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Teala's Wickedly Cool MMORPG.com Blog For The Masses

Just my thoughts on MMO's, roleplaying, game companies, and the people that play these games.

Author: Teala

Why Original IP's Will Fade Into Oblivion

Posted by Teala Tuesday March 25 2008 at 3:57PM
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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.

Why?

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?"

Trimethicon writes:

In many ways WoW was the best thing to happen to the genre and on the other hand it may have killed any creativity we might have seen moving forward. 

Unless something changes we're doomed to a life of kill, loot and level gaming mechanics. 

 

Tue Mar 25 2008 4:18PM Report
Anofalye writes:

Vanguard rigs make sense to me if you want an unofficially long beta, and revamp graphics, add an expansion and relaunch the game with opening new servers when the technology is average to loo.

I humbly think that Vanguard design and hardcore choices (you must do everything to master anything, eh, this is harsh for a game) are the main things limiting it.

Tue Mar 25 2008 4:30PM Report
Coralis writes:

 I see it the other way, game developers should be getting leery of spending big bucks for a license for some popular IP and then getting constrained big time by said license ( ex not being able to make balance change because it wouldn't fit in the the world )  .    Sure a well know IP gives you a built in target audience but it also gives you a built in vocal, rabid fan base that will second guess every decision about the game.  Piss off said fan base and you will have an extremely vocal bunch of people that fill up every forum that they can find with complaints. 

Tue Mar 25 2008 5:03PM Report
Trimethicon writes:

I don't think the point of the original post is that well-known, proven media IPs will or will won't be successful but that originality is dead.   Meaning MMOG companies and VC companies will not look to fund or develop risky MMOGs due to the fact that there are only a few games out there today  are extremely successful.  And in most, if not all, cases future  MMOGs  will follow that standard formula.  Because the gaming landscape is becoming littered with failed or gutted projects.  

Now whether or not well known IPs are a solid  bet is a whole other discussion.  In some cases, yes, you have a built-in fan base but on the other hand everyone knows how the story goes.  And your hands are tied with regards to what type of liberties you can take in rewriting certain parts of the story to fit into an MMOG setting.

 

Tue Mar 25 2008 5:37PM Report
Rommie10-284 writes:

I think in the short-term (2008-2009) the branded IP is going to dominate new releases.  Beyond, it will depend on the success of said new releases, but  the more brand names that lead the industry, the more opportunities that will exist for a well-crafted newcomer to hit paydirt.  It'll come down to whether well-crafted and affordable intersect.

Tue Mar 25 2008 6:51PM Report
Teala writes:

Hi Rommie - long time no see!   ::hugs::

Tue Mar 25 2008 6:57PM Report
Kuji-Kiri writes:

Creativity in Asian markets? First time I've actually heard anyone say this...No wonder.

Tue Mar 25 2008 8:01PM Report
Gishgeron writes:

Teala, I think you are wrong.  I will explain why very carefully....so as to be sure I communicate why I think so.

 

The first half of your thought is not too far from the truth...indeed market-proven IP's are a choice foundation to build any game on.  Its the second part that will fail in the future...the part where WoW's system shall be the framework of it all.  One very critical thing you have to understand before approaching the ideal of WoW's success is that most WoW players are first time MMO'ers as well.  There were most certainly NOT 10 million players in our market before that game came out.

Once you really grasp that, you have to then also understand that all gamers follow a similar growth pattern when it comes to genre gaming.  At first, we take whatever we get and love it because it is new to us.  As we go through years....we tire of things we have done countless times and hunger for something new.  It has happened to every other genre, and it happens to this one as well.  This whole sites forum is living proof of it.  What that means is that, while the WoW formula worked this time, it will fall flat on players trying a different MMO after having played it for 3 years already.

This translates into a quick downfall of the "grind-level-raid" system that is in place now.  Old school players have already tired of the grind in the 5 years or so we have been playing our games.  WoW is about to go for 4 years by itself...and because its game is so easy to get, its players chew through that system far more quickly than we did.  They will tire, and hunger for something new as well.  This will create new market demands...and thus, new types of MMO's for players to chew on.

