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Will Niche Games Save the Genre?

Christina Gonzalez Posted:
Columns The Social Hub 0

Now, games made on a smaller budget or with an independent team have promise when it comes to highlighting certain features that, for one reason or another, have more limited appeal. And in building more suitable communities with mostly like minded players, as well as those curious to try, or merely open-minded, the overall feel might be positive. For some players, it's a square peg in round hole type situation, and utilizing the variety inherent in today's MMOs could be the way to serve some players better.

Some want a return to Star Wars Galaxies type openness, and are looking forward to The Repopulation. Others want a PvP-driven game, and a taste of three faction PvP as the dominant playstyle and have high expectations for Camelot Unchained. Others might love the ability to shape the world. Or to have to rely on using wit and words and ideas as your weapons, as in Ever, Jane.

Giving players choice and serving what they want all sounds good, but MMOs are expensive. Very expensive and time-consuming to develop. Games like Darkfall might serve the needs of players who want a full PvP game, but there are complaints about other areas lacking. So while Kickstarter and other forms of funding, including via traditional publishing models, are available for smaller games, the track record on some games has been less than stellar. The real question is can these niche titles not only get off the ground with their stated intent and do it in a quality way? Of course, EVE Online is the model one might look to in terms of pulling off an independent vision. And  influence from EVE continues, from its flexible pricing model to the toughness of survival balanced out by a deep community.

The title this week is a bit hyperbolic, but I think that the influence of crowdfunding and with cheaper assets to work with, there will be more successful, quality niche games in the MMO space. And players there to support them. Players say what they want but sometimes want something else. Many players are happy with their games. Millions of them. But some of those will try something new. And others are among the adrift veterans.

That segmentation mentioned earlier is where things have evolved thus far, and instead of looking at it as a negative, there seems to be more hope on the indie and niche side than before. An evolution of the genre doesn't have to narrow. It can expand. Last time in this column, we discussed the topic of 'inevitable' population declines, but when dealing with a game aimed at a more limited audience, a designer is going to know that. A studio isn't going to dream of chasing WoW. And we're all the better for it. Expanding, in this case, points to not just the number of games (and anyone who has spent time in MMOs knows that some games are virtual reskins of one another), but the different genres and features they can occupy. We've entered a time where the 'one-size fits all' game doesn't really exist (if it ever has) but what's on the horizon just might offer enough to make many people happy if the quality is there.

Christina Gonzalez / Christina is a freelancer and contributor to MMORPG.com, where she writes the community-focused Social Hub column. You will also find her contributions at RTSGuru. Follow her on Twitter: @c_gonzalez

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Christina Gonzalez

Christina is MMORPG.COM’s News Editor and a contributor since 2011. Always a fan of great community and wondering if the same sort of magic that was her first guild exists anymore.