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Garrett Fuller: Can You Find the MMO Sweet Spot?

By Garrett Fuller on September 02, 2016 | Columns | Comments

Can You Find the MMO Sweet Spot?

With Legion now out and millions of players getting back into WoW, it seems like the MMO slump is starting to end. Why you ask? Well, many MMOs remain alive and do very well for the companies that run them. The trick is, there is nothing new coming to the table. At least, that is, for now. All of that will change soon as a host of new games hit the market and nostalgic players will join with a new legion of MMO fans. Here is a breakdown of the equation on this prediction.

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Minecraft

The Minecraft generation is starting to grow up. They want more from their games and they want that sandbox experience. They are used to crafting, dying, and progressing in a world that they can manipulate. Minecraft is a genius game that snuck up on the industry over the last few years and eventually took an entire generation by storm. I’ll draw a simple comparison, look what Dungeons & Dragons inspired from the 1970s and 1980s. It created the way we think about any roleplaying game ever made. Is Minecraft the same as D&D? Well no of course not, but it has had a huge impact on younger players.

Esports

This is a tricky one to pull off, so please bear with me on this argument. Esports continues to grow at a rapid pace. Games developers, sponsors, and a full new generation of players are all watching Esports possibly even more than the Olympics this past month. Twitch has helped fuel this phenomenon and continues to build a fan base for competitive gaming. However, like all sports, you eventually want them to be interactive rather than just as a spectator event.

The gap between pro gamers and normal players is deep. However, with MMOs you can actually go online and see your favorite gamers in the virtual world, something that League of Legends has not been able to pull off is pairing their star teams with their fans in the same game world. Take a deep breath and think about this for a moment.

Variety

I had a close friend recently tell me something that is a fantastic quote about all of us. “Gamers are never bored,” he said (Thanks Jeremy). He is dead right on this one. The new generation of gamers define themselves through variation. It is not even about FPS vs. RPG or anything like that anymore. It is more about what you are playing and why. Youtubers win out in this category because they are the ones now influencing the masses. Trust me, they are being courted to play all kinds of games because it generates sales, plain and simple. With this trend continuing we are starting to see more people expand the types of games they play. Eventually this will all lead to, well if Ready Player One is accurate, everyone playing one game.

Independence

The indie studios are really driving all of the great gains in development and ideas lately. I say this because most big studios cannot make the gamble with huge budgets anymore. They need to play it safe and release games that are finished, ready, and, most of all, fun. If you look at the hype and then drop of No Man’s Sky you start to see the pattern here. Hype for months and months, then launch and then many realized the game was not as fun as expected. Suddenly, the earth shatters and everything goes down the drain. Big money cannot afford any losses, which is why now you will see more AAA games following whatever pattern they can to stay in business.

This has opened up indie studios to be able to make the games they want. Crowfall is on the schedule for all of us as MMOers and they are doing what they do best by building an older style MMO with all of the great parts and adding in new ideas to make it much easier to it. It’s like pizza. Everyone likes it, and there are so many different great parts.

I for one cannot wait to see Crowfall launch and do well. If it does, you will start to see money being spent on MMOs again. It will almost happen overnight.

The Sweet Spot

So here we are. Did this convince you that MMOs are making a comeback? I think that, if anything, we will see better games in the next few years because of it. Companies and developers want people playing in their games, they want them to stay. That is why you will see more and more strides towards keeping people in that world. Someone once said, every game will eventually be an MMO, and we are beginning to get there. It is just a matter of how far in the future it will be.