Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is Warhammer Online History?

Two well known bloggers Tobold and Melmoth announced their departure from Warhammer Online this week. Is this the beginning of the games decline or is it just natural turnover? I don't know. Other bloggers such as Syncaine, Keen and Saylah are still waxing lyrical about WAR, pointing out that this game seems to have really innovated in terms of making group play both fun and rewarding.

Not only do I not know but I must admit to being completely unqualified to express an opinion. I have never played WAR and I am currently going through an "anti-mmo" phase as indicated in my series of posts with the tag line "mmos are history". However, being unqualified to give an opinion doesn't sop me from having one, so, for what it is worth, here it is:

  • I think that the time of explosive market growth for WOW / Everquest style mmo's is pretty much over (in the developed world at any rate). Future subscription growth rate will be low or even negative.

  • I think that end of the growth phase means that existing games and new entrants must now cannibalise each other for a slice of what is effectively a fixed pie.

  • I think that the utter dominance of WOW in the mainstream mmo market makes it almost impossible for a new entrant to gain significant market share and even harder for them to hold on to that market share. Niche market mmos (EVE / ATID) may still thrive as long as they don't compete head to head with WOW and as long as they remain small enough to stay under the radar.

  • I think anyone who is currently developing a WOW / Everquest style mmo has already missed the boat and stands to lose their investment.

  • I think that the best bet for a new player trying to enter the market is to somehow try and change the rules of the (mmo business) game.

How can the rules of the game be changed?

  1. A Console based MMO - Consoles have firmly supplanted PCS as the platform of choice for gaming so its stands to reason that mmos on consoles will have a much bigger market than PC mmos, right? I am not so sure. It seems to me that the whole "play where you like play when you like" ethos of console gaming is completely at odds with the pee in a bucket level of commitment required for WOW/Everquest style mmos. DM Osbon is running a poll in which he asks which platform people see as being the future of mmos. Of coure the survey is is biased because you need to be on a PC to take it but PCs are whopping ass in the results.

  2. Casual / Browser based mmos. Maybe. I don't mean grind fest, pay money for in game items, browser based mmos. In terms of time commitment required these are anything but casual. The kids mmos like Club Penguin or Buildabearville come closer to the mark. Put one of those onto a console and you might be onto a winner.

  3. An mmo which makes less demands of its customers. WOW / Everquest style mmos demand huge amounts of time and significant amounts of money from their players. I think a new type of game which offered similar entertainment and escapism in a similar social environment at a lower personal cost could put WOW / Everquest style mmos out of business.

15 comments:

Melf_Himself said...

It's kind of interesting to watch the sociology of MMO's develop. It's still a very fresh introduction to the world.

I only half-jokingly predict that in 10 years, we will see signs on the back of MMO boxes saying "Warnging, highly addictive, may result in the loss of loved ones!", they'll be a MMO-a-holics anonymous, etc.

Back to the present, I think that WAR's history is a race. In the next couple of months, if they fix their RvR issues and break 1 million subs, I think they will have achieved 'critical mass' and manage to, not knock WoW off its perch, but take a decent slice of its pie. That will hopefully make Blizzard sit up, and up their game.

mbp said...

That is an interesting point Melf about the race to get the game fixed and established before players leave. It seems to me that the "honeymoon" period allowed to new games is getting shorter and shorter. People complained about lack of high end content in LOTRO but a lot of players hung around for six months. When AOC was found to be equally lacking players gave up after the one month free sub ran out.

Free Games said...

Online play was always what this game was missing. One thing I’d love to see is some sort of implementation of avatars.

DM Osbon said...

"DM Osbon is running a poll in which he asks which platform people see as being the future of mmos. Of coure the survey is is biased because you need to be on a PC to take it..."

Not entirely correct, mbp. I can surfer via my mobile phone, PS3 or if i had one, a MAC - my blog is readable no matter what device you use & so their is no bias based on that.

Great piece of writing though ;)

DM Osbon said...

'there' not 'their', pardon moi.

mbp said...

Good Point DM. I need to get with the twenty first century!

@free games - Its nice to see Spam that makes at least some effort to look like a real comment but I think you need to tweak your random comment generator just a little bit.

syncaine said...

The total size of the market is always tough to judge. I mean during EQ1s peak, everyone thought it was a lock and the market had reached saturation. Then WoW came and blew that out of the water.

You can't really judge any area of gaming today and say it's done growing. Gaming overall is becoming more and more important, taking market share away from TV/Movies/Music. How long that will continue to occur is anyone's guess.

All that said, if WAR announces 1mil+ subs (something that I believe will happen shortly after x-mas if not sooner) a lot of MMO fans will take notice. Remember that 1mil is 25% of WoW's current US/EU base, so we are talking a significant number. How growth will continue after that, who knows.

mbp said...

Hi Syncaine, I think a key question is whether or not WAR is attracting new players who have never mmo'ed before (which would imply a still growing market) or whether it is just pulling players away from other mmos (market has peaked). Never having played I don't know the answer to this. Have you got a feeling for it?

Crimson Starfire said...

Nice post. I agree with all your points, especially:

I think anyone who is currently developing a WOW / Everquest style mmo has already missed the boat and stands to lose their investment.

I suspect that Guild Wars 2 will be the bridge from old EQ/WoW style MMOs to the next gen MMOs. It won't be completely next gen, but it will lay significant foundations. It's just a hunch thou...

Melf_Himself said...

Rotfl @ comment from "Free games". That reminds me of when somebody gives a talk in my Department (I do research on eyes/vision), if I haven't been paying attention I can usually ask "Have you thought about the effects of the other eye" and have it be meaningful.

I'm not sure if the WAR players are players of other MMO's or are completely new. Though I have a feeling that when WoW began, most people playing it were already fairly dedicated gamers, and it was probably only when WoW reached a large population that the people who had barely gamed before started to get into it. If so, it would probably be similar with WAR.

Could be way off base though.

mbp said...

@Crimson - Here's hoping that GW2 is the next big thing. I would put Guild Wars under the category of changing the game by making less demands of the player and I hope it is a big success.

@Melf - Good point, it may still be too early to judge whether or not WAR is attracting new mmo players or is just recycling the same bunch of players. On the other hand if some of the old guard (Tobie and Melmoth for example) are already leaving before a bunch of brand new mmoers have joined then it does not bode well for the continued growth of the game.

Boring Lecturer: " .... so that concludes my talk about the protracted recovery of vision in the remaining eye of a patient who lost their other eye in an industrial accident involving a pickled onion bottling machine. I will now call on ask Mr. Melf_himself to make a few closing comments"

Melf_himself (suddenly waking up): "Huh...Oh ... ehh... Have you thought about the effects of the other eye?"

syncaine said...

If nothing else, WAR is pulling in fans of the Games Workshop IP, which is a large base here in the US, and huge in the EU.

Plus its 2008, 4 years after the release of WoW. People have better comps, more high speed internet, and everyone is 4 years old. That right there means at least partially, there is a new market of potential MMO gamers.

And I would not put much stock in a few PvE-minded MMO players leaving, that was a given. WAR will be in trouble if the more PvP-minded gamers start leaving.

melmoth said...

Most remiss of me not to add a comment to this great post. My apologies.

I simply put forward to you that I only recently recovered from having been placed in the same line of text as a blogging luminary such as Tobold, even if it was just because we happened to be quitting at the same time.

More likely I was distracted by a hamster in a fedora or something.

Hee hee hee, the little fella looks like a furry pimp. Ahhhhh.

Where am I?

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