As for how directly this ties into the ideal that only well known IP's shall carry the future of MMO's...that depends.  While the core gamer may lean toward good IP's, we also have a good understand of our own desires and WILL invest our time into new IP's that promise the things we seek.  If anything, this is the perfect time for new IP's.  The concept you have described to us has already been proven a dead ideal....what with the many FAILED popular IP's that chose to run with the "WoW" model.

So long as they prove to move the genre into something new...something fresh...something, decidedly MORE like a fantasy world than an interactive novel in which we cannot deviate from the path which its author has planned for us....these new IP's will stand the chance at being thrice as successful as they would have been mere months or even years ago.  The sandbox, my friends, is about to explode onto the scene.  Players want more control, more influence over their fantasy world.  I've seen it building for the last 5 years...and even now masses of players from all the games that exist are begging for more controllable content in their own games.

I predict the evolution of the MMO to occur within the next 3 years.  The next "wow" success story will not happen in one day....it will come over the course of this games first year as more players begin to try this new concept.  Whether it be Fallen Earth, DarkFall, or some other, as of now, unknown IP...we will see this genre change vastly to meet the demand for more control over our own personal stake in the fantasy.

Tue Mar 25 2008 9:29PM Report
Teala writes:

I dunno Gish.  I think the WoW formula is the formula that will be the basis for which furture MMORPG's spring from.  It might not be the very same formula but the core formula will be what is used.  It is easily accesible, easy to play, is pretty much bug free, and doesn't require the latest greatest tech to play it.   I think future MMORPG's will take that core formula and build new MMORPG's around it.   Like I said, if a game design house used WoW's formula and to build a Harry Potter MMORPG - the world would tear down their door to play it.

Tue Mar 25 2008 9:45PM Report
illyana writes:

sorry, i dont totally agree with whta you're saying here.

try reading this: http://www.guildwars.com/events/tradeshows/gc2007/gcspeech.php

and to quote : "Film, television, and book franchises are just not good candidates for MMOs. Even MMOs based on the "Big Two" franchises – you know the ones – have not lived up to the expectations of their developers. Today, and historically, the biggest MMOs are based on universes that were created for the purpose of supporting games."

the reason why WoW is so successful is that its IP is based on a universe, built from the ground up, to support a computer game. It is not based on a novel, nor film, nor a tabletop game, so the transition for players (and for the game) from RTS to MMORPG is VERY VERY easy. Its different though if you're going to translate a popular novel to an MMO. Its a totally different medium.

"The best games, MMO or otherwise, are created first and foremost to be games, and the world, story, and setting are there to serve that end, not the other way around."

Tue Mar 25 2008 10:24PM Report
Gishgeron writes:

You've got some things right with that.

 

Making games that run pretty and smooth on sub-standard hardware WILL be required for new IP"s and even old IP's.  Its a large part of the formula for success that WoW had.  Just as much so is the ease of play...the UI which works WITH the player to assist him rather than against him.  Mouseover information windows are also key, to help explain unknowns to the new player. 

Where the deviation shall come is in the style of progression...or the ideal of progression entirely.  The WoW framework for progression would never work for Harry Potter...as fans of that IP would expect to have LOTS of sorcerous choices and classes would simply destroy that.  Levels also begin to make less sense, as the wizards progression comes from the use of his craft...and not the deaths that come as a result.  In fact...potion masters killing things to level their craft would make little sense at all.

Your Harry Potter reference is probably the best choice you could have made to use as a example for me.  It fits with my predictions well...exemplifying the very nature of the new beast we wish to tangle with.

Most of all, and most key to this discussion, is the understanding that ease of play, accessibility, hardware requirements, useful and simple UI, and shallow learning curve are not gaming elements which we should look at as "new" or even "defining".  Truth be told...between the other genres of gaming it stands to reason that MMO's should ALL be made with that in mind...as we have long since discovered that the aforementioned elements are key to ANY good game...not just MMO's.

Tue Mar 25 2008 10:48PM Report
vajuras writes:

I'm not sure what is public info or not know to public. I probably shouldn't say anything.... But I just cant let you go on thinking this....

