I saw some recent news that China is looking to take more than 50% of the MMO game market in the next year. This is mostly due to the fact that a large portion of their population play MMO's on a daily basis and it doesn't hurt they also have one of the largest populations on the planet.
We are also seeing a large number of eastern MMO companies that starting to out pace western MMO companies in the frequency of their releases and the quality as well. Games like AION, Blade & Soul, TERA and many others which have a much higher production quality as well as following the pay to play business model. These companies are starting to make in roads into the western market and with the success (marginal or otherwise) of AION there is a very good possibility we may see more and more MMO games coming from eastern companies.
Could all of this signal a shift in development and investment to eastern game companies to develop for Asian market's first, and then release in western market later. With the obvious gap between the graphics quality of eastern games and western titles becoming more and more apparent as titles like Champions, Star Wars: ToR which are choosing a more stylized art style that has been met with mixed reviews in the west and seems to have little appeal to the eastern market's where graphics play a much larger role in game play. And where there is much more money to be had. Could we see a shift where publishers start to push for western developers to focus on eastern markets primarily with the western market being an after thought.
With very few western companies dipping their toe's into the free to play MMO business model which is dominated by the eastern developers so far. Can western Companies even compete or will they find themselves catering a niche market of western players. As the eastern developers continue to improve the quality of the free to play games and the frequency of new content being delivered. Can Western companies which have been focused so heavily on the lay to play model be losing out on a larger user base of casual game players who may not have enough money for a monthly fee but who may be willing to spend a few buck's here and there for some nice experience potions or a new fancy outfit.
Even Blizzard which has seen it's user base in Asia grow much larger than is western market has started to shift focus to asia. Even going as far as beta testing new games like star craft 2 in Korea and China before launching to western markets. With the biggest MMO player starting to shift focus to eastern markets and it's player base. How long will it be before we sit idly by drooling over new titles that are already released in eastern market's while we wait for the western version.
Personally though I like the eastern art style a bit more than the cartoon or comic book stylized cell shading that has become almost standard for western games. I prefer the hyper realism of eastern titles and with the improvements that are being made to bring eastern games to western markets I am more happy than worried. But with the shift to eastern market's I am concerned that I may see eastern market's get the new games long before I can sink my teeth into them. Could eastern market's response to MMO game play change the dynamic enough that western companies start to base game play decisions on eastern market focus groups and less on western player want's.
Here is hoping that as the eastern market keep's growing and outpaces western user base that us western players do not end up marginalized and treated as second class gamers.