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The Endgame Myth

Posted by Stradden_bak Friday February 5 2010 at 12:33PM
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There is a disconnect between some people who play MMORPGs and the people who develop them. Actually, there are a lot of disconnects in that area, but this is the one I’ve decided to focus on for today.

It seems that there are a large number of players out there who believe that end-game is where the real game begins in terms of MMORPGs. As a result, they rush as quickly as possible toward whatever the level cap of the game happens to be, and then are inevitably disappointed once they get there. Today, I actually read a post from someone who implied that the rest of the game is there simply as a tutorial for the superawesomefuntimeohmygodIneedanewpairofpants that is and must be the endgame.

In every single recent MMORPG launch, I’ve read about players who feel that the game has let them down because two days after launch, they’ve hit the level cap and find that a) it’s not populated and B) that the developers haven’t really put much there for them to do. I mean, if the “real game” starts at level cap, then why isn’t there anything to do?

The answer to that question is that the developers don’t intend for the game to start at endgame. They don’t spend millions and millions of dollars on that part of the game right out of the gate because to them, and to the vast majority of people who don’t post on forums, the whole part from level one to the cap IS the game, endgame is about retention, sure, and every MMO needs to have something for players to do at cap, otherwise they’re going to get bored and leave.

That’s where the disconnect happens, I think. Developers, rightly or wrongly, believe that they’ve (theoretically) put all of the time and effort into constructing a certain number of levels into their game. They’ve created content, interweaving stories, NPCs, points of interest and other aspects of the game and so that should probably entertain folks at least until the free month that comes with the damned game is over.

Time and energy won’t (and probably shouldn’t) be spent on endgame until such time as a significant portion of the player base is actually there. Put another way: They’re not going to spend a whole bunch of time and cash to make sure that a portion of the game is juicy and robust for the very small number of people who rush to get there. They’re going to divert energy and resources where the most people are going to get the most benefit out of them.

Why is WoW’s endgame so robust? Because the game is old enough that a very large percentage of their player base is at cap. Why don’t new MMOs launch with 100% end game content intact? Because most people are still playing “the game.”

Here’s my rule of thumb: When you buy a subscription based MMO, your box purchase is going toward the development of the game from tutorial to cap. In essence, if this was a single player game, once you hit cap you’ve “beaten it.” Your subscription dollars are what goes toward continued and robust endgame content, so don’t expect a lot of time to be spent on endgame before everyone’s paid their first subscription fee.

But that’s just my opinion. I’m more of a “take your time and enjoy the content” kind of gamer myself.