LOTRO - Turbine wanted to do so much more then what you have now but Tolkein enterprises stepped in and restricted the developer's creative freedom BIGTIME. That's all I will say on the matter.

D&DO - not a good example, bomb.....

World of Warcraft - this is not a licensed IP per se. It was a first party created game like you already know. I get what you are saying here in this piece. Its tricky, I'm being nitty. But its a big difference between a 3rd part developer that licenses an IP and a first party developer that has full creative freedom. nitty, nitty of me to mention perhaps

Star Wars Galaxies - why did you bring that up it kinda messed up your points. Many suspect Lucas Arts pushed for NGE. Rumor? I guess so. But its not really a good choice to bring up SWG in this piece

Harry Potter.... I wouldnt let my kids play that MMO but I wont go into detail.....

Good read tho I hope you write more.

Tue Mar 25 2008 11:08PM Report
vajuras writes:

Some points I'd like to comment on from this blog:

"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. "

Interesting, I see where you're coming from. Maybe you're right.

But there is another side of game development industry. It's called name recognition. If you're a proven developer like Bungie or Epic Games, then you can pull the major $$$ to build something. Call it Street Cred, name recognition, etc but that carries a LOT of weight.

for example, look at the requirements for game developers to hire for positions. They look at how many titles you shipped and how good they were. These things have a lot of weight and will reduce risk in the eyes of a publisher.

I look forward to the titles that follow not-so-beaten path. You know, once blizzard games was not the Titan it is today. They worked their way up the ladder from games like Blackthrone to Starcraft to WoW.

I think EVE/CCP is doing that now. They started small with original IP now with the merger with White Wolf they own much more IP. I expect more blockbusters from them.

EVE online smokes most of the titles you listed here btw

Good read though, good read....

Tue Mar 25 2008 11:29PM Report
Autodidact82 writes:

Problem i see with games that came out the last year. Has been that they haven't been able to cater to different kind's of players well. You got people that love PvP and don't give a rat's ass bout PvE, and Vice Versa. Then you got people that love both. One of the thing's i like to think help WoW a good deal. After they put in a better PvP system... they easily catered to both PvP and PvE player's well.

What companies just simply need to do, is add what every target audience want's and throw it in the game. Then add all their taste and twists to make it original. Why i think Warhammer going to have good amount's of success when it comes out. It's going to cater to PvP, and PvErs, even Aion.

Vanguard's issues came from.. piss poor performance out the gate. Only catering to one target group of people really. LOTRO .. it's successfull... but only due to the name. It is a WoW clone with LOTR's skin over it. Imagine if it had good PvP.. i could see that game growing..lot more. Tabula Rasa, again only catered to one group of people really. I honestly don't know what their were thinking with that game. People mainly associate shooter's like Call of Duty 4 or Half Life. With everyone shooting each other to bit's on multiplayer. They couldve had great deal of people if they added a good PvP system.

Pretty much the three major mmorpg's that came out laste year have been PvE games.................. do i need to say more.  Two of them flopped even though i like VG. LOTRO pretty much doing good with it's name alone. Why FFXI still has good amounts of people... even though it has no real PvP... long grind's and not user friendly one bit.

They seriously just need to cater to everyone and make it good. I don't think most people care right bout now if it's WAY original. But original enough not to be considered a clone.

Wed Mar 26 2008 1:07AM Report
Norden writes:

Great reads all around, thx.

Some points. There is a given number of IP's, but Potter and Matrix prove that new ones will show up over time. The next thing is renewal. Over time, games will age and wither away and at some point, someone will pull a plug. I imagine, that the major IP's cost a lot to own, so they require a larger playerbase to earn any money. SWG looks like a candidate for that. When this happens, someone will step up and try again. A new MMORPG on the same IP. It kind of has to happen at some point. This will go against the grain of a lot of people. SWG proves, that you can change gameplay a lot ( only what I have read, I never played it), but this seemingly ( and understandably) alienates your playerbase to the point of bloody murder.  Maybe a clean cut will be better, that has yet to be tried, as far as I can see. I am sure the reaction will be violent.

