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The Free Zone: MMOG Miscellany Redux

Column By Richard Aihoshi on November 19, 2013

As usual, quite a few items that I found interesting in different ways and to various degrees came cross my desktop during the past couple of weeks. There were too many to address them all without turning this column into an essay, but for a change of pace from my more common practice of focusing on a single topic, I decided to comment on these three.

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How much MMOG market growth will the new consoles drive?

While this question isn't exactly new, having been on my mind for quite some time, it became considerably more prominent with the release last week of the PS4. For what it's worth, I've always been much more of a PC gamer. So, I didn't rush out to get one, and neither am I awaiting the impending arrival of the Xbox One with baited breath.

What interests me more than either piece of hardware is the impact they will have on the MMOG market. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have shipped a combined total of more than 160 million units since they launched in 2006 and 2005 respectively. This number is split almost evenly, which makes me wonder how many people only own one or the other. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone.

Nonetheless, we're still talking about a user base of at least 80 million gamers. Relatively few are currently playing MMOGs on the old consoles. The big question is how many will eventually begin after buying the new ones. Given

the small number of titles available now or arriving any time soon, it seems pretty unlikely we'll see the market size spike. That said, there's a bigger question. What will we see if we look back several years from now?

I suspect both the PS4 and Xbox One will have positively influenced the MMOG market, although I can't say I have any feel right now for how much. Perhaps this will hinge on the chicken and egg-like situation involving how many games we'll be able to play and how widespread their appeal proves to be. Since both the new consoles' architectures seem more like the PC's than ever before, I also wonder about the degree to which cross-platform development will increase. 

Will Trove become Trion's treasure?

While I'm not intimately familiar with either Rift or Defiance, neither has ever given me the impression of standing out very much from the proverbial MMOG crowd. What's more, although I don't know how much either one cost to bring to market, it's clear they weren't cheap. So, I was immediately intrigued when Trion Worlds announced Trove, which appears, at first glance anyway, to be a much smaller endeavor with greater potential, possibly a lot more, to differentiate itself.

The thought of an MMOG with areas that are buildable and destructible certainly has my attention.  The concept of player content has intrigued me for years due to its huge potential, the large majority of which remains unattained. Still, we have seen some progress. I'm hopeful that Trove can take another step forward in this regard.

The visuals that have been shown so far also caught my eye. Not being much of a techie, my main reason isn't that they use voxels. This does interest me, but not as much as the blocky, angular look. If these images were vortex-based, we might easily describe them as retro. Nonetheless, seeing them didn't put me off at all. They prompted me to remember the degree to which graphics can be over-emphasized. It's not that I don't I appreciate eye candy. I do, so much it never hurts to be reminded that gameplay and fun are and always will be far more important.


Are Founder's Packs good buys?

This question isn't new either. It resurfaced a couple of weeks ago when EverQuest Next: Landmark's were revealed. Here again, I didn't leap forward with credit card in hand. What's more, I'm unlikely to buy one. The reason isn't that I lack interest in the game or have anything against it. Rather, it's that none of the three on offer has enough value to make me reach for my wallet. Since it's a completely subjective judgment, I'm fine with anyone who disagrees.

It did strike me, however, that I've never bought one for any MMOG or even seriously considered doing so. Granted I've never been called a spendthrift, we're not talking about significant or unaffordable amounts of money. What I've yet to see is a pack that I consider a sufficiently attractive deal. Furthermore, I'm not even certain what it would take. So, I'm curious. What makes you decide to lay out some of your hard-earned dollars for a Founder's Pack, or for any other pre-launch offer?


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The Free Zone
Richard Aihoshi has been writing about MMOGs since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. As a result, he has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.

He is the former Editor of RPG Vault and his column, focusing on free to play MMOs, appears on MMORPG.com every Monday.
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