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.