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Jon Wood: Grinding My Gears: Monotheistic Gaming

Columns By Jon Wood on March 15, 2011

Grinding My Gears: Monotheistic Gaming

Do we really have the mentality that only one MMO an be a success at a time? Are we really so stuck in our nostalgia that we need to hope for other games to fail so that our own games won’t be harmed by their success?

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This has never really made any sense to me, this idea that there must be one MMO to rule them all, but in retrospect, I can completely see it. In the days of Ultima Online and EverQuest, there were only so many gamers out there who would play these games. It was a limited audience and logically, what one game gained was what another game lost. That just isn’t how the world works today.

Today’s video game world is very different from the one that we started with more than a decade ago. Today, virtually every game is online in some way or another. It’s an expected feature. Combine that with the huge rise in the numbers of people playing video games in general, the many and varied payment models offered by various MMO developers, the diversity of genres and the diversity of MMO design and I think it’s safe to say that in today’s MMO industry, the same industry that has over 400 games listed on our MMORPG.com Game List, there is more than enough room for games to successfully co-exist.

So, why is there a perception that only one game can be successful at any given time? Well, that’s actually an easy one to break down into its baser elements and try to understand.

  1. This is how the industry was at one point. We’re historically programmed for this.
  2. World of Warcraft. We’ve been hearing for so long about how successful this title is that it can make us feel like there aren’t a lot of players left to go around for other games.
  3. Human nature. It’s totally human nature to think this way: I like this, and you like that. I know, because I like this, that the thing you like must conversely suck. Anyone who thinks other than me is wrong.
  4. Pack Mentality. Humans are, by nature, a pack animal. we form into social groups, and want to protect our pack from other packs.
  5. Competition is fun, especially in games.

So now, let me lay some truths* on you. Cold, hard, facts*.

*Note: “truths’ and “facts” are in no way supported by any actual truth or fact save for the author’s ego.

The truth is that there are lots of players out there and those players are all going to have different opinions about what makes an MMORPG awesome. For some it’s going to be sandboxyness, for others it’s going to be PvP, or graphics, or story, or the ability to tame pretty fluffy bunnies that fart gold. The only thing consistent is that there is no real consistency and where there’s wishy-washy inconsistency, there’s room for niche games which, at their heart, are what MMOs are.

I think that’s what the entire industry has lost sight of, from the developers to the publishers, the journalists and the players, we’ve all lost sight of the fact that an MMORPG doesn’t need to have 1 million subscribers in order to be successful (unless of course, you’ve spent umpteen billion dollars building the damned thing, in which case, I have no sympathy for you).

Niche MMOs can survive and actually do well alongside other niche MMOs without the need for the monotheistic devotion that for the above reasons and others, we feel like we have to lavish onto our games of choice in a veritable bloodbath of game-hate.

Then again, a little blood sport now and again can be a lot of fun... just something to think about.