The Age of the MMORPG is over.
Amidst the much foreseen migration of players out of Wildstar to either nowhere or to the next new big thing Archeage, Tobold wonders where it’s all gone wrong. Why is it that these games aren’t attracting and retaining the numbers we’re expecting out of them?
He proposes two reasons for it:
The lack of new blood -real newbies flowing in to the MMO genre. which WoW captured in a big way, riding on the Blizzard brand name and subsequently a critical mass which turned it into a pop culture phenomenon
Way too many games now on the market – all competing for a limited number of players who have finite time to commit, some offering way more attractive prices than others
In a way, I think he’s right.
MASSIVELY multiplayer online roleplaying games are dead.
If we find ourselves only able to play MMOs who report a population of 10 million players, there is no MMO out there today that can suit you anymore. No, not even WoW. The king has toppled off its throne and continues to crumble.
It’s time to play MOBAs – League of Legends has apparently 27 million players online daily in Jan 2014 (how many of them are bots collecting free stuff, I don’t know, does it work like DOTA 2 where there is some kind of incentive to make multiple free accounts and keep them logged in for whatever reason?) – or maybe Candy Crush Saga. 46 million monthly, says the Forbes link.
If we chop off the unstated RPG from the word MMO, maybe you can tell yourself you’re playing an MMO when you play the above games?
If we dial down our expectations to a more modest ‘a million players or so,’ you can probably play WoW or GW2.
Nosy Gamer suggests that those are the top two MMOs played by Xfire users, and given that both have launched in China, I think it’s reasonable to assume that both have comfortably exceeded a million players globally and won’t suffer attrition down below the magic 1,000,000 for a while yet.
If we drop to *shock, horror, gasp* only several hundreds of thousands of players, then I guess you can play all the ‘dead and failed’ MMO carcasses out there that are still clinging on to life for some unknown reason only known to the developers and their bean-counters.
That’s the rest of those on Nosy Gamer’s Xfire list – SWTOR, Eve Online, Final Fantasy XIV, Tera, Aion, Wildstar, Runescape, LOTRO, Neverwinter, TESO – and charitably, perhaps TSW, DDO, RIFT, Star Trek Online, Everquest and the rest of the SOE lineup make the cut?
Or maybe they’re only in the 10k-100k players range, along with any other MMOs I forgot to mention.
Who knows? MMOs tend to stop reporting their numbers below a million, but curiously refuse to close down.
As Bhagpuss mentions in Tobold’s comments: “How are we defining failure here?… All of these and more certainly failed to satisfy and hold the attention of a particular segment of the MMO commentariat but that’s hardly going to bother the companies still raking n the money or the players still happily playing, is it?”
He’s right too.
And I think I’m right too when I say, you all had better just get used to this state of affairs.
WoW was a one-time phenomenon. It brought in players who don’t usually play MMOs. Hell, it brought in players who don’t usually play GAMES.
Many of those continue to subscribe to WoW comfortably, like a magazine subscription they’ve almost forgotten about or take for granted, and browse through the pages from time to time. Others, when they got tired of WoW, simply stopped.
If we’re lucky, some of them moved on to other games, having learned that they are not the work of the devil.
If we’re really really really lucky, some of them stuck with the MMO genre.
We have also seen demonstrated over time and across a whole sequence of games now, since WoW and Warhammer and whose latest consumption was Wildstar, a migratory flock of gamer locusts that pick up and play each new game for 1-3 months and then move on to the next new and shiny.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.
This is the usual state of affairs for games, especially single-player games or just ordinary PC games that can be played both single and multiplayer, whose major money making strategy is the sale of the price of a box to players willing to pay a premium for it as it launches. They play it for a while, and then happily move on with their comrades to the next new game, plunking down $60-100 for the privilege of playing it during that vaunted hip and cool time where all their friends are talking about and playing it too.
If you find yourself attracted to this group, you’d best just get used to spending the money and moving on, cupcake.
That’s the price you pay for the excitement of launch (queues, bugs and all) and the ephemeral feelings of hope, promise, potential and dreams. Archeage is your next best bet now, it’s that way, hop to it.
Sadly for you, game companies are catching on and offering you oh-so-prestigious Founder price packages now.
In the distant future, we can look forward to Landmark, EQ Next (maybe), Star Citizen (maybe?) and Eternal Crusade (of which I’m personally on the Founder bandwagon, I expect to be disappointed, you can point and laugh later, it’s ok, Warhammer 40k fans are used to paying ridiculous prices for a piece of cheap plastic, if all I get is a CoH-like character creator that lets me play dress-up doll with WH40k colors, I guess I can pay $40 for that and the hope of pewpewing some guns with them.)
I’m also right when I say that you can rewrite your damn expectations of what MASSIVELY (not the website, the descriptor) needs to be, and settle down in one of many of the current crop of MMOs out there.
That’s what several thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of people are doing, after all.
Seriously, think back to the most fun and/or most populated (those two do not necessarily correlate) MMOs you’ve ever played, and start counting.
All the people you can name, first of all, that you remember for their personalities and for being a meaningful part of your life.
Then count the rest on your friends list, your guild rosters (preferably those that were online at the same time as you) and maybe a rough estimate of the number of people you need running around you to feel an ebb and flow of life around you.
Please actually spend time taking a screenshot and counting name tags at some point for best accuracy.
Prior experience playing WvW in Guild Wars 2 suggests very strongly that most people are unable to estimate numbers with any sense of accuracy. (“OMG a zerg!” Then 5-10 people show up… Or “Oh, maybe 10-20ish people at this camp.” Folks get there and find 60. Ouchies.)
If you even manage to exceed 10,000, I’m going to be very surprised.
Far more likely, that number is going to be somewhere in the 100-300 range, or what I tend to think of as Dunbar’s Number when it comes to MMOs.
No one really needs a million players around them. It’s just an easy shorthand to assume that the game they like won’t close down just because there’s lots of people paying the game company and keeping them afloat.
Guess what. You don’t actually have any say in when the game closes down or not.
Chances are likely the game will close -someday- because all these things are finite and computer technology progresses inexorably onward, making things look and feel better and better and older games more and more unplayable to many.
But if you play -and- pay for a game that you like, there’s a bigger probability that you may be able to delay that day for a while yet.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll be having fun, in the game you like enough to pay for.
If you can’t seem to find any game fun enough, especially when we’re talking about dropping dollars on it, then I guess your lot is to accept that you enjoy migrating with the herd and the social experience more than any individual game.
Go find your community and stick with them. (Just remember that every herd needs new births from time to time to thrive.) Move from watering hole to watering hole with them, and maybe one day you’ll get enough of wanderlust and settle down in a village in a game that you do like.
And if you get tired of settling down, pull up roots and travel again. It’s not a one-way trip.