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A Casual, Cornered: The Blame Game

Columns By Beau Hindman on March 04, 2015

The Blame Game

You know, once a year in a game-writer’s life, they must take stock of the market, analyze the feelings deep inside, then cut their belly open and spill it all out on virtual paper for the audience to read. These outbursts are not always a pretty thing but are certainly needed. Without these annual releases of anger, love or disgust, the writer can start to feel like a very tiny cog in a much larger system of wheels (most of which feature much better graphics than the cog the writer feels similar to.)


Normally I just find a way to blame players for the problems in the market, wait for the accusations of being “a dev kiss-ass” or “biased” (if that word is ever used correctly, I wouldn’t know) or “a troll” and then move on to the next piece. The freelancer is just a handyman with words; we have to keep moving on to the next one and the next one so a little hate doesn’t hurt us. This process is nothing new.

Still, I hate reading Debbie Downer articles. They make… me… sleepy. So, this is hopefully not one of those, at least not in the usual style.

So, I am blaming the players for the market’s issues. I blame myself (but I get out on a technicality) but I mainly blame, well, you, probably. Don’t worry, there are worse crimes in the world than single-handedly destroying an entire genre of entertainment. (I kid!)

If you have read an article that I have now read twice, “The Social Hub: Only 6% of F2P MMO Players Remain After the First Year?”  (Read it. It’s full of info and features a much better writer than me) you’ll see that data shows that only 6% of free-to-play players remain after the first year. There are even more telling numbers inside, like:

“ …free to play games counted in this five-year span, lost 77% of initial launch month population by the 60-day mark.”

Sounds bleak, right? Nah. It doesn’t. The article does a better job of explaining the numbers than I could, but when I read the fact that very few free-to-players stick around for more than a few months, I am not bothered at all. In fact, that information makes me think that free-to-play games, even the grindy, crappy, quickly-stamped-out messes, are a helluva good deal. You get to play them for nothing, for zero dollars, for months.

Go ahead and name me a better deal in gaming.

Let’s even minus the fact that these free-to-play MMOs that do not retain players are usually fully-realized, massive 3D worlds, complete with lore and communication and a playerbase and… you get the picture. Yet many players refer to many free-to-play games as junk, throwaway and poorly designed without asking if the games are the result of player behavior; if they were created to fulfill player desires. A free-to-play grinder suffers from the same thing a massive, AAA MMO does: tireless players.

MMO players have been spoiled for many, many years. We have. This should be obvious, but generally the people who seem to know this are also not the type who speak up much in the comments section. The satisfied player who likes to play and spend a little money is easily drowned out by the angry MMO gamer who seems to want everything possible in the world without also discussing just how in the world everything can be achieved. In fact, most of us seem to think that developing a virtual freakin’ world is

“ …easy. How long does it take to code some new quests?”

I’ll answer that: it might take a month, or even a few weeks or even a few evenings. It does not take long to create some content, true. But this is only because of the massive amount of time it takes to set up shop, train people, hire people, build systems to build systems, program the initial behaviors, code the world to take on the graphics that took many weeks to create to immersion to create the...

Hopefully you get my point: there is almost no more expensive and lengthy process in gaming than building and running an MMO. Even IF a developer can pop them out (as some of the free-to-play grinders seem to be able to do) there is particular catch that stops all developers from keeping players very happy for long.

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