Im not a technical guy. I have seen EvE improve a lot graphically and SWG changing gameplay . So it can be done, but how far does this go?  Will it be possible to maintain a MMORPG this way or would it be better to close it at some point? And thats just the technical side of it. The less sandbox youre MMORPG is, the more content has to be made for players, higher levels, whatever. I shudder at the thought of, how WoW looks like in 5 years or so. Yet better uber-ultra-monster gear for the lvl 120 grinder, at some point decline should set in. It reminds me of the time, when Magic the Gathering exploded into the world of gaming, pushing everything aside, setting new standards for moneymaking in the industry. The concept is very similar - a new release, which will diminishall your earlier achivements again and again and again until youre fed up with it.  But it still exists  after all these years...

Sorry if this is a bit of a rambling.

Norden

Wed Mar 26 2008 3:49AM Report
JB47394 writes:

Teala: "Because it is [too] 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. "

I think you're being a bit restrictive in your notion of what an MMO is.  There are textual and Flash-based MMOs out there that are doing just fine both financially and in subscriptions.  An MMO doesn't require 500 servers and state of the art graphics.  Programming the graphics stuff is fun, but it's not important to making a good MMO.  In fact, I think that the more realistic graphics are starting to make MMOs unappealing.  I'd rather play FarCry than Crysis.  I'm fine with shooting at cartoons.  I'm not so happy about shooting at realistic people.  I think that MMOs would benefit by simplifying the presentation and spending a little more time in producing innovative gameplay constructs.

Look to the small companies for the innovation.

Wed Mar 26 2008 12:43PM Report
vajuras writes:

Well said JB, well said....

I liked the author's point of view here. not something I agree with but she made good points I thought. Especially her follow up post

Wed Mar 26 2008 2:15PM Report
Teala writes:

JB...the question is is "what sells?"   What are your biggest selling points of an MMORPG?   The game itself and the graphics.  If this is not the case the nwhy do people always rate games on graphics and gameplay.   Look at the forums and the numerous discussions about graphics in these games and the debates about which games have the best graphics.   OMG there are hundreds of them all over the internet in gaming forums about these games.   So though your arguement does have some relevence...the truth of the matter is graphics do matter.  Yes and thoughs flash-based and textual muds are doing "OK" but I seriously doubt they are raking in the kind of money an investor is hoping to make from their investment.   That is why games like WoW, FFXI, and GW have the number of customers they do and why investors are more likely to invest in a game like LoTR or DDO and not an old style text based mud.

Wed Mar 26 2008 2:35PM Report
JB47394 writes:

Teala: "JB...the question is is "what sells?""

Not to my mind.  For me, the question is "What is entertaining?".  If I can find a 100-player game that I absolutely love, then I'm golden.  A small shop can produce a 100-player game.  They do it today in text.  Because the smaller shops are being ever more empowered to be able to do more with the minor resources that they control, I can hope that the smaller shops will innovate in ways that I find entertaining and produce games that are beyond text.

Admittedly, I'm not interested in text either.

Wed Mar 26 2008 8:47PM Report
vajuras writes:

Teala to be fair you just mentioned Guild Wars to prove your point which was a good one sure. But Guild Wars is an original IP that has done very well for itself

I still like the article perhaps if you have time make a part #2 and come at this from a different angle.

Wed Mar 26 2008 10:03PM Report
sepher writes:

Notice the games you mentioned as original IPs: EverQuest, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot and Vanguard.

All of those developers (considering SOE as Vanguard's developer now) were forced to enter the genre with original IPs, as they didn't have the money to "risk" offseting budget towards a purchased IP. 

Dark Age of Camelot in particular I believe is an exceptional example. Mythic was able to get plenty of common domain lore that developers could take their cues from, and players could relate to when it came to establishing the world. 

The asian MMOs you mention are similar, a lot of 'em draw upon common domain mythology or other tales when there's an absence of a purchased IP. 

So really, "original IPs" are more of a budget device than anything else.

