It always starts like this. Hot New Game that everyone wants to play. Lots of people buy the box. First month is getting to know the game. It sure is pretty/authentic/fun. All your friends are playing it. You might have broken down and bought it yourself. It’s a lot like EQ/WOW/Lineage and you wonder if it’s different enough to make you want to play. You unsubscribe from your All Time Favorite game. You say some hurtful things about it as you leave.
Now it’s a month or two later and you are starting to notice your Hot New Game has a few warts. It’s still the Shiny though, and you try to ignore them.
Then it starts.
First, it’s a couple of blog posts or a tweet. Um, it’s not as cool as we though. A couple of people defect and go back to their All Time Favorite. ATF takes them back because it always does, and in a month or three their account goes inactive and they try not to think about it any more.
Then there is a small swelling of people saying that the emperor has no clothes. They are pointing out legitimate concerns with the game. Some of these people are the ones who should love the game, it’s purported target audience. Yet they begin to second-guess the game and where it’s going. This is where Aion is right now. Some of the people whose opinion I respect that should be the target audience are starting to slough off the game’s subscription roles.
I’m going to go ahead and call it now. Aion is going to hemorrhage users within the next 6 months, until the point where is is WAR-sized or smaller.
Here are the issues as I see it;
- PVP is never going to be a viable core game mechanic in MMO’s. There isn’t a sufficient number of PVP-oriented players to sustain a subscription model. PVP is a niche. People say they want PVP but honestly it’s only proven viable as a distraction.
- Korean MMO’s which are developed for the Asian market will never maintain critical mass in the US and EU. Why? Because the playstyles of the two markets are too starkly different to reconcile and maintain.
- Most PVP fans like Wolf-vs.-sheep PVP, where they are the wolves. This is a self-defeating mechanism, because sooner or later, the sheep will get tired of being killed and ridiculed by the wolves. Wolves will push-back against any mechanism that tries to balance the situation decrying the “removal of skill” from the equation. No matter which way the developers go, their user base will dwindle.
- PVP is not an end game mechanism. If your end-game is PVP, you don’t have any end game. Why? Because your end game is then at the whim of the player base. One of your bigger guilds defects for another game? Your server is now imbalanced. One of your sides full of gimp players? Imbalanced. Imbalance -> people quitting -> more imbalance -> no endgame. As long as designers try to substitute PVP for content, this will be an issue.
I’m not a PVP hater. It’s not my first choice for game play, but I have over 10,000 PVP kills in WoW, so it’s not like I am calling PVP out because it’s not to my personal taste. I’m just saying that the road is littered with games that try to substitute PVP for actual content.
Is it impossible? No, I don’t think it is. I do believe that Aion is another one of the pretenders to the throne that will also fall by the wayside.
Please visit PVP online at http://www.pvponline.com/. (credit for graphic)