Jul 16, 2012

[The MMO Messiah]

...Could it really be Guild Wars 2?

Wait, hear me out! =P

  It's a fact that 2012 has been a disappointing year for 'AAA' MMORPGs. The highly publicized implosion of 38 Studios and the stumbling performance of SWTOR has led some gaming pundits to question if the entire genre has been put in peril. I've already addressed why I disagree that those games' failures were because 'the market is over-saturated with MMOs', but there IS something to be said about the chilling effect such high budget crash-and-burns can have on twitchy investors who may not know enough about MMOs to understand why all the money put into those studios failed to provide the desired returns.

  The hard fact is, making games is a business. It is generally required by AAA development studios to convince people who may not be gamers or even particularly interested in gaming to fork over considerable amounts of money to fund their projects. These sorts of investors are the types who read statements like 'the market for MMOs is obviously saturated because not even 200 million dollars can make a game MMO players want to play', and decide it's not a good idea to invest in MMO projects for the forseeable future. Thus, even though the true reasons why certain big-budget games did poorly is more complex than that, every MMO project going forward gets stigmatized as a 'low chance of being profitable' before it even gets out of the gate. If reality gets framed as being MMORPGs as a whole that are not profitable rather than just over-derivative WoW clones, then yes, the genre as a whole will suffer. And there is a real risk that the latter will be the message taken away from this year by the investors of tomorrow.

  Now, ArenaNet has not disclosed how much money has gone into Guild Wars 2 yet, but I'm going to assume it's at least $100 million. I could be totally wrong of course but when devs have made various comments that basically admit cost was not their major consideration and outright state they're betting the company on this game, it makes me suspicious that the final number is going to be pretty big.

  And not only has ArenaNet been coy about publicizing how much they've spent on Guild Wars 2, but also have been setting some pretty confident goals for themselves, such as being the best service provider in the entire industry. They are setting the bar for themselves high, with very public statements of confidence, and investors and other such influential people in the industry are definitely watching them closely to see if they can deliver.

  If Guild Wars 2 faceplants, it will be the second epic-budget AAA MMO released in 2012 to do poorly and the third bad end to a very expensive MMO project this year, and that will definitely have severe consequences for the AAA MMORPG as a genre. Because of that grim possibility, even people who are not interested in the game should be hoping it has a great launch and a positive market performance because Guild Wars 2 may actually be a 'MMO Messiah' if it can achieve it's lofty ambitions, albeit a savior in a different way than most gamers define the term.

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