Social Framework – Part 2

To follow up on the previous post about social frameworks, I want to get back into the gaming space.  When multiplayer games started nearly 20 years ago, the mechanics were such that the people you played with were in the “Friends” group.  You had acquaintances, certainly but rarely did you ever have anyone outside your monkeysphere.  In UO for example, I knew my server’s top PKs and guild leaders and most dungeon runs were with the same set of folk.  It was a community.

A few people are posting about social fabric and the need to “focus on the multiplayer foundation” in order to avoid the 3 month life span most games are seeing today.  First to compare – other than the MMO sphere, no genre has ever lasted more than 3 months in the commons.  If they do, they are super niche.  In fact, today’s general gaming includes many MMO-like services (Diablo 3, SimCity, CoD, etc…)So while we can posit that MMOs are only keeping our attention for a small time span compared to previous, we can perhaps assume that this is due to them becoming more like other games – a convergence of styles if you will.

That being said, if you were to take the thesis to the end, you would have to revisit not only the structure of games of the past but the actual environment they were played in.  If I wanted to play with friends on a Monday night, I had to drive to their place to play.  Other than MUDs, which were highly inaccessible, in the year 2000 we had 3 options for MMOs.  Ultima Online, Everquest and Asheron’s Call.  Not really a whole pile of choice here.  When WoW launched in 2004, the landscape had expanded to a dozen or so choices, still pretty bare ground.  When the Looking for Group (or LFD) tool was launched in WoW in 2010, debatably the death of grouping, the market had grown exponentially.  Today’s market is even more crowded, what with the F2P games that allow zero investment players.

If you were to take a solid look at these games and found the core players, I would bet a year’s worth of salary that the total amount across all MMOs would exceed WoW’s peak numbers.  You have the same amount of players with deep investment, they are just spread out across more games.  I know a lot of my friends from the EverQuest days went to EQ2 while only a small handful went to WoW.  The Syndicate, the largest online guild in the world, has presence in dozens of MMOs, all with deep roots in the game.  The flipside to this is that a larger percentage of players are just tourists, trying out a game to see if they like it then moving on.  If only 20% of your base is invested, and you need to supply for 100%, you’re going to have trouble.   EvE succeeds because nearly everyone is invested.  WoW does it through sheer subscription numbers.  SWTOR couldn’t do it without turning the game into a casino.

To sum, it’s simplistic to state that MMOs have to focus on multiplayer.  Of course they do.  It is better to state that they need to focus on getting players invested in the long term through meaningful, non-punitive multiplayer foundations in order to covert as many tourists as possible into core players.

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