MMOs – Where are they now?

Nosy Gamer’s recent MMO roundup from XFire shows some interesting developments when looking at Wildstar and ESO.  Wildstar launched at the start of June while ESO was start of April, so 2 months and 4 months respectively at this point.  They are slotted at 8 and 12 on the list.  WoW rounds out the top, even though it lost 800,000 players.  EvE and FF14 are the other 2 subscription-based games on the list.  Everything else is FTP, which makes for some interesting metrics.

I do agree that the sample is flawed and isn’t a direct representation of the population.  I mean, I can’t think of anyone who actively installs XFIRE today, so newer games are at a distinct disadvantage.  Heck, Raptr only shows WoW, WS, FF14 and ESO in their top 20. That said, XFIRE does a great job at showing patterns over time and for that I think the discussion is very relevant in that both WS and ESO are down.

While I can attribute a fair amount of that to the 60 day drop (people play box + 1 month), rather than the 3-monther Keen professes, there are certainly some additional factors at play.  We can’t just assume that the summer provides a dip here, because it should affect all the games rather equally.  The factors have to be game-specific.

ESO first.  The VR wall was my “I win” bucket.  The fact that the game was anti-social certainly didn’t help.  Mind you, recent reports say they are trying to fix both issues, among a pile of kitchen sink additions.  I do think that once VRs are gone, the game will be in “ready to launch” state, some 5 months after actual launch.  I think of this compared to Marvel Heroes, or Neverwinter’s “beta phase” but both of those had no price point for entry.  It will have cost box + $60 to get to launch with ESO and that’s a price point people can find more value elsewhere.  In particular GW2 from a FTP perspective or FF14 from a subscription perspective. There’s certainly a chance it comes back up to the top, what with WoW likely not launching ‘til December.

Wildstar next.  While I am still enjoying my stay, I do know a lot of people who have left due to lack of progress past 50 – or heck, even mid-game.  Wildstar’s approach to combat is extremely divisive, and scales at an inappropriate pace.  There’s very little transition for people entering group content, just a wall of bodies at 20.  There are very few reports of successful PUGs anywhere, to the point where Carbine had to make change to the rewards system, in order to avoid group crumbling after 5 minutes.  And this doesn’t even get into the craziness of level 50 and raiding.  Sure, you could do the attunement and farm gear in dungeons/adventures but there ain’t no way you’re going to raid.  Everything up until that point can either be accomplished solo, with 5 people or with random PUGs in a zone.  The dungeon medal requirement is crazy, to boot.  But the cherry is getting 40 people to do it and then getting them to raid with you.  Bluntly put, the investment requirement for raiding has either been accomplished already by those with a want to invest or never will be.  That means two distinct parts at issue.  First, you need to accept the combat structure (difficulty + pacing) which is not going to change, outside of adding some “learning” zones.  Second, you need to accept that you’re likely never going to raid.  This part has been beaten to death on many blogs and I would like to think that Carbine, like Bethesda, is actually paying attention.

I do have to say that I’m less surprised with ESO’s tumble than Wildstar’s.  The ESO beta was not kind, and there were significant rumblings before launch about readiness.  It’s clearly still popular if it’s on lists though, so that’s good.  And there is active development, also very good.  Wildstar’s issues seem to be more condemning.  It had a relatively clean beta and had significant groundswell at launch.  Many people have issues finding a flaw with the game outside of the inability to find attachment to justify investment.  That is a massive problem for MMOs in general and one that doesn’t bode well for the future.

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