The World’s Toughest Audience…

Gordon, from We Fly Spitfires, had an entry that reminded me of what I meant to blog about – the MMO audience… only he isn’t only talking about the audience.

Most MMO players (at least the ones that blog about it… kind of like me) are like that guy that eats around the mold on a hamburger bun and all his fries before going back to the cash and complaining that their is mold on the bun. Of course, he wants another entirely. Oh, and the fries too.

We pay for the box, like we do for any other game. That box almost always comes with a free month subscription so we’re really just paying for the box, like we do for any other game. Then we get to play it for a whole month.

There are very few non-MMO games out there that ever last me more than a month. Some don’t even last me a week (FPS, RTS types) or much more than a night (TBS or Spore). Very few games last me more than two weeks, these are usually the ones with lots of content and things to explore (CRPGs). The select few that last more than that have been sandbox type games like usually coming out of Bethesda’s shop (The Elder Scrolls series and Fallout 3).

There are two RTS games and one FPS game that I had on my system for a good length of time and those are: Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War (I loved the unit upgrades, squads, base building, point holding and the awesome animations in it), Rise of Nations (I liked the advancement and taking over the world aspect of it – go figure) and Quake2 (I got into the multiplayer community).

Everyone has their favorites that they can play over and over. Some people enjoy getting together for a FPS party or even some sort of virtual sports league. These games are great when you find them, of course, they don’t have the back end sustaining requirements a MMO does.

Gordon has an interesting thought, which I’ll quote:

This is my dilemma with Champions Online. I think it’s fun and I bet it could easily last me a month or so before I got bored. Even if that only amounted to 60 hours of play time, it would be considered decent value for money by non-MMO standards. However, compared to MMORPG standards, that’s a pretty poor lifespan.

I’d go for it if I was him. If he liked it and thinks it could be fun for a month then the 60$ (or however much it is where he lives) will be worth it.

He raises a few questions before that bit which are:

Does every MMO need to have long term appeal? Does it always need to be the game that we move our entire guild to and play for the next two years? Can’t it just be a bit of fun for a few weeks, just like any console or single player game?

Every MMO needs to have long term appeal simply because it needs to be able to sustain itself.

That’s their need, not ours.

Yes, it needs to be the MMO that grabs you, your friends and maybe even family so you all move over to play it for two years.

Again, that’s the game’s need, not yours.

It can be a bit of fun for a few weeks, because that’s your desire for the game. It will not be like any console or single player game (unless the evil Soloers-In-A-Massively-Multiplayer-Game – a.k.a. SIAMMG… wait, that doesn’t really work out to anything, does it? – have their way with the genre) simply because you own the client software but not the servers.

This is the main difference. For all those other games you paid the same amount of initial fee that you shelf and come back to a year later, you can’t do that with a MMO unless you shell out another 15$.

It’s a gamble. If you pay that 15$ are you going to play it for two days then remember what you hated about the game or why you got bored of it?

Here is one illusion MMO players tend to trip over.

“Well, they’ve had three expansions since then so there is a whole lot of new content!”

Yes, yes there is. But you have to buy the expansions and most expansions tack content on to the end of the level range. Did you hit max level last time you played? Because you’re still going to have to get through that content to get to the newer stuff.

Heck, I’ve done that, but in my defense SOE was sneaky enough to drop some breadcrumbs into various level ranges making the new content more accessible so it wasn’t an entire loss.

Back on topic, we’re very critical of MMOs because we’re investors. With the purchase of that box we’re investing in that game with time and money – the company running the game only really sees one of those, guess which one? (I’ll give you three chances)

That investment can go sour. (Wikipedia, land of the dead MMO apparently)

That makes us armchair critics, backseat drivers or sideline strategists because you don’t want to lose your investment. You can’t help but get frustrated when people, who aren’t equally commited to the investment, pop in and then leave.

What do you mean the game was boring? I love it!

It’s a direct slap in the face because you have an investment to protect… only indirectly. Ever notice you might become tech support for the game?

Did you do this?
Did you try this?
Oh, flip this setting and it will work better.
You’re getting a crash? Update your drivers and check this patch out over here…

Or maybe some sort of sales guy?

Do you know you get a free mount next month?
Oh, yeah, the lower levels aren’t so interesting but it gets fun later on. Give it 30 levels.
You know the game only really starts at max level, right?

You’ve got an investment to protect. If all these people leave, servers will close, or merge and suddenly that investment isn’t going to look so secure anymore.

MMO devs want a smooth launch so they put up servers to account for the expected number of people on release day only to be closing or merging servers a month or two down the line. Syncaine wrote a bit on this sort of thing happening, calling people “WoW Tourists“. Personally, I don’t think WoW caused this, I didn’t start with WoW and I’ve been touring MMOs for quite awhile but I will say WoW definitely amplified it.

I prefer to call these people, “chumps”.  That’s right, I’m a chump too. We buy into the hype and want to invest. Once we get it, we hang on to it for a bit then cut our losses. Okay, so maybe “chump” isn’t the best name because cutting your losses can be a smart thing.

Of course, MMO developers take an even bigger risk because they’re on the other side hoping to some how handle the tidal wave of new subscriptions while being able to sustain the game after the first couple of months on top of satisfying their actual investors – you know, the ones that sunk money into the development of the game before it was on the shelves in the local (or virtual) shop.

Maybe they’re the “chumps”?

They do all that work for a chance at making a portion of the money Blizzard is making while dealing with a massive audience who all seem to have an inflated sense of entitlement thanks to their investment of 15$ a month.

I’m going to go get some coffee now, it’s free for me so I’m not investing anything in it other than what it takes to wander over to the machine.


2 thoughts on “The World’s Toughest Audience…

  1. The problem with an MMO only lasting you a month or two is not that big a deal if it’s JUST you. If you get your whole guild to try it as well, 1-2 months causes problems. Some leave early, some stay late, and at the end everyone is in a different place, making playing together (which is the whole point) more difficult. Long-established guilds won’t jump into that kind of game, and that hurts the overall community since those guilds are generally ‘pillars’ of any community.

  2. If guilds are the pillars (and I don’t disagree with that) then the game itself should be the foundation. If the foundation is crap, you’re going to end up with a bunch of collapsed pillars, no?

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