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A Blog of Rants, Ideas and the Occasional Review.

Author: Borme22

Indie MMOs: Can they Survive?

Posted by Borme22 Wednesday March 11 2009 at 1:34PM
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Can independent MMOs survive in todays market? Since the begining of MMOs, when MUDs were the norm, people wanted to make their own. Can that be reality? First of all, What is the difference between a Regular MMO and an Indie? I define "Indie MMOs" as 1-3 people working on a small project without a Company. I serched the Internet for "Indie MMO" and came up with many blogs talking about peoples' own MMO. I also saw things like "Sherwood Dungeon" and "Kingdom of Loathing" but, Are they worth it? Should people even care about small MMOs that do not have a massive company behind them?

Well, Lets look at some of the problems that Indie MMOs face. Truly, one of the greatest problems for indie MMOs, if not all MMOs, How does one make money? The cost of making even a small game (i.e Hosting a server, A forum and a website) add up! The payment method, do you "Pay to Play"? If you are not a AAA+ title, most people won't pay monthly. Free Trials are nice, but, does your free trial really show how great the game is? What about micro transactions? Will players pay for those things? KoL and Golemizer allow you to donate, but, do players really care about the game?

Alright you have chosen a payment method, how do you want it to look? 2D, 3D? When you give a player a choice between a great looking game (Which is just a WoW clone) vs a game with limited graphics (which great story depth) Which one do you think they will choose? the good looking game get players more often than the limited graphic type. What is the story? A WoW-clone? An original idea? If you go with something like KoL, You have  something very different, but, will players want that?

Then we come to the monster in the room, getting yourself heard. With so many MMOs out there today, It's kinda like someone getting thousands of fan mail (Or hate mail >.>) and opening just the right one. A game could be great, however, if no one hears about it, that fact is useless! Voting sites allow people to vote for there favorite MMO, Who really looks at those?  Reviewers from MMO sites will log in and enjoy themself, write a good review!,then, a player comes along, logs in and trys to view it though the eyes of a Mainstream MMO, and often, hates the game!  Sometimes, all  that MMOs need is a blog post that mentions them. (Shot out to Golemizer :p)  

Currently, i think a big fact that most people over look about indie MMOs is the community, I've been playing Golemizer for a few months now, and now have a real community of gamers behind me. I look at games like KoL, Sherwood and wonder, are they popular? I mean, in terms of AAA+ MMOs, No. But, for what they are, Very orginal, Tight knit communities, who love the game, Yes they are "popular". What can we learn from this? Indie MMOs are hard to make, Hard to get popular. So I ask you, Can Indie MMOs succed? Is there hope for Indie MMO developers? 


(And just because I wanted to >.> :

Over00 writes:

Interesting read!

You pretty much nailed the biggest problems I faced (and still facing). Visibility is hard to get. Not big enough to be talked about, not big because not talked about...

The best answer often being a question, I'd ask: How do you (or anyone reading this) define success?

From the point of view of many MMO players, success is probably defined as "How many people are playing?" or "How much money does it make in a year?".

If you go with these two points, no, you cannot achieve "success". Eve Online has a lot (lot) less players than WoW. So Eve Online would be a failure?

But if "success" is defined in a way like you defined it in the end... A lot more interesting.

Success for me is "Did I built the game I wanted to build?". I think I'm quite successful right now. Next step would be "Can I make a living out of it?". If I reach this next step, define success anyway you like, I'll be happy with my definition :)

There's always hope for someone with ideas. This person only need to remember that nothing is easy and failures are part of the path leading to "success".

The difference between someone who fail and someone who succeed is that the first one stopped trying.

Wed Mar 11 2009 2:33PM Report
Rin_Pride writes:

In my opinion, all that is needed in terms of financial success is not huge profit or anything. Indie MMO need to earn money, but only to allow it's creators to put all efforts in the game without worrying about "real job", what to eat, how to pay bills etc. If you think about it, average payment even for a team of 10-20-30 people + expenses on hosting and such stuff are not that large if you multiply number of subscribers on monthly payments (and they can be lower than 10-15$). So I think there is a way for such games, especially now, when the crysis of ideas hit the genre hard. It's just indie MMOs need to move a few steps up. Not 2-3 people making it, but 10-15 from the start, creating at least "acceptable" (by masses) graphics and other "shiny" stuff. And yes, the hardest part is finding and bringing together such large group of talented enthusiasts. But sooner or later it will start happening.

Thu Mar 12 2009 5:26AM Report
Over00 writes:

It's just indie MMOs need to move a few steps up. Not 2-3 people making it, but 10-15 from the start, creating at least "acceptable" (by masses) graphics and other "shiny" stuff.

The question I'd ask would be "why?"... If they are already successful and like it that way, why is there a "need" to step up?

Sherwood Dungeon was made by a single man. Not because he wasn't able to find a team but because it's started as a hobby and he enjoy working on it alone.

I'm sure he'd be able to get a good team around him and make his game even more popular but that's not the point. So what you are talking about is "players expectations" and not "devs motivations". Getting a team of 10-15 might actually "kill" the initial motivation of the whole project (having your own thing, doing it at your own pace, being your own boss).

Saying that indie need to "step up" sounds like if most indie were not happy with what they're doing. Some are indie because they don't want a team of 10-15 around them. Their product is surely not as polished as it could be but that wasn't the initial question.

So the question of the OP was "Is there a place for such less polished products built by 1-3 persons".

The word indie here is misleading because "indie" can be a single person or a small company without any big money behind them. That's why the OP first defined what he meant by "indie" (1-3 persons). Maybe there's a better word for it. Hobbyist? Then again, Sherwood Dungeon is now the full time job of Gene Endrody. It's not just a hobby anymore.

Thu Mar 12 2009 9:41AM Report
Over00 writes:

Note that the first paragraphe was meant to be a quote. Somehow italic did not follow...

Thu Mar 12 2009 9:42AM Report writes:
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