Who is CU competing against? Is it other MMORPGs? Is it all of gaming or even all of entertainment? Maybe it’s us and our short attention spans? More and more the correct answer is all of the above. As our phones evolved into being portable entertainment devices the ability of a single game to grab and maintain our attention has become increasingly difficult.
Playing any one game for several hours seems foreign, especially when I get the notice on my phone that game X is now on sale via the online store! A few taps later I’m dabbling in it until I get the message from a friend about putting some time into game Y for the night. I jump back but while waiting for them to set up the server I end up reading about game Z on MMORPG.com (shameless plug) and now I’m deep in the forums wondering if I should make a purchase to try it out, after all its in “beta development” so it’s only $20! (Ponders how we have come to a place where we buy, play, burn out, and move on from games that never even leave beta.)
I will likely never play another game the way I did SWG. I exclusively played SWG almost every single day for a few years, YEARS! I barely looked at other games or forums or the internet or other people or daylight or...well, you get my point. Now a few days of dedication seems like an eternity! I can’t remember the last time I sat through a gaming session for longer than a few hours let alone did so without playing my phone during down times! To establish perspective I can count on two hands the number of games I’ve ever really put time into. Not because I don’t game a lot, but because when I fall in love with a game it consumes me! It’s not in my nature to let other games distract me and yet here I am, having a harder time than ever trying to focus on a game or two! (Ugh see how bad it is, I couldn’t even leave it at one game!)
Maybe it’s because no “finished” games are worth of my love but if I’m the extreme I’d imagine the “average” gamer is a lot less difficult to distract. In a hyper accessible gaming era of “games in the box I still need to get to” and “a stream library with more games than I’ll ever play” complete with their apps and other phone (and tablet) media to boot I find myself wondering how Camelot Unchained and its peers can force us to focus. When game turnover is charted in hours not months how do MMORPGs maintain their players without including a bottle of Ritalin with every box?
Looking at a few of the most retentive MMOs of today; WOW, GW2, SWTOR and now GTA V (yeah I called it a MMO-it does everything they do, just better with a low cap on players per server) the answer appears to be lots of stuff, more stuff than we can handle, more variety than The Cheesecake Factory menu and more “distractions” than a Wookie in a bikini (weird yes, distracting, very). While I love variety my dream restaurant would offer 5 things and each one would be fantastic (and 4 of them would likely be beer). I’d rather see less quantity with more quality and I’d wager CSE would agree, both due to design philosophy and financial/studio size restrictions. (Rockstar is up to what 400 devs nowadays?) But can that concept hold the wild and untamed modern gamer?
This is a serious question that CSE and the rest of the genre need to ask themselves. MMORPG’s require long term investment from the players. Crowdfunding helps with the upstart but to make the return it has to keep us playing. I don’t know the answers beyond the obvious (it’s as easy, make the best MMO in history) but I know CSE has hinted at a few solutions.
They already have a slight edge out the gate - us! When you focus on a niche of a niche you tend to find more loyalty, especially among MMORPG-ers. Establishing a deep relationship with your niche, check! Involving the community in the creation of the game giving them both a sense of pride and attachment, check! The concept of realm pride, a custom character and even more importantly a custom home to help keep us emotionally connected, check! (Before I get spammed with “housing is lame and doesn’t retain me” please research how UO retained players back in the day). Those will keep me subbed, but will they keep me from straying like Benji with the swipe of my phone? I’m not sure anything can keep our focus like the days of yore when running a browser while playing a MMO was nigh impossible, but I think something can be done to keep us within the CUniverse no matter where in cyberspace we go.
Maybe something pen and paper made old school new that works from phone to tablet to PC to community? Maybe not. Answers are hard but questions are easy, so I’m asking you, what resources can CSE utilize to make their game the one we forgot to forget while we are distracted? Or at the very least keep us on the farm even if we can’t see the fence. What ideas might they already have hidden in the mists of Avalon?