Let’s say the game is an MMO and has the following features:
- two factions
- 8 classes, 1 of which restricted to each faction
- pure DPS roles
- significant lack of class balance
- hard set race/class combinations
- single talent trees, need to visit the city to respec and pay a fee
- questing accounts for 25% of the experience gain, rest is dungeons/grinding
- no PvP zones – need to play on a PvP server to PvP
- 1 to 2 hour dungeon runs
- no raids
- item sets with no bonuses
- basic mounts at mid-game, high end mounts require weeks of cash making to afford
- no fast travel, need to manually move around the map
- crafted items, no real use other than potions and enchanting your items
- faction grinds
- auction houses are city based and not shared across the faction
I ask this because this is the feature set that World of Warcraft launched with in 2004. I should know, I played at the time and I still thought it was amazing. Why you aks? Because my alternatives were Ultima Online (1997), Everquest (1999), Asheron’s Call (1999) and Dark Age of Camelot (2001). That’s right, there was a 3 year gap between the last game and WoW in terms of AAA MMOs. When WoW came out it polished all the bad stuff in the other games, made it look good (really good for a 3d game at the time) and added some features.
That being said, if you were to compare that feature set then to today’s gamespace, you couldn’t get 100 people to buy it. The same goes for all the other games that came before it. If they were to relaunch now, with the feature set they had when WoW launched, they would fail. They still exist for one reason, people have grown with the games. Find me someone who started playing UO in 2009 and I have some canned steam to sell you.
Massively’s last Soapbox covers this topic from another direction. The claim that an MMO can only succeed if it does X, and only X, is ridiculous. There are literally dozens of successful MMOs on the planet, some are P2P, others F2P and others are even hybrids. There are multiple paths for each game to try and the goal at the end of the day is to make money. When there is no more money to be made, the game shuts down. Looking at UO, you would think it would have shut down after 15 (!!!) years, even with people claiming the game died years ago. Yet here we are, still looking at it going fairly strong. If you spend your time complaining that a game 5+ years ago did it best and aren’t playing that game now, it really comes off as hypocritical.
Now from the other side of the same coin, perhaps you don’t like a game because of feature X. In the past, if you didn’t like it you had to suck it up since there weren’t any real options. Today if you don’t like a game there are plenty others that are willing to take you in. This does mean that people are moving around more, trying new games and old ones, to find that combination of features that pleases their palette. There is no “perfect” game for the masses. If there was, we wouldn’t have so many working at the same time.
Syp has a good MMO timeline that shows what game launched when and which ones are no longer with us.