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Garrett Fuller: Can the Game Industry Support Another Big MMO?

By Garrett Fuller on October 27, 2016 | Columns | Comments

Can the Game Industry Support Another Big MMO?

For anyone who follows games and the industry, you know there is a bit of a vacuum going on right now. In the early part of the 2000s, Xbox, Playstation, Mobile and even PC gaming experienced the biggest rise in user base ever. Console titles sold millions, MMOs took over the PC market, and money came in from all sides to build bigger and better games. Here we are coming up on 2017 and this decade has seen a drop off.

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New console launches have done well and most game genres have movied to mobile with huge success for a few companies, but where have MMOs landed in this timeline? Many of the current MMOs are seeing victory as they switch over to the console market. These games have been out for a while though and are maintaining strong player base. The big question is, where are any new players coming from?

Many people will point to VR as the next big advancement for any type of gameplay. However, this may not be the case as games such as Roblox and Minecraft have seen massive success among younger players, do they really need high tech VR when these games are so simple? I don’t think this is where the industry is going for MMOs, at least not any time soon.

The question really is, what will drive the next three years in MMO development? You have very strong independent projects coming out with Crowfall leading the way. With its sandbox worlds it combines the best in MMOS, RPGs, and Survival genre games. It has a purpose and gives players a solid mix of PvP and PvE to grow and build their characters within. Will we see bigger companies invest in this type of game if Crowfall is a success?

The other area to look at is how strong the RPG genre was just last year. In 2015, the top two games were The Witcher and Fallout 4. Both of these were heavy individual RPG experiences that players could take months to finish. If these RPG games are making very strong sales, how many more companies are investing in this type of game experience?

The real question we should be asking, is why aren’t these games being primed for an MMO style experience on the console like the success seen with Destiny? The answer is that it seems like North American game companies do not want to invest big in this style of games because they cost too much up front. The Witcher was made in Poland and have been a massive success for Projekt Red. Sadly, most of the public game companies in the U.S. are not willing to take risks. They view the movie industry with its endless sequels and revamps of old ideas as the model on which you build video games. It is why we have a new title every year of the same game for so many franchises.

If anything, the growing success of independent games proves that players want good strong gameplay, not flashy graphics and the same game over and over. I would point to Battlefront as an example. Despite selling well at the height of Star Wars fever last year, the game died in popularity afterwards. Sure it supports a loyal fan base, but the game was rushed to launch in time for the movie. It lost so many creative aspects that could have been included and were simply left out. EA also failed with fully supporting the game by only releasing a few DLCs which did very little to build on an already solid platform.

Right now, it feels like the industry has lost sight of the idea that selling one million copies of a game and having a very loyal player base over five or six years makes you solid money over a long period. You can support the development team and build on the game to have a strong following. Instead game companies continue to swing for the home run hits and miss out on maintaining a loyal player base. Two million in sales one time does not add up to the money spent in customization shops over a five year span. Executives need to change their way of thinking and how they define success. For now, the only people who suffer are the players that have to constantly look for something good to play. 

Garrett Fuller Garrett Fuller Editorials
Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997. He originally joined MMORPG.com as a writer in 2005. In 2007 Garrett went on to handle Industry Relations for TenTonHammer.com. Then, in July 2009, Garrett happily rejoined his old team at MMORPG.com as the site's News Manager. Garrett lives in Hillsborough, NJ with his wife, son and daughter.

His column appears here every Wednesday.
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