MMOs and the Fall of THQ

The AAA games industry has hysterically overreacted to the failure of anyone to capture the lightning in the bottle that World of Warcraft.  It’s weird – AAA studios seem completely and totally oblivious to the fact that EverQuest was quite successful with – what, 450K subs max? WoW at the time, if you recall, stated they merely needed to match EQ to be successful.  Analysts at the time used to say stuff like ‘there might only be 600K to 1M MMO players in the world – how could WoW and EQ2 possible coexist?’  Even then, the breakout success of games like Lineage in Asia suggested that something could come along and blow the doors off of things.

Going back through my blog in the mid-aughts, people forget both how slow WoW’s roll to 12M actually was, and also how stunning most observers thought it was at every major milestone.  I remember when they hit 1M and were clearly still on the uptick, a lot of people discovered the need to recalibrate their definition of success.  As one example, Star Wars: Galaxies (which launched about a year prior) went from being considered a solid and respectable success at 250K subs to one that the corporate overlords apparently figured needed a disastrous reboot in the form of the ‘New Game Experience’.  Because WoW recalibrated what success SHOULD look like for a major MMO.   Continue reading MMOs and the Fall of THQ

How UO Changed The Culture of MMOs

There are those who think that perhaps Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian are lying about the campaigns of terror, hacking, and bullying that they are currently encountering (and thanks to Tadhg Kelly for inventing the term Gamergate Truthers to describe them – it’s easier to say in polite company than fuckwads).  I daresay that anybody who has ever set foot in the Customer Service department of a major MMO for more than five minutes has pretty much no doubts whatsoever.  Because those guys see it all.  Every day.

It used to be worse.  Much worse.  My first MUD, CarnageMUD, had to ban several players for attempting to hack, bully or keylog other players.  Meridian 59 was worse, but it wasn’t until Ultima Online that we really saw how dark things could be.

Continue reading How UO Changed The Culture of MMOs

Being Too Greedy Too Early

One of the things I’m very proud of when we monetized SWTOR, is how generous we were to the new users.  Players don’t get asked for any money before level 10 in SWTOR (roughly 4-5 hours of gameplay) – a design stance I had to defend hotly a few times.  My rationale: we had done focus testing out the wazoo on our newbie experience, and gotten the test scores as high as the various meters would go.  Why mess with a good thing?  As such, I tried to make it that the only change a free player saw below levels 1-10 was the button that opened the store.  Hopefully, by the end of newbie planet, you’ve decided you want to live there – then it’s appropriate to suggest some upgrades. Continue reading Being Too Greedy Too Early

More F2P Fisking

There sure is a whole lot of wrong going on over in this debate.

We both know that someone, somewhere has to pay for the game’s development, and for that idea to work out, you either need to hook some ‘whales’ who pay out a fortune and subsidise everyone else, or you have to constantly nag all of the players to pay for in-game items.

If I can give the gift of great gameplay to three times the number of customers because a handful of heavy users love my game so much they beg me for more opportunities to spend – is that really a bad thing?  And how is this really different from Golf shops that are subsidized by high rollers buying $10000 clubs, magic players buying Black Lotuses, or knitting stores who sell balls of yarn from rare endangered alpacas for $1000 per ball?  Why is this the one industry where people actually feel pity for the hardcore fan who wants to spend? Continue reading More F2P Fisking

“The Loss of an Online Home”

Remember yesterday, when I suggested that the person who thought that WoW should be shut down anytime soon was smoking a big ol’ bag of crack?  It turns out that it could also result in front-page CNN news (well, it was front page before Miley Cyrus taught the world what ‘twerk’ means).

After 10 years and a significant drop in user numbers, Disney has decided to instead focus its resources on the more popular “Club Penguin” virtual world, which has about 200 million registered users. “Toontown” will be shuttered September 19….and many long-time player…are dealing with the loss of an online home.

Continue reading “The Loss of an Online Home”

WoW Hints at Potential Free-to-Play Future, Supposed Industry Insiders Get Silly

So Blizzard has confirmed what everyone who has actually seen the numbers behind a free to play game have actually suspected – they are in the process of debating whether this is the right time to take the game to be Free-to-Play. Not really a surprise when they’ve already confirmed that, whatever their next game is, it won’t be a subscription-based MMO (and if they are thinking of anything even remotely novel, using WoW to test their technology and design ideas isn’t a terrible idea). I’m so happy to hear a developer actually come to this from the basis of, I don’t know, information, that I’m going to choose not to quibble with Tom Chilton about a couple of places they claim to be uncertain where they really don’t need to. Instead, I’m going to train my ire at, of course, the anti-monetization community that has congealed on Gamasutra, much the way that old milk congeals if left unchallenged too long.  So let’s fisk! Continue reading WoW Hints at Potential Free-to-Play Future, Supposed Industry Insiders Get Silly

Those Unwilling To Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It

At least Wildstar is willing to try something different.  While I’ve been on the plane to GamesCom, both Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online were kind enough to elaborate on their billing model — which is the classic subscription model.

Elder Scrolls Online has this to say:

“Charging a flat monthly fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play,” Firor told the website. ESO will also include 30 days of play with the purchase of the game. “Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make.”

Continue reading Those Unwilling To Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It

Yer Killin’ Me, Wildstar

It probably comes as no surprise that I have discovered religion about Free 2 Play in a big way.  It’s very clearly the way that the future of the genre is going, and any new competitor that enters the space is going to face immense competition from the rest of us that now provide a pretty substantial amount of gameplay for free.  Right now, WoW is the only successful subscription-only MMO in the west, and even they seem to be sticking their toe in the pool. Continue reading Yer Killin’ Me, Wildstar

Black Gold’s Shiny New Microtransaction Model

I’m all for innovating inside of the monetization space for games, but innovation implies better, and I’m not sure this applies.

Black Gold Online’s file save mode will record your playtime data, showing all materials and equipment looted in that specific timeframe. Players will be given a choice to purchase that specific “save” if you wish to acquire all of those items… This system aims only at paying for rare materials and high level equipments: Basic materials and equipments can be looted immediately without purchase.

I believe this translates to “you have to pay us for the right to actually keep any rare loot that you’ve found.”  Doing this on some level isn’t unusual: SWTOR and Dungeon Runners limit the ability to equip epic items you find (one purchase unlocked the right to equip those items in both games), and Team Fortress 2 and Guild Wars 2 will drop chests that can only be opened with microtransactioned keys.

Of course, it’s difficult to tell for sure, since I’ve read it 3 times and, even with the helpful examples, am not exactly sure that I’ve gotten it right. That being said, anytime a customer base doesn’t UNDERSTAND your business model, they’re going to be extremely reluctant to give you their credit card information.

WoW Considers Joining the Modern Age of Gaming

Congratulations to Rock Paper Scissors for uncovering and confirming that Blizzard may be looking at dipping their toe into the microtransactions pool in some territories.  As someone who has gone through the transition myself, I am completely welcoming and want to tell them from the outset that the water is fine.  That being said, it would be nice if we could get observers and the press to stop equating with evil (‘dark… alchemy’) and ‘panic’. Continue reading WoW Considers Joining the Modern Age of Gaming