Over the years I have watched my share of MMORPG's come onto the gaming scene, and of those only five are super well known and that is Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI and of course Dungeons and Dragons Online. Now I know some people are going to sit back, think about what I am about to say and then tell me to go find the nearest freeway, sit down in the middle of it and play with my collection of Barbies - or better yet just pull my Ruger P85 from its holster and drop a round in my brain. ::shrugs:: To each his own - I think I am right in thinking that original IP's will be a thing of the past with the exception of the Asian markets where they seem to have an over abundance of creativity and money to boot to create original IP's. But as for Europe and the North American MMORPG market I think we're going to see fewer and fewer MMORPG's come along and those that do will be of IP's that are well known by the masses.
Because it is to much of a risk for investors to get behind a game design house, plop down $30 mil to $100 mil for the creation of an original IP. To many original IP's have come to the market and failed horribly. Now we can all agree that World of Warcraft is the 800 pound gorilla of MMORPG's. It is a truly colossal oddity in how well it did - but it proved one thing. It proved that if a game company goes with a well known IP and then follows the basic premise of KISS(Keep It Simple, Stupid) and launches an almost bug free, well designed game - people will knock down your door to play that game. Warcraft was such a game. 8+ million customers...that is every MMORPG publishers dream.
Now don't think I don't recall the failures of games like the Matrix(a very well known IP) and of course the complete and utter collapse of one of the worlds most well known IP's Star Wars. This doesn't make a difference. These two failed due to the fact that the game designers totally missed the boat on what players were looking for. The games were buggy and poorly managed. It makes no sense for a game like Star Wars Galaxies to fail. Think about it...we're talking Star Wars here - you know...the story we followed since we were kids and still followed up into adult hood. I have yet to find one person that didn't like Star Wars itself as a movie. Yet the Star Wars MMORPG is one of the pariahs of the MMORPG gaming community. The bad thing is the game just keeps sliding down into the dead games abyss and lets face it - eventually it will get there though its death will be a slow and lingering one.
None of this changes my mind though in regard to the direction I think future MMORPG's will go. I think we'll no longer see original IP's like Vanguard, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest or Asheron's Call. Nope. It is to risky a venture any more for investors in the US and Europe to partake in such an endeavor. Why? Because games like Vanguard and Tabula Rasa and a handful of others have crashed and burned. It is said that Vanguard cost upwards of $80 million dollars(rumor of course)...$80 million dollars to produce and it is not a healthy MMORPG right now. In fact I would say it is barely holding on. SOE is doing what they can to salvage it and right now only time will tell if it has the staying power to survive the next couple of years. I think they will pull it off, they've done some amazing things to salvage the mess Sigil dumped into their lap and Vanguard is a much better game then it was at launch...but it still has lots that needs fixed.
So what does all this mean for future MMORPG's in North America and Europe? It means up and coming MMORPG's will be based on such well known IP's as Star Trek, Stargate and possibly Harry Potter. My vote would go toward a Harry Potter MMORPG and I would love to play one! In fact if I were an investor and had the money I'd be placing it on a MMORPG based on the iP of Harry Potter. If you think WoW is huge...imagine the number of subscribers an MMORPG like Harry Potter would bring in. The key though and I am going to regret saying this...being that I totally dislike WoW...but Blizzards formula works and WoW is the formula to base a game like Harry Potter on. It works because when they made WoW they kept it simple, it is easy to learn, and it runs on a McGyver made computer - a chewing gum wrapper and a bobby pin.
That is where these games are headed and the only way they are going to grow. No investor is going to keep tossing money on a bad bet. Dead are the days of complex, sandbox games made for gaming rigs that do not exist yet - like Vanguard. Sorry. That is just how it is. Think of it like this...risk versus reward. The risk out weighs the reward in the current MMORPG publishing market when it comes to making an original MMORPG. So that investor is going to sheath their checkbook and walk away from the "Ultimate MMORPG Ever" and think...."...that was the smartest move I ever made. Now where is the game company who is making that Harry Potter MMORPG?"