The Grouchy Gamer

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What is going to be The Next Big Thing in MMO’s?

NEW!After watching the road littered with the bodies of the would-be kings of the MMO world over the last few years, and seeing the size of the PC Game section at the local Fry’s and Best Buy shrink and get less interesting, I have come to wonder what Will Be Next.  While Tarkheena and I continue to play World of Warcraft, and enjoy it, I long for something new and exciting like most of you probably do.  Run-on sentences aside, the outlook for the Next Big Thing is bleak.

We’ve seen Vanguard (for well-documented resons), AoC, and WAR fail (Yes, I know it’s still got a following, but I don’t think it’s what they expected, or even close) over the last 2 years.  Even the “success” of games like EQ2 and EVE are niche and not mainstream.  So who are the contenders for the throne?  Let’s have a quick look at who I’m going to be keeping my eye on over the next couple of years.

1. Copernicus.  The folks at 38 Studios are making a fantasy MMO (a plus for me) and they’re promising Something Different. They will have lore for sure.  They will have marketing around the lore.  They will have books and comics (I’m betting) and t-shirts and 3D models of your character.  You know they will have the functionality of Azeroth Advisor built into their client (they own it).  They are looking at making the most 360 degree product that has ever been produced.  I hope their game lives up to it.  I like their chances at this point, but there is a certain segment of the population that would reject another fantasy MMO out of hand.  Going to be  an uphill battle for them in that regard.

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic.  They have the IP.  They don’t have to develop lore, just stick to canon.  They are already getting push back on their art direction, which is distressing.  There are also some that don’t like the idea of quest-driven story lines.  These are the same people who would probably call the game “grindy” if it didn’t have a quest focus.  i think it’s too soon to get our panties in a wad over this decision or that one.

3. Champions Online.  This is clearly the dark horse in the bunch.  It’s got outstanding potential if the old Champions system is brought to the online game seamlessly and cleanly. For you comix fans out there, this is going to finally be an alternative to the flawed CoX franchise.

Something else to consider is whatever the unannounced new MMO is that Blizzard is working on.  If they apply what they have learned with WoW and don’t re-make some of their mistakes then they are obviously a force that will produce the fastest-selling MMO in history.

My concern is that the market is jaded and will just dismiss any new (non-Blizzard) MMO out of habit.  None of these is going to be WoW out of the box.  it took WoW 4 years to get to the point where it is.  WoW has been called a “technically excellent but soulless” game. That it’s technically excellent is difficult to dispute.  That’s it’s soulless is open to debate, but it’s certainly got it’s share of apparently soulless players.

I’m really rooting for one of these new games to break through and “be somebody.”  I’ll probably still play WoW but I want to play something new, that can achive critical mass and hold a player base for more than a few months.

Anyone else feeling the same way?

10 Comments

  1. I’d object to saying WAR has failed. They’ve got too many things going for them in terms of new content releases. When we start to see long stretches without anything new or fixed, then we can start talking about it failing. Not hitting your sales goal isn’t the same thing as having a failing product. But it does mean that they have their work cut out for them.

    As for the new games you listed, I’m most interested in The Old Republic. I loved the KotOR franchise, so a new epic storyline for that timeframe would be awesome. But I don’t really want another pvp or group-heavy MMO (I know, it sounds terrible). Unless a bunch of CoWs want to run some Jedi (or Sith!) together, I’ll be quite happy to just experience the story by myself. Oh, and I really hope that they are able to put together a pricing plan that dovetails with WAR. Because I can’t afford two subscription fees.

  2. I’m sure this will come back to bite me in the arse, but I’d rather have it written down now.

    I don’t see any of those three as contenders for the throne. They’ll all be good games, I’m sure, but none of them has that “next big thing” touch from what I can see. My best guess is the “next big thing” is going to be a game about a year into it’s life-cycle.

    Right now the industry is still young, and people keep expecting big movements. To be honest the movements themselves have gotten much bigger, but in context things just aren’t going to change that much.