Purchased IPs are a bonus. It helps developers design a game that's already proven capable of connecting wih a good amount of players if done right. 

I don't believe there'll be a continued huge proliferation of IP-licensing though; mainly because of how the Matrix and SWG bombed and never rebound. I'm sure a lot of licenses were purchased with the idea of an instant, fixed amount of subscribers. It's clear that isn't the case now though.

Anyway, my main point is that usually its the small, first-time developers that create original IPs. That goes for any genre of gaming. In the MMO genre though, it seems those once small development houses prefer to purchase IPs for their second go around; a-la Cryptic's transition from City of Heroes to Champions, CCP's impending transition form Eve to World of Darkness; and Funcom, Turbine, Mythic, etc. as prior examples. 

In effect, those once small developers have become mainstream. Especially in the face of CCP's merger, Mythic's acquisition, SOE falling beneath the SCE hierarchy, Funcom's dealings with Microsoft and Eidos..etc.

Anytime you have a mainstream anything though, an indie scene begins to form; and that's what we've yet to attain in the MMO genre. Sadly most of our indie developments end up being vaporware, from Dawn in th late 90s to Darkfall (arguably) late in this decade. 

That's the only place original IPs are going to come from though, small, independent developers. Mainstream developers rarely take risks, since porting existing owned IPs from another genre, creating sequels and licensing IPs is safer.

Sat Apr 19 2008 3:48AM Report
grimfall writes:

I forget.... who did Blizzard license the Warcraft IP from?  Warcraft is original IP, and not a particuarly good one, to be honest.  Has anyone ever tried reading one of those Warcraft books? Ugh.

Mon Jun 30 2008 2:03AM Report
grimfall writes:

It was an interesting read, but I have to disagree.

An IP doesn't really mitigate risk for investors.  Using a license on means that you have to either pay a lot up front, or more likely make continuous payments based on some portion of your revenews (not profits). 

If you look at the real 'powerhouse' MMORPG IP's, you have Star Wars - game doing horribly, AD&D - game trudging along but not making investors 'sit up and take notice' and LOTRO - doing alright, but not unseating WoW as many predicted it would.

The top two western MMO's are WoW and Eve - which developed their own IP, but the reason they do well has little to do with IP, it's the gameplay.

So instead of 'KISS', maybe you should say  'ITGS'.

Mon Jun 30 2008 2:09AM Report
boldee writes:

First of all I have to say that I dislike WOW intensely however I wouldnt criticise Blizzard for coming up with a winner, I dont like the graphics but I appreciate the practicality of being able to play the game on a toaster (though I think it needs to be a deluxe toaster since Cataclism) and the way Blizzard have kept the graphics style from the previous games, you dont change what the fanbase likes. I dont think WOW was anything new or inivative when it was released and it isnt now Cataclism proved this by just taking the sony approach as with EQ2 and making expansions that just gave you a new world to run around in but with nothing to add to game play apart from having a couple of new races.

I think my main point would be that MMO players are the real problem here, some of us like to play a game like Vanguard, I played beta and continued to play from release, what attracted me was the 3 tier system and the fact I had to work hard to complete my goals thus the sense of achievment became heightened. The problem for me was they dumbed it down and that is what has happened to many games includeing WOW. The fanbase wants it to be easier, I think we can put this down to the playstation generation wanting to be ubber in five minutes and getting exactly that on a console so when the move to a pc they want the same thing thus games become dumber and dumber.

Another player issue I find is that I constaly here WOW account holders saying "Im bored of WOW I need something else to play" and then promptly criticise the MMO they are trying out as not being like WOW or another WOW clone, so how are we ever going to get inivation when the players have this sort of atitude.

I am currently beta testing RIFT having preordered the game I will be testing until release, the first thing I noticed was those who play WOW doing the same old moaning I described above, now Im not suggesting all WOW players are the same as my partner also plays but when we try games even she gets very annoyed with this attitude, we need to move on folks open our minds and get the genre growing again and stop comparing everything to WOW otherwise we are doomed to the death of inivation, its on its last legs as we speak.

Fri Jan 14 2011 6:59AM Report

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