I was listening to the Van Hemlock podcast yesterday, and while I’m sure there’s plenty to said about those guys, that is not my goal for today. Rather, I would like to hyper-focus on a quote that initiated a thought, which ultimately became the blog you are reading (If it’s not the post you’re reading then…well…I don’t know. I guess the first thing that comes to mind is, “How?”).
Now, this has no doubt been brought up many times before, and I’m fairly certain, qualified as Jon Shute may be, he was most likely not the person to first mention how the barrage of releases we are seeing are affecting the actual Online Gamer population. Simply put, aside from World of Warcraft, MMOs have been more or less cycling through the same number of people. Massive a population we are, there are still only a finite number of humans, and so naturally there are only a certain number of MMO players. The most well known example of multiple MMOs strangling each other would no doubt be the rivalry that had existed between the Age of Conan and WAR as the two yelled and screamed at each other through the gaming dimensions over who had the grittier game, the better PVP, better IP, larger shoe size…wait…where was I again? Oh yes. Suffice to say, when AoC first came out, there was a dip in the number of WoW players, and AoC swelled. Eventually people flocked out of AoC back to WoW, and when WAR came, again, some people left Conan and Azeroth to visit WAR. Again, some stay, but plenty more were just tourists, who went back to their “Home” game.
The popular term is that these games are just cannibalizing the MMO market without bringing in new players.
The “real” face of the MMO Companies
This again, has been applied to many things. There are of course some factors that net a small number of new players (Intellectual Properties, the people who are playing AoC or Lord of the Rings just because they are Tolkien or Howard fans). But these are tiny details that come across as specks in the big picture. Ever since World of Warcraft came out, these games have picked at the more adventurous spirits who just discovered these new and amazing Massively Multiplayer Online Games. This seems to be the cardinal sin that people will always bring up, but I now ask, “So what?” At some point, you really can’t push the numbers, certain interests will attract certain people, and you can make it more accessible, but that doesn’t mean you can make everyone like something. MMOs didn’t go and become mainstream. World of Warcraft just happens to be a mainstream MMO. A genre is not mainstream when a subsect is. You could say Halo is a mainstream FPS, but that doesn’t mean the FPS genre is main stream. What does main stream even mean? To me, it essentially equates to a house hold name. If you say Halo, someone will recognize it. If you say World of Warcraft, someone will recognize it. It is big enough to be a phenomenon, and that is what makes it main stream. Your grandmother probably doesn’t play either, but she’ll nod her head thinking, “So that’s what the kids are doing these days.”
So, when we have all these demographics playing something, (Have you seen all the kinds of people and guilds there are in WoW?) we find niches. At a certain point though, if we somehow expand so much more, they become their own sub-groups that the other players don’t jive with. That’s practically the point of guilds, to gather like-minded folks. Guilds for raiding, PVP, PVE, RP, etc etc. In the end, we’re only going to play with so many. And so you can say fine, that you think WAR and AoC are choking each other, and we’re all just acne on the back of Blizzard, but I’m really not losing any tears only being with Super Hero fans while I’m in Champions Online. No hard feelings to the happy grand father playing the wii, the young girl playing peggle, but we probably wouldn’t be best of buds, because in the end we are on differing spheres of the gaming interest. I could go on and on with more examples and justifications, but I’m long winded as it is. Just give these fledgling MMOs a break, they have enough trouble as it is.