Nostalgic Future

Let’s talk a bit about nostalgia and the impact of looking forward, which seems to be all the rage with Mark Jacobs’ Camelot Unchained announcement.  I know I’ve touched on this topic a few times now but it seems like it needs a new look given the blog-o-sphere’s penchant for “old” games.  Just quick side-note here – I find it hilarious that Keen is playing a pirated version of UO, hosted by a 3rd party, playing for free and then complaining that the rule set is not one he agrees with.

Here’s my premise for nostalgia and its impact.  A game will grow so long as its core demographic gameplay elements remain stable.  EvE has grown because at the core, it’s been relatively the same experience with a few tweaks (albeit some major) to the game as a whole.  Anytime there was massive change, a significant drop happened.  WoW has grown over the years and cycled out its demographic at multiple points along development. 

This is an important distinction.  I do not know a single gamer that has not played WoW at some point.  I know of very few that have ever played EvE.  Of those players, the amount that have played EvE and still do are high while those that have played WoW and still do is quite low.  This is due to WoW being multiple games over the years (group-centric, quest centric, challenge centric, casual centric, story centric, etc…)

When someone comes along and says “X was the best game ever” they are pointing to a place in time where a single game appealed to their core needs.  DAoC was the “best ever RvRvR” because it was the ONLY one for a long time.  UO was the best PvP sandbox for the same reason.  When Trammel came, the core mechanics of the game changed and people moved on.

If you’re a game developer, make damn sure you have a target audience in mind and that you build for that audience.  Make sure your decisions are with that group in mind.  TOR’s failure is that the core demographic is clearly in players making alts and re-running the levelling content but was marketed towards the general MMO population.  DCUO is a perfect example of targeting the console crowd yet marketing to the PC.

Camelot Unchained will succeed if Mark Jacobs is able to target a specific demographic (admittedly small, say 50K) and cater to those needs without bleeding in the financial aspect of “moar playerz”.  This is the same concern I have for Firefall which seems to completely revamp its systems on a quarterly basis.  The same concern I had with D3 when it redid all skills 6 months before launch after 7 years in development.  And finally, it’s the main reason I have my doubts about Wildstar trying to appeal to everyone and succeeding.

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