There is one genre out there that is relatively untested by MMOs and even games in general. It’s popular, one of the hottest sub-genres out there right now in fact, and perfectly suited to gaming. It also appeals to both men and women, albeit in different ways. So today, I ask you: Why not a Vampire MMO?
MMOs have always been a bit of an old boys club. Sure, women do play them, but no game has come even close to an even split. It could simply be that women don’t like video games, but if anyone can overcome that and make a game that both men and women enjoy equally, they’re going to be a very rich company.
In his recent Austin Game Developers Conference keynote, SOE President John Smedley threw out an interesting statistic. While women make up only a third of the audience of Free Realms, they account for a majority of its micro-transactions. Yes, women buy things.
So how has no one tried a vampire MMO yet? (And yes, I do know CCP is doing World of Darkness, but since we have no idea what exactly that game will be like, I'm choosing to ignore it for today!)
Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries... Vampires have always been popular, but right now they’re definitely on an upswing. What’s curious about them, though, is that unlike many other genres suitable for a video game, there is a strong female following to vampire fiction.
Guys like them because they’re immortal, they kick some ass, and suck blood. There’s something cool about the mythology and many popular male oriented vampire intellectual properties combine other elements of mythology, such as werewolves. Think Underworld.
Women like them because of their inherit romanticism. They’re sexy, brooding characters and their tragic circumstances make for wonderful love stories.
Has there ever been a genre with more potential to break open the female market, without alienating male players?
Sure, I’m generalizing. Yes, there are women that would want to experience the violence and men who prefer the more romantic vision of vampires, but stereotypically, these categories make sense.
It would be a tough tight-rope to walk, but what I propose to day is a vampire MMO where two fundamental choices dramatically alters the way your character interacts with the world: Male or female? Living or undead?
From there, players would have two paths they can walk down each time they undertake a quest. One is a more traditional MMO experience aimed primarily at the stereotypical male audience and the other is a lighter, more casual, story-driven dynamic aimed at women.
The male targeted experience would be more familiar. It would be violent, revolving around war, hunting, feeding and the thirst for blood. Players could harvest “the living” NPCs to stay powerful as they embrace they embark on all sorts of asskickery using their vampire powers.
Super speed, mesmerizing others, flight, and the ability to tear opponents limb from limb. It would be a pretty hardcore MMO experience.
The female targeted game would revolve around the moral issues of vampirism and the love stories that dominate a lot of recent vampire fiction.
The core mechanics would of course be the same, it’s becomes about player choice and gives people the ability to customize their experience to their particular view of this kind of fiction.
Essentially, players would need to decide whether they want to play as the good, tortured vampire type or the more evil, chaotic type. For fans of True Blood, do you want to be Bill Compton or Eric Northman?
So, say in a quest, a local vampire leader asks that you attack a human rival’s home and turn his daughter or son as retribution. This could be played two ways, and the group would have to decide how best to do it based on their alignment.
On one hand, they could attack the base, cut through the defenses, slaughter anyone in their way and do as they were asked.
On the other hand, they could charm their way into the house, warn the father of the plan, and help him get the daughter/son to safety.
From there the content would branch. The “good” players might pursue a quest line that involves a love interest, while the “bad” players would escalate the war.
What else would be nice about a Vampire MMO would be the game’s ability, directly through its fiction, to let players enjoy the game in a setting they’re comfortable with.
Most MMOs have servers, which are identical clones. What if a Vampire MMO had servers people could travel between, one type set in a modern time and the other in the Victorian era.
Within the fiction, it would be the same character at different points in their life. For the players, it would let them play the style they enjoy and the ability to “enter” different periods of their life as they see fit would be quite attractive.
Of course, some suspension of disbelief would be required. There would be no reason not to make character progression ongoing, despite the fact that one technically takes place before the other. That said, items would likely need to be limited by era, lest someone walk into a Victorian setting with an Uzi.
Now the obvious flaw with this entire idea is that in two ways it doubles up on content. Designers would need to develop two divergent paths for the characters to take and two different worlds for them to explore.
This is true, but unlike other ideas where this is necessary, the reason for doing it is not only true to the fiction, but also has a purely capitalistic reason for being. Simply put, if making the divergent quest content increases the number of female players dramatically, it opens up new and profitable revenue streams that simply wouldn’t exist in any other way.
It’d be a monumental undertaking, but of any of the genres I’ve thrown out, this is the one that has the biggest potential to draw in a new audience that this industry so desperately craves.