Opting Out of the Hype Cycle

I laughed out loud when I read this post by Melmoth this morning, and it reminded me that one of the interesting effects of the fragmentation of the MMO market in the last year is a serious increase in industry hype. When we were mostly all playing WoW there were of course many heartfelt positive or negative words generated with each change, but we were generally anchored by our love for a single game. Money, in the form of box payments or subscriptions, was rarely in question.

Of course it’s a vastly different marketplace now. It seems like there’s a new game or expansion or beta happening every other month and the inevitable cycle between unbearable excitement and horrible failure gets shorter and more volatile all the time. Not only does this make the industry itself go to silly lengths to extend the honeymoon phase of hype (I’d suggest that pay-for-beta is partially a response to this), but it drives the fanbase into tribal warfare.

I mean, sure, we all say that you can play multiple MMOs at the same time and “isn’t diversity fun!”, but at the end of the day wouldn’t you honestly prefer it if everyone just spontaneously decided that your main MMO is the best? Me too!

I am all for people being excited for a new game, or proselytizing about an MMO they love. And I’m certainly in favor of a varied marketplace and people not feeling compelled to play something that they don’t inherently enjoy because it’s literally the only game in town. But the hype cycle we have now.. despite my happily participating in it on many occasions, I’m not sure it’s healthy for the playerbase. It creates this culture of animosity, and always jumping around trying to find the greenest virtual grass. It feels like in general we’re discouraging each other from finding a game simply satisfactory but instead demand extreme love or terrible hatred, trying hard to coax our fellow players into creating that sweet critical mass that we loved in WoW.

It’s this hype that has in large part lead to me jumping around MMOs for over a year, and I realized a few weeks ago that I’m tired of it. I miss having a home. I miss building social networks. I miss having a main character and feeling like it’s worth investing some time into their skills or appearance or whatever. Almost every time I’ve tried a new-to-me MMO in the past year I’ve said to myself, “Eh, don’t worry about the details, I’m not playing this for real anyway.” For some people that might be exactly how they enjoy playing (and that’s cool) but for me, I just felt kind of alienated from the game world after a while.

It was with that in mind that I bought a year’s worth of subscription to an MMO yesterday. (It was RIFT, natch, but the game itself doesn’t matter right now.) I’ve never made that kind of commitment up front before, not even during my many years of borderline addiction to World of Warcraft. Part of my motivation was certainly capitalizing on a good deal, but mostly it was my shot across the bow of the HMS Hype.

I’m not at all done with being excited about Game X or thinking Game Y is boring. But I want to try and think before I perpetuate the EXXXTREME MARKETPLACE attitude, and hopefully setting down some roots will give me more grounding to relax and opt out of the hype cycle for a while.

Author: Jessica Cook

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9 Comments

  1. It’s… well, it’s a relationship, right? with a game? And when you’re stuck with just the one, it’s a terribly dysfunctional relationship but it’s sort-of okay, because at least you’ve got a good support network. But then jumping from game to game to game searching for “perfect’ or that “good ole’ feeling I used to have when I was young,” well that doesn’t work either.

    Making a commitment, right? It has some sort of value. “Look game, I know you’re a little boring, but there’s nothing else better out here and I don’t want to be gameless. You’ve got some great potential and I have fun with you. Let’s make this work.”

    …I can’t say it’s how I’d want to run people-relationships, but it sounds like it makes sense for games. Right?

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  2. LOL@Orpho.

    Funny thing is that about 12 months ago people were complaining that there was nothing interesting on the MMO radar until SWTOR finally launched…

    Perhaps everyone was certain WoW was the best game ever, but now they are not so sure. Perhaps now they are all becoming little fanbois (and fangirls) to try and reinforce their own decision to play game X.

    Regarding game relationships – perhaps it is unrealistic to expect the people you met in Game X to also want to play Game Y with each other. Perhaps its time for new relationships/community?

    Gobble gobble.

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    • An excellent point about new relationships and community, Mr. Turkey! Sometimes one has to accept that things change, and move on.

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  3. It’s a pretty good line of argument.

    I don’t think that I have time to play more than one MMORPG “properly”. As in, playing it to the point where I have a strong community in the game and get some kind of deep satisfaction out of playing it.

    If I jump to the next big thing every time it comes out, which I have a tendency to do, at the current rate of releases I’ll never actually play anything properly.

    So yeah, I think at some point you just have to draw a line in the sand and say “this is where I will plant my garden”.

    But then having made a commitment like that, it’s natural that the inter-game tribal warfare would start to happen. Because I’ll be damned if some shiny new game is going to come along and pull my garden out from under me! :)

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    • It was a strange feeling to have just committed to a game, and then I wake up the next morning and see a Guild Wars 2 release date. It’s really hard to resist running around, waving your arms in the air, trying to convince everyone to stay in your tribe! Ignore that new shiny tribe! Ahhh! :)

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  4. Haha Orpho! That’s a good way to think about it, actually. To continue the analogy, playing new MMOs has felt like being set up on a blind date with someone whose hotness and personality has been greatly exaggerated by my friends for months before the actual date. There’s so my hype that I basically can’t not be disappointed by the real thing. Plus there’s the whole issue where I’m still in love with my ex (WoW) or maybe just with how my relationship with my ex used to be, so no one can ever really live up to my high standards.

    Congrats on making the commitment Liore! I think it’s a good idea and I have to admit I was tempted when I saw the RIFT deal. Maybe I need to like, put all my WoW related possessions in a box and burn it to help me get over the breakup or something.

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    • Print out photos of Thrall from the internet and scratch his face out!

      I totally get not having anything be as good as WoW was in its day. :)

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  5. I believe you’re right Liore, you have to create some stability to build the relationships that make an MMO worth playing. I’m one of the lucky ones — I come from Guild Wars, and the relationships that I’ve built over the past 6 years will be moving, mostly intact, from GW1 to GW2. That’s very satisfying.

    I also expect that after 3 months many people — the people with no love for the type of vertical progression gameplay that existed with GW1, and that A-Net has said they’ll be creating with GW2 — will be ranting that it was a huge letdown, and looking for the next great thing. But, that doesn’t kill A-Net or Guild Wars 2. Many times during GW1 the devs have described the same commitment scenario that Orpho has in her post, and said it doesn’t apply to them. You don’t have to marry this game. You can just come in, fool around for as long as you’re having fun, then go back home to whatever game you’re really committed to. No monthly allows that, and A-Net doesn’t mind; they’re more than willing to be your buddy instead of your spouse.

    If you do use GW2 in this manner you still need somewhere to go home to; but in my mind being married to your best friend is the greatest thing in the world. Like I said to begin with, I’m one of the lucky ones — and that applies to both gameplay and real life.

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  6. I’m not sure I care for the relationship analogy, Orpho. That would make me a two-timing cheater that is trolling internet dating sites and planning on filing for divorce from WoW as soon as I find something better.

    Don’t tell my wife, please.

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