24 January 2012

Long Lost Cousins?

Lately I have been wondering if some other prominent MMO bloggers are not in fact long lost cousins of mine.  To a degree, it is reassuring to see that I am not the only one thinking some of the things that I am.  We all desire to have our opinions validated to a certain degree.  It is nice to know we aren't "crazy" when we find someone else saying some of the same things that we are.  But when talking about a subject that by its very nature involves the attitudes and opinions of so many different people, as MMO's do, it is even more important to try and understand all the different points of view that can exist around you.  Last week I made a post about how the people I called "The Informed," (MMO bloggers, forum writers, podcasters, etc.) may be the loudest portion of the MMO community, we are also the smallest, and our opinions ultimately don't mean much to the "Powers that Be" compared to the "silent majority."

Well today Rohan echoed those sentiments in discussing some upcoming changes to the latest batch of World of Warcraft raid content.  His points about the reasoning behind the changes and Blizzard's reaction to Cataclysm are spot on.  I was among those who believed Wrath of the Lich King was too easy.  I was among those who craved a return to Burning Crusade type heroics and attunement chains.  I was among those who wanted raid content to actually be difficult again.  And ultimately... I was among those two million lost subscribers.  I quit Cataclysm and WoW less than three months after the expansion's release. 

Consider that for just a moment.  Blizzard gave me everything I (and the rest of The Informed) wanted and I quit anyway.  Not only did I quit, but millions of others, some Informed some not, quit also.  Consider also that Wrath was WoW at its height in terms of total population and subscriber numbers.  Put those facts together, and what conclusion is Blizzard going to come to?  Are they going to keep listening to us?  The Informed?  Are they going to create harder content?  Bigger barriers?  More obstacles?  Heck no.  They are going to go back to what was most successful, and that was the Wrath model.

In the original post from Kurn that Rohan is commenting on, Kurn complains that Blizzard is ignoring its "older players," (ie. The Informed.)  He is absolutely right, they are ignoring us.  And Rohan is absolutely right in that they should ignore us.  What has listening to us got them?  Lower subscriber numbers and an upset community.  The bottom line is this:

The modern MMO in 2012 is NOT designed for the MMO player of 2004.

The reality that we, The Informed, need to accept is that mainstream MMO's are no longer designed with us in mind.  The kinds of mechanics we want, the types of gameplay we enjoy, are not what designers are basing their games on.  Why?  Simple.  There is no money in it.  Big name companies and big name producers are not going to be content with a game that has ten thousand, or even a hundred thousand subscribers.  They are aiming for millions.  Niche games that meet the needs of The Informed do not meet that economic model.   As I have commented on before, THIS is the true legacy of World of Warcraft.  It changed the "population" of MMO players such that the needs of people like The Informed simply no longer matter to a company like Blizzard, or EA/Bioware, or Trion, or any other major MMO developer.

Is there room for a game that would suit the needs of The Informed in the MMO marketplace?  Certainly.  But it will not be a big budget, AAA-type title.  It will be a smaller game.  It will be a "labor of love."  It will be something produced by a smaller company with lesser ambitions (and independent funding.)  I know many of The Informed are pinning their hopes and dreams on the upcoming Guild Wars 2, and while it would be great if it delivered on everything people think it will, I'm afraid they are just lining up for more disappointment.  We may be loud, we may be angry, but we are also few.  No one is likely to give us the things we want any time soon.

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