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Thursday, January 20, 2005

MMO Money and the Bally effect

That might be like, the worst title ever. Anyway...

Debate has now raged about whether WoW is the next coming of all computer games, or the worst technical blunder since the N-Gage. No, the N-Gage wasn't all that long ago, but I like to beat on it whenever I can.

Now, I haven't played World of Warcraft and have been told that I'm the gaming equivalent of primordial soup for not doing so. I can live with that. I can get that Blizzard has taken their gaming prowess, identified all the slimey parts of the MMORPG genre and fine tuned into something like a gourmet soup. I get that.

But I just can't get behind this parade of companies blundering their launches technically time after time after time. And I really can't get behind the parade of gamers willing to write it off as "just part of the genre". That's a ridiculous excuse for a scheme that no reasonable person should willing find themselves in.

That scheme is the one that has turned the fitness industry into something of a cottage and more of a castle. Bally's, who I think is something of the Microsoft of the fitness world, makes a fortune off of the above attitude. Basically, Bally's tries to push people into an annual contract. It does this for one reason, and one reason only. Most people stop going to the gym after three months. The other nine months is nothing but free revenue for mother company.

So why is that MMO after MMO gets released and yet the dollars and time aren't being spent to insure that the launch goes smoothly. Blizzard is no fly by night studio, they're a major game company with good assets and years of experience. So why didn't they expend the goods to make sure that people weren't getting dropped like flies from their game?

Well, why would they? If gamers are willing to keep paying $15 a lunar cycle even if they have no guarantee whatsoever that they'll even be allowed access to the service they're paying for ... what incentive is there for Blizzard to fix anything in a timely manner?

Surely, MMO's require a steady and relatively sizeable base to maintain the game's playability - it's one of the downfalls of the design. Having Massively Multiplayer is meaningless if nobody is playing. So in the long term, Blizzard will have to appease enough players to keep their world filled. Look at PlanetSide, which shipped in something of a less than beta version (not even the core gameplay was well tested), and after multiple technical problems had droves of people fleeing the scene (SOE's horrible customer support didn't help). Now one of the biggest problems PlanetSide has is getting a good crowd together.

I'm sure Blizzard will be able to avoid that scenario, but it's sad to know that gamers are willing to subsidize it. I subsidize lots of stuff. I pay for websites and services I don't always go to or use, but honestly think are good. Paying for a game I couldn't play when I wanted simply makes no sense, not for the luxury of occasionally doing it with a hoard of other people.

1 comment:

Winkyboy said...

The MMO (although I like to say MMORG and pronounce it "morgue" for the cute, sarcastic inferences) genre is hard for me to understand. And I've tried to get into it, myself. I was a beta-tester and original subscriber for Ultima Online, I bought EverQuest and tried it out - but under protest, because I had learned my lesson with UO.

Way back in the day, I spent a good solid WEEK of real-life time building up my character and gather enough supplies for two so that my bud and I could go adventuring. On the walk to the dungeon, we were ambushed by a PK trap and died, LOSING EVERYTHING.

Okay, player-killing has been treated in a better fashion since that time but the lesson is not about PK'ing here. It's about paying real money and using real-life time to get absolutely nothing in return. When you're done with a MMORG, you can't replay it at a later date, unless hopefully the company is still running the servers. And even in that case, you've got to hope someone else is still interested in playing it, too.

There's just not enough draw for me.