EDIT 2: Thankyou for all of your comments. This would not be another "WoW". The design I proposed would be nothing like WoW. It would be more along the lines of UO. While I understand the likely hood of this is near on non-existant, there is nothing stopping Game Developers creating their own Lore to creat such a game. The mechanics in the Narutoverse are taken from Ancient Japanese Lore, History and Mythology. There is nothing stopping Games Designers from taking the same Lore, Mythology and History to create their own MMO, and indeed create something better, given the flaws presented by the Narutoverse. The genre is screaming for a next-gen MMO, and I believe the basis that Naruto is set up is a near perfect setting for it.
EDIT: Apologies for being misleading. My aim was not to create a game around Naruto, simply explain how the mechanics of the Narutoverse could be perfect for te Next-Gen Sandbox MMO that the industry has been screaming for.
I'll start by stating that I am a Naruto fanboy, however never considered this until a recent conversation.
I was discussing this the other day with my friend, as we were talking about what the world of online gaming really needed. We have an abundance of your Medieval style games. Where you run round with a sword and cave in the skulls of rabbits until you can progress to saving damsels and crush mighty demons. The MMO genre has recently started to explore the Sci-fi aspects, with MMOs such as EVE and Tabula Rasa. While I have yet to try the former, Tabula Rasa was in fact a breath of fresh air, being thrown into a world where you're being invaded, smooth mass combat scenes and guns and explosions going off left right and centre. However I lost interest in the games combat system, given it's limited list of skills and the need for aim wasn't as prominent as i'd originally hoped. I was hoping for a Planetside style gameplay, only more advanced and up to date. Finally we have our abundance of Asian MMORPGs, where martial arts and ancient chinese lore become a key role. However my personal experience of these has left much to be desired, with many of them following an incredibly linear character progression.
I'm quite fascinated with the whole "ninja" aspect of things, and I'm currently studying Games Design. I was considering with a friend a concept for a "ninja MMO", simply to pass time by. We were considering character development first, and we know that the fans of the genre have been screaming out for a sandbox game in this "next gen" age. So we were considering how it would be made posible. As we discussed it we referenced naruto alot as an example, then realised how perfect a world it was for such an MMORPG.
The one flaw we did admit to fully, was that it is not really feasable to create a Naruto MMORPG without either talking to Kishimoto and him giving away the script to the entire series, and we somehow doubt that would happen. The reason for this is that it is incredibly hard to pick a time / date in an MMO world without fully understand the Lore of the world, and since the series is not yet complete, there is no way to determine this time / date and furthermore it is near possible to further add to the Lore of the Narutoverse.
For arguments sake we will forget that, and I shall simply paint the picture.
Firstly, I'll go into the the way the Narutoverse would play. As of yet I'm unsure whether this is even a plausable option, however the game would simply have one "world" (where possible). It would operate much in teh same way Guild Wars did, where you simply select a region when entering a zone (Tabula Rasa players will be familiar with this). The reason for this is there is a huge selection of villages to choose from. Each admirably large in their own right.
-Land of Fire
-Land of Rain
-Land of Sound
-Land of Wind
-Land of Water
-Land of Waves (Not really worth mentioning as it has no Hidden village, however would be fun to visit for Lore fanatics as it was Naruto's first mission).
Do not be put off by the names, they have no sway over what affiliation or skill set you will have, and I have listed them simply to give a scale as to how many Countries there are in the Narutoverse. In each of those countries (bar the land of waves) there is a hidden village, in which would be your starting zone. The basis of PvP would revolve around these 6 nations, as they would fight for border control, to make their country the most prominent, and obviously with more land comes certain bonuses. There would be no allegiances, though players from one country could find themselves under attack from 2 or more countries if they have taken land that shares borders with more than 1 Nation.
As far as the Sandbox character progression goes. If you want to be a blacksmith you could be a blacksmith. If you wanted to cook teh finest Ramen in the Narutoverse then you could do that. There would be no need for you to go off and train your character in anything other than the cullinary arts if that was your desire. However, you may reuire an ingredient that you are by no means equipped to go and obtain, so may have to fork out money for adventurers to get them. These would be listed (as in the Narutoverse) as ranked missions, which players could choose to take on to increase their purse or their fame.
For those that don't know the "ninjas" in Naruto receive different ranked missions, that range from finding peoples dogs to assassinations and recon. Certain ranked missions (bar a few exceptions) are only available to certain ranked ninjas. For instance someone who has just started and is figuring out which end of the sword you stab people with, isn't exactly going to be given the chance to assassinate one of the worlds deadliest villains.
There is also the combat itself. Naruto revolves around 6 different types of "Jutsu". These are essential combat preferences. Progression in each would simply be down to how long you spend training each. The progression would be in the form of "easy to learn hard to master". Players would need to continously train a certain area to make sure they are proficient in it, and certainl to be a master they would need to devote alot of time to only using a certain area of Jutsu, or their skills would become rusty and less effective. There is no "level system". Character progresion is simply down to how much effort a player is willing to put into a certain area of their character.
The basic jutsu in the Narutoverse. This is essentially your hand to hand combat. However by pouring extreme effort into this you can develop further into Taijutsu, be it professing in the Empty Palm, or opening the Heavenly Gates, or excelling in Gentle Touch. If you don't want to be completely useless in hand to hand combat.
The next most prominent jutsu in the Narutoverse. These are essentially the skills you have that can seriously damage your openent, trap them, trick them and suprise them. There are hundreds if not thousands of areas that you could branch off to, be it mastering and manipulating shadows, controlling puppets, having a pet which you develop jutsu's with, healing, enhancing your movement speed or indeed just excelling in moves that will leave nothing but your opponents smoking boots.
Another largely used jutsu. These jutsu are often used to catch your opponent off guard, as it effects the brain and can leave the opponent in a hallucination. It can also have other effects, such as drowziness, trapping opponents, paralysis. This in theory would be teh sort of "Debuff" area of the Jutsu's.
This is more the "preperation" jutsu. Jutsu that seal something inside objects or living beings. The most common application of this is sealing weapons or other objects within scrolls to efficiently carry a large number of items. Sealing jutsu are also utilized to restrict access to things, such as chakra or entry to a building.
Much like genjutsu if will have a debuff effect on your opponent, however often requires physical contact to initiate. These are jutsu that use a special "cursed seal" to put someone under the control of the user or elicit an unnatural effect in the one they are placed on. They can be used to cause either pain (including death if the pain is large enough) or invoking various mutations in the recipient
I'm not sure how these would work for the players of the Narutoverse, but certainly they can make for interesting opponents that you can team up against. These can including things from 360° vision, to metamorphisis, to new and exclusive Jutsu.
The final area to consider would be movement, and combat. The combat system would probably be one of the most enjoyable yet challenging to work on, as it really suits console style gameplay, yet console gameplay is very hard in turn to suit sandbox gameplay. The movement however I would love to see much like that of city of heroes, where you can increase how far / high you can jump, and the speed at which you can run.
All in all I think Naruto begs itself for an MMO, however to create an experience that would be both rewarding, innovative and enjoyable for the fans of Naruto, would indeed be a hefty challenge. And i fear that game developers will simply take the easy route of "pick a character and level it" when it has the potential to be so much more if the would only put in the time and effort.