Super Walmart or the 5 & 10 Cent Store
There's nothing wrong with going to Fred Meyers or Walmart,. You can find a lot of variety in those stores versus that small country store a mile down the road. The problem with the mass merchandise type places is always in the details; those specialized items you are looking for might be hard to find. Whether it's that certain original XBoX Conversion Kit or a specific computer part or a particular brand name of ice cream; if it doesn't have mass appeal, you may be screwed.
MMO's have always promised us change, just like every four years in America, we hear the same thing but this time it's different for several reasons. Those reasons are being well laid out on the official website's growing list of Foundational Principles.
So, enter Project Camelot Unchained: It doesn't want to be your Walmart of Gaming, it wants to be your specialty store.
A recent article by Syncaine, aptly titled, "Return to Sanity" illustrates the importance of such a move to the MMO genre at this time:
More importantly, Camelot Unchained and others show that the future of the genre is, finally, not in chasing the mythical WoW unicorn, but in reproducing what actually worked; delivering a measured product aimed at the crowd that actually wants it. And if that crowd is only 30k strong, as Mark Jacob’s estimates will be the case for CU, so be it. 30k people paying you each month is more than doable from a business standpoint; you just can’t spend 300m to get there.
Mark Jacobs gets this concept. This isn't a WoW is evil and niche games are good argument; it's more subtle than that -they are different things and don't share all the same goals.
For too long people have treated the MMO genre like it's just purely a general store enterprise, when it really should be viewed as equally capable of simply being a hardware store, or electronics store, or clothing store or maybe, bookstore. Just because Walmart sells books doesn't mean it does it better than Barnes and Nobles or that old Mom & Pop Book Nook down off Main Street.
Sure, one of them is bigger and has more name recognition or cash flow, but does that mean the experience of shopping there is necessarily superior?
It's not a perfect analogy, but it's a relevant perspective on how MMO's have been viewed in the last 10 years.
Mass crowd appeal as the official measure of success
So when Tobold asks the rather heavily crap laden question:
If today a game released and got 250,000 players, it would be considered a failure. There were "WoW is dying" posts in response to the news that WoW was down to 9.6 million players. But Dark Age of Camelot, which only ever got 250,000 players at its peak, and is now well below 50,000, is by some still considered to be the holy grail. And that was for a mixed PvE / PvP game, while Camelot Unchained will only have the PvP part. Does anybody really believe this is going to be a huge success? Especially since Mark Jacobs previous attempt to make a new DAoC-successor, Warhammer Online, was such a big success ...
One should consider if Tobold's definition of success is truly accurate. Because just maybe it's exactly that type of thinking that landed us into this rut of an idea that mandates that all MMO's be Walmart.
Define, or be defined.
If you are in the business of creating or consuming products, whether they be ideas or games or a new electronic gadget. attracting the right customers is the key. Playing to the mass crowd only works to a certain extent and then falls flat, often a victim of its own success. A blasé attitude develops toward something stripped of all its sharp edges, homogenized into a product for mass appeal, both succeeding and failing at the time.
The pedestrian path is a common trail to blaze to reach success, but sometimes the road less traveled has the best scenery and the greatest treasures. This goes for MMO's as well.