Relentless Gamers

Gamers without Remorse

Category Archives: MMO Industry

Rift Expansion Soon?

Rumors of an expansion for Rift have started to fly around the internet. “Storm Legion” is the name that Trion trademarked recently.

We can assume that Trion will do what most other MMOs have done with expansions (especially WoW):

  • New level cap.
  • New Zones
  • New Raids
  • More PVP content

But with Rift’s numbers on the decline, is this going to be enough to breathe life into the game again? Part of the problem with Rift has been it’s accessability to new players. It takes a lot of work on the part of a new player to get up to the level of gear to do current content. It’s daunting.

Maybe Trion will help redefine the MMO market like they did when Rift launched last year and redesign the progression to be less linear and more accessible to new players.

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Current State of the MMO Industry

Today new MMOs face many challenges to launch successfully. There are many ways for new MMOs to fail, but it seems from the last few years that most of the failures within the MMO industry have come from a bad launch.

Let’s take a look at a few:

  • Age of Conan – This game launched 8 months ahead of schedule due to pressure from fans and backers. It was dubbed before it released as the “Best MMO in history.” Despite this, it released early and as a result the game lost half of it’s subscribers within the first 2 months.
  • Aion – This game looked amazing. Everyone loved the idea of flying. The PvPvE idea was well received, but the game was poorly translated to the Western Market. The game ended up being very “grindy” as quests stopped about half way through the game and the only way to level was to grind mobs and dungeons.
  • Rift – This game started strong, with a lot of word of mouth support. However, after launch buggy end game content and poor scaling with PVP gear helped to kill this game for many people.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic – It is hard to point out one thing that caused this game to fall short of it’s expectations. But with a slow client, buggy content and repetitive PVP, it certainly didn’t fare well post launch.

It’s clear to see that there’s a lot of pressure on new MMOs. Failure is a very real possibility, and with World of Warcraft’s new expansion around the corner, it’s going to be harder than ever.

A new MMO now needs to do the following:

  • Make sure that servers are stable at launch.
  • Launch with few bugs (take beta data seriously)
  • Have an active community and interact with that community (listen to feedback and address concerns quickly).
  • Post-launch content. The community will go through all of your launch content quickly. Be ready to release something post-launch to keep players sated.

One thing that new MMOs have been focusing on is taking subscriptions from other MMOs. Rift was blatant in this with their “not in Azeroth” ad campaign. While I can see why they feel they need to do this, I feel this cannibalistic strategy is only going to be damaging to the MMO market in the long run.

Players who change games are more likely to either a) return to their original game or b) try another game when one comes out. Very few will switch and stay. On top of this, those players who change games a lot will likely give up as they get burned out on building a new character, etc.

The MMO industry needs to look at ways to expand out, and not steal subs from each other. It must do this otherwise the MMO model will continue to fail for so many new games.

To expand to new players, the Western MMO market needs to change drastically. It’s clear that the Carrot on a Stick model for MMOs had worked in the past. Today, it may not be the right way to go for the current state of the MMO market. Linear progression in MMOs make the game less accessible to players post launch. As older players move onto other games, new players find it hard to get “End Game Ready” or hate seeing entire areas of the game empty while leveling.

Guild Wars 2 addresses this by scaling your level to the level of the zone you’re in (at least going into lower level zones) and by taking the grind out of getting new gear. When you are max level, the gear you get from dungeons will largely be the same as other gear, but will have a better look to it.

These two things alone will help address the accessibility of the game to new players post launch. Couple this with the subscriptionless model they’re going with, there’s no pressure on new players to get to end game and get geared. However, where they will likely do well with new players, they may fail with the hardcore MMO players who enjoy End Game raiding.

I’m hopeful that the MMO model will survive the next few years for new MMOs. However, without some serious changes, I don’t think we’ll see many more AAA MMOs released anytime soon.