  3. It depends on what you mean by next big thing. As a lifelong gamer and devoted MMO player I know a lot of what we are doing is very different and very unique.

    But many companies can lay claim to doing things ‘different’ and ‘unique’. Neither of those matter if you don’t deliver an incredible player experience and fun as hell game.

    At the end of the day that’s what we all want right? We want fun, cool, kick ass games.

  4. That’s a good point, Curt.

    Next Big Thing, to me, is something that I can play with my guild for more than a few months, and most of us stay interested. In most of the games that have been released in the last 4 years, guild populations have plummeted after the first couple of months. I want to have a game that makes the core play group stick together and WANT to keep playing as a group.

    No one has provided that recently, save Blizzard, and it’s time that there is another game that holds our collective attention. I know 10 million subs is a lot to ask for. Let’s say a game that keeps it’s servers full and doesn’t need to contract in the first quarter or two.

    That’s the Next Big Thing to me.

    @Maladorn; I have to disagree. It’s not just lower than expected sales for WAR, it’s an IP that should have hit. The populations on the remaining servers continue to decline, and there is more and more consolidation going on. It’s failed, and that makes me sad because I really wanted it to succeed. I bet they are approaching 100K active. Not good.

    Now I’m not saying people aren’t playing and enjoying it, but ask EA if this is what they had in mind for the game when they acquired Mythic. I don’t think it is.

  5. I agree with this list, very curious to see what 38 studios is cooking up. I’d swap out or add DCUO to the list, despite the fact that it is an SOE game. Call me a glutton for punishment I guess.

  6. Champions Online will simply use the names and locations of the Champions PnP game. Cryptic has made it clear that it will be a standard level up game, even though they claim there will not be actual classes.

  7. If you’re asking about what will be the next cultural hit, I heavily suspect that we’re not going to see WoW numbers on anything for a long time. Not even Blizzard’s WoW 2.0 will be able to grab a huge market share from the starting gate. The WoW inertia is too big.

    If you’re asking what the next big thing *in the market* will be, I’m leaning heavily to the Puzzle Pirates/Free Realms school of thought. The subscription model has carpet bombed the genre, and again, the WoW saturation is too strong for any new game to capture significant market share from the same market segment. New segments will be the place to look for the expansion of the genre, and that means new marketing and new business plans. Guild Wars 2 might make a splash as well, but the future of growth in the industry isn’t in the subscription model.

  8. What about Aion that’s coming out? I know the mechanics are much like Guild Wars – of course still done by plaync but what I’ve been hearing it’s gonna be pretty good.

    For me I really need some story line and the quests to be interesting. That for me will be the ticket to sell me on a new game whether it’s Aion or something else. I’m just all around tired of killing 100 rats to collect 10 tails.. I’m ready to move on from quests such as these and experience something fresh and new.

  9. I agree with Tesh. I get burnt out of fantasy sometimes and jump back into some of the FPS multiplayer games and that genre seems to still be going strong. I think it will take someone thinking outside of the proverbial ‘box’ with something like guild wars but more customizable in order to make it ‘big’. Personally I feel that a twitch based fantasy or sci fi MMO might be what the industry needs, Jumpgate: Evolution looks promising, but it’s flight sim style might not appeal to everyone.

  10. I myself am seriously burned out on fantasy MMO’s. I still play Warhammer, but I seriously want a new Sci-Fi MMO. Eve is fun, but it’s not what I’m looking for. Anarchy Online is actually starting to look good again. I have hope for Bioware’s Star War’s project, as I enjoyed their previous Star Wars titles. There is also a Warhammer 40k project, but that’s years and years away.

    I personally care little about the total size of the game. My only concern is the size of the population of the server or shard I’m playing on. Anarchy Online never had more than 2 servers and it never bothered me because in the days that I did play it a lot, the main server (server 1) was always full and alive. If your own little corner of the game is populated, I believe you can ignore that the game itself is small.

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