Dang you guys! I go away for a week and apparently the MMO genre dies, or is in the process of dying. Maybe I’m just overly relaxed from my vacation but I’m sensing a lot of strum und drang going on out there right now and I feel like I’ve missed something. While I realize that part of the nature of being an industry blogger is worrying about stuff possibly more than the average enthusiast, it seems to me that the community as a whole could use a gentle reminder to stop and smell the flowers.
1. Bad business practices fail.
I don’t know the details of what went on at 38 Studios, Curt Schilling’s now defunct MMO dream factory, but what little facts I have come across indicate that it probably had poor financial management. Does it suck that we’ll probably never see what Schilling had under his cap for Project Copernicus? Of course it does. But inefficient business practices frequently drive a company under. Fear not, Chicken Little — this isn’t a case of a lack of interest in MMOs or anything else. It’s bad business management, and it happens in every industry at any time. Even rich and famous gaming enthusiasts can underestimate the process of creating an MMO.
2. You don’t need a trillion players to be a good game.
Even I would have a tough time arguing that SWTOR has lived up to all of Bioware’s expectations, but I am yet again put off by the crowing from certain quarters of the internet this week in response to the Bioware team layoffs. Yes, yes, a game you don’t like still exists! How terrible it must be to not have everything cater to your whims. The fact is that SWTOR is still one of the top 3 Western MMOs, with about a million subscribers. Before the game launched EA said they needed 500,000 subscribers to cover expenses, and they certain seem to cover that! No, I don’t enjoy it personally, but that is in fact not the final metric of a game’s success.
We, the playerbase, need to settle down a bit before calling a game a failure. Part of the charm of the current MMO marketplace is the diversity in titles, but that will get squashed if we start scoffing at anything with less than five million players. Hell, not every game even WANTS or SHOULD HAVE that many players! Not everything has to hit WoW-like numbers to be a commercial or artistic success. If a game is covering its costs and giving players a good time, it’s not a failure.
3. Forget about what’s coming out around the corner and enjoy what you’re playing now.
For the first time in years there is no future MMO that I’m anticipating, and I’ve found it to be kind of a relief. I don’t worry about something better around the corner, or whether my current game will be (gasp) behind the times. (This is fortunate, seeing as I’m still playing EQII. :P ) I don’t care what everyone else is playing! Are you having fun? Then.. success!
Like I said, I realize that gaming enthusiasts naturally tend to overthink issues and worry about the future but at a certain point I think it behooves us all to take a little time to sit back, relax, and have fun playing a game. Don’t worry if something better is around the corner or what it means for the industry as a whole or if you’re missing the MMO zeitgeist. Go ahead.. have some mindless fun. I won’t tell anyone.