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Hardcore Casual is Syncaine’s long standing blog covers both Eve and non-Eve issues with an outside the box perspective. One of my favorite site to read not only for the good commentary, but also for the great variety in it, visit it here.

Harcore Casual: Splitting the genre in two

Let’s move past why GW2 sucks and onto a bigger topic; why so many recent MMOs suck, shall we?

Chris thinks all MMOs are good for 3 months or less, and that’s just how things are today. Keen has a pretty solid counter, but it raises the question that will (hopefully) clear the air here: are you looking to play a game for a while, or not?

Because I think that really cuts to the root of the issue. In the ‘good old days’, I think the vast majority of MMO players WANTED to get sucked into something long-term (group 1). Much of the original hype behind an MMO was that it was an RPG that never ended, and that is EXACTLY what people wanted. New Ultima game but with unending content? Hell ya! Take my money!

Today not everyone is on the same page. There are a lot of players who DON’T want to get sucked into something long-term (group 2). They WANT a 3-monther or something to do for a month and move on, and nothing short of a miracle (WoW) is going to change that.

One group is not more right than another, and however you arrive at either group is an unrelated issue (got old, more money, kids, whatever).

What does matter is that the two groups are looking for very different experiences, yet are being lumped into one group (MMO players). Worse still, studios are designing games with the impression that they can design content for the short-term group, and expect long-term retention. SW:TOR is the latest poster-child for this, but it’s just one of many such failures. And make no mistake, these games ARE failures, because the target they are aiming at is WoW, which prints money not because it sold a ton of boxes, but because it RETAINED millions of players for years. EAWare expected SW:TOR to RETAIN at least 500k subs, and at one time the expectation was 1m+. They sold a ton of boxes because group 2 wanted something new. They failed because solo-story content does nothing for group 1, and even if it did, group 1 is just not that big.

Both markets, the short-term ‘MMO’, and the original model, are viable. EVE is an undeniable success, DESPITE the fact that it’s a niche within a niche product (non-IP Sci-Fi with no avatar). CCP is successful because they understand who their market is, and they design the game around the long-term retention of their core rather than the short-burst of group 2 (Incarna aside). Misleading talk aside, GW2, much like GW1, will likely do fine because the model is not around providing long-term entertainment, but rather just a short burst every now and then.

This also clears up the F2P vs sub aspect as well. F2P ‘works’ because a tiny subset of your entire base is willing to pay enough to subsidize everyone else. That’s why so much of the design around a F2P is aimed at catering to that tiny minority, or to convert some of the unpaying masses into cash cows. By contrast, the sub model is designed to provide enough content for the long-term majority, in the hopes that most people will stick around and play/pay.

And if you combine the intent of group 1 or 2 with the business model and content design around a game, you have your target.

Developers are doing a decent job catering to group 2. There are countless F2P titles that are good-enough to play for a month, and occasionally one will get some cash out of you. Those that don’t, shut down or get their support slashed, but even the most marginal titles end up surviving in one form of zombie mode or another.

Designing a solid title for group 1 is much harder, in part because it’s so different from the rest of gaming. Instead of just making sure the current content is fun once, the devs must consider how the content will play in a year, or for the 100th time, or when someone with 1000 hours plays alongside someone with 10. That’s hard. Just as EAWare, Mythic, Turbine, or any other studio that has tried and failed. Maybe the original big three were really lucky, or really good, or understood the market better than most do today. Regardless, it worked then, and it continues to work today.

The extreme example of success in group 1 is WoW, but that’s misleading if you buy into the fact that WoW’s success was as much good timing as it was solid design. Make no mistake, 2004 WoW was very well designed, but that’s not the entire story IMO.

Regardless, it’s unlikely that we will see another WoW-like success. Far more likely is someone hitting EVE-like numbers. And again, CCP is making very good money off EVE. But that’s happening because they understand the size of the market, in addition to how best to cater to it.

You can’t spend $300m today because you predict 1m+ subs. It’s not going to happen. Plan to get 100k with a solid title, figure out the budget to make that happen, and good luck. And let’s not kid ourselves, with 100k subs you can make a VERY solid game. Maybe you won’t have all your dialog voiced by professional actors, but you won’t be limited to Pong-like graphics either. Spend smart, spend S-mart!

– Syncaine

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7 Comments

  1. hmmmm

    true. this is true.

    September 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm Reply
  2. shari evan

    To be honest, 'MMO' is not a genre at all, speaking of which, mmorpg is one.
    Also, i won't call these two groups long-term and short-term. Eve is successful, but not for being a excellent MMORPG, more a successful MMO "Action-SciFi RTS'ish Simulation" and yeah.. there are no other games in these extreme unusual niche. Also, it is the only long-term Online game so far, the other MMOGames like Guildwars 2 and so on are Instant-Action Games, which means: Logging in, clicking a button, have instantly PvP/PvE. You do not have to work for being successful (only player skill based for sure).

    I play both, Eve and the other 'Action based' MMOGames. Also, i'm not a 'fangirl' of any of these games, not Eve nor other Games. In my opinion, Eve is a great game but as a Game it is not really successful. Compared to the million players of other games, Eve is a tiny, non triple-A game, more like an Indie-Game. In its Niche, Eve is a God. But, we will see other WoW-like numbers in the future.
    There are a couple of Games with equivalent Numbers of players, gaining millions of dollar. Speaking of which, World of Tanks got 13m. Players, League of Legends would have 30-50m players. For sure, they're free to play – but getting cosmetic Items for 10 bucks, more space for items or any Pay to Win item is enough to making millions per day.

    know, flame me, hate me.. be a Fanboi like every WoW/Eve/GW player! 😛

    September 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm Reply
    1. Justchecking

      Agreed on the "MOO" thingy. MMO is every and any game that has online multi-player.

      On the success side do not kid your self, WoW was a huge success and it still has a great number of players who are willing to pay 13 euros per month and other 40-60 per 1-2 years for a new expansion.

      Also, if you want to role play in eve there are ways to do it, be it with your friends or FW or in some extreme (and in my opinion crazy) cases even in 0.0.

      About free-to-play games, well in a twisted way EvE online is also free to play as long as you make enough ISK and there are players who are willing to sell you a plex for ISK and it also has something like an Items Mall since you can buy cloths and things with aur.

      About EvE being successful or not it depends on how you look at it.
      For years EvE has a steady number of core players who are willing to pay in order to spend from a few minutes to many hours per day, so in that way it is successful though not in the numbers of WoW or world of tanks.

      September 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm Reply
  3. anon

    good read and I have been saying it for awhile myself.

    September 28, 2012 at 1:07 am Reply
  4. unsatisfied reader

    Shut the front door. A real articlated thought on evenews24. Bravo, bravo.

    September 28, 2012 at 1:11 am Reply
  5. OldxPlayer

    Should have included Diablo 1-2 in the analysis. It was always fun to play solo or with groups.

    September 28, 2012 at 1:46 am Reply
  6. Hengroen

    Whats with the recent good articles on Evenews. Have they got a new editor?
    Whatever it is please keep it up.

    September 28, 2012 at 9:15 am Reply

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