if a game-maker wants to enter that space, they should plan on being better – somehow, some way or please leave us poor gaming consumers alone.
I don’t envy game-makers who are developing games in the current market. Which because of the long time line from conception and development to release, means that anyone who was working on a game as far back as 2000, give or take a couple of years, are and have been effected by WOW’s massive appeal and subsriber base, EVE’s exceptional realization of space combat and player driven economy and EQ2 correcting itself, stabilizing and it’s continued expansion of game mechanics and content. The number of dormant gamers waiting to be indoctrinated is growing smaller by the hour, which leaves new games pitted against the Holy 3. And from what I’m seeing, they are not prepared!
Perhaps some of the recent games I’ve tried which all left me saying, “Meh, I might as well WOW or EQ2,” were too far down the development cycle to make sweeping changes in direction to address my current expectations. Or they found too late that their model - be it questing, combat, economy, etc., weren’t strong enough in comparison but what can you do after several years in? Release and be the next Vanguard? Pull the plug early and scamper away like a thief the night, Gods and Heroes? Neither of these options is pleasant for the developer, and as a consumer, it leaves me pretty sure I won’t be an early adopter of their next game. So I guess they’re damned if they do or don’t.
I said all of this to say what? As a consumer and player, yes, I’m tired of WOW. However, I’m not going to throw down my money on any ole thing or play a pale comparison or weak rip off game that even remotely, quacks or walks like one of the Holy 3. Why would I when I can just play them! The only prayer you have of pulling of a successful imitation IS TO BE FLAWLESS with a lot of content, new classes and strong lore. If you faulter on these then you'll be a flash in the pan. You might squeeze a box price out of people but they wont hang around.
Wake up game developers. You’re not fooling anyone except yourselves. I know it sucks, but the beast has landed and his minions are strong. If you can’t fight the fight, then don’t enter the battle.