Aug 22, 2014

[Because Not Everyone Stays With One Game for 10 Years]

"My simple heresy that I would like to propose for online game development is this: we should be comfortable with customers leaving. For the right reasons, not because we messed up a patch and destroyed all their characters, but because they’ve played the game, they’ve had fun, and they’re done, and ready for our next game. If you believe in what you do, and why you do, it’s not only destructive to your game’s bottom line, but simply wrong to keep them longer than they want to – than they should be there."

  I notice this philosophy seems built into many F2P MMOs. These games were not built for people to live a decade+ in (though I'm sure there are people who do). They are, perhaps, the MMORPG version of 'casual games', and their devs seem to be at peace with that pattern of player gain/loss. Some people may call that shallow, but maybe it's a healthier pattern for many players to move on once that novelty is gone for them, rather that stay in one game past burnout and boredom out of some variation of sunk-cost fallacy, being enabled by devs who also seem to think that's what the life cycles of all MMOs should aspire for (though this would also call for people not being fixated on AAA budgets for everything, as well).


Bhagpuss said...

I read Lum's post via Spinks link. It's a typically entertaining Lum post but confess I didn't really understand it. He kept referring back to UO (and some other games of that vintage in the visuals) and emphasizing that people still play those games after fifteen years but the conclusion of his thesis was that developers should let people leave. I couldn't put those two concepts together to make a clear throughline.

Also, I simply don't buy the "it's the friendships that keep people playing" argument. It's become a truism that no-one questions but it doesn't match my experience. I don't still play EQ because of the relationships I made there. The last person I knew in EQ left many, many years ago. I often say that my loyalty is to my characters, which is true as far as it goes, but the real reason I keep playing EQ, EQ2 and would be playing Vanguard if I could is for the gameplay.

I know some people find it hard to believe but it really is the gameplay that keeps me coming back to most MMOs.

Pai said...

The ideal seems to be to consider people who play a MMO for a couple months and stop a sign of failure on the game's part. Some people seem to expect that a MMORPG should hold people for like a decade or something by default or there's something lacking in the game.

When I played Eden Eternal, I found that the dev company for that game basically makes a new game every 3 years or so, and the games themselves lend themselves for a much shorter cycle of play, and there will be a new one from the same company coming out soon around the time you might start getting bored of the game (and they're not bad games, really, just smaller scale and not trying to be hugely complex). They're not games most people would stay in for a long time. I played EE for about a year.

It just felt like maybe aiming for that sort of smaller scale might be healthier for some studios. But it would also be incompatible with AAA budgets. Maybe it's also incompatible with the monthly-sub model as well, who knows.

In western games, I've played KingsIsle games (Wizard101 and Pirate 101) for years, but never for more than a few months since the significant content doesn't really stretch that far between patches. I stop for months at a time, but always have come back eventually. I like those games a lot, and they are not purely sub and not purely F2P -- KI is also one of the first really successful western F2P studios. But their games know their scale and seem to do just fine.

I dunno, maybe that kind of outlook would be helpful instead of games always wanting to stretch things into longer grinds or slower paces in order to get people to stay playing longer.