What Next?

I’m not saying TOR is a failure, I’m saying it’s not a huge success.  Serious errors of judgment were made along the way.  TERA launched to some acclaim and apparently, the fervor is up and done.  Guild Wars 2 is still on the hype train as the savior of MMOs (which I highly doubt) and then we have the Secret World, with an open skill-set game plan.  Sort of like super power sets I guess.

From a “major MMO” perspective, we won’t be seeing anything for a long while after.  Elder Scrolls Online I guess is the next one, with questionable goals, followed by perhaps EQ Next.  One is aiming for some new stuff while the latter is aiming to get back to the original EQ feel.

I played EQ in beta, at launch and for 4 years.  To quote Tobold

So what would you think if Everquest Next had level loss on death, naked corpse runs, 15 minute forced breaks for meditation between fights, forced grouping, 20 minutes waits for boats, and all the other features of the original Everquest?

What is it exactly people are looking for in the next MMO?  What’s wrong with their current one for that matter?  I can think of 20 MMOs running right now that could easily compete for your hard earned money, yet there’s always people clamoring for the next big thing. When trying to compare feature sets, you quickly realize that all the bases have been covered.

If you’ve narrowed down your list to a set of features, say PvE Raids, Mounts, Auction House, you have 5 big games to choose from (WoW, LOTRO, SWTOR, EQ2 and Rift).  Oddly, 4 of the 5 are in the same fantasy setting and use the same “skill bar combat” but the major differentiating factor is the content diversity within those features.  WoW clearly blows the rest out of the water, if only for the amount of time it’s been around.  Rift gives “better” character choices, TOR gives a better story and LOTRO gives a better integration into the game world.

In the end though, why do people move from one of those 5 to another game?  WoW has had the same features since launch (minus a LFG tool 2 years ago and some recent customization options) so why did 2 million people leave?  Why did 400,000 people (25% of the playerbase) leave TOR after only a couple months?

It’s that exact question that buggers MMO developers and game developers in general.  Why does Batman get an average playtime of 10 hours and Skyrim is 50?  Are both successful?  If the metrics say the average MMO player puts in 10 hours a week into a game, do you have 500+ hours of content for the year?  What’s your proverbial carrot on the stick to get people to continue playing?  If it’s a story, then make that story last hundreds of hours.  If it’s item acquisition, make it hard and long to accomplish.   If it’s the social environment, put in the community tools necessary to get people together (guild banks, LFG, housing, customization, etc).

I just hope developers and investors pay attention to the gaming trends.  The medium is saturated with choice and for your product to stand out, it needs to both do something different but also do it for a long enough time to keep people interested for months.  Fingers crossed.

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