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The One Man MMO Project
The story of a lone developer's quest to build an online world :: MMO programming, design, and industry commentary
Everybody's so Bummed Out!
By Robert Basler on 2012-06-01 22:17:35
Homepage: email:one at onemanmmo dot com

Wow, people are so depressed over the failure of 38 Studios, the layoffs from the Star Wars: The Old Republic team, and Pitch Black Games' Dominus getting cancelled during Alpha.

38 Studios had apparently been working on their game for six years. They gambled big (rumours of over $100M spent), but I sort of wonder what their strategy was - other than that they wanted to take over World of Warcraft's spot. I had no interest in their MMO Copernicus - there are dozens of swords and elves games to choose from. Turbine has three! Really, can't anyone make an MMORPG in another genre? Does it have to be me?

Well, I guess there's TOR - but it has swords. Really really fun swords. I might go back to it again later. TOR is apparently a huge disappointment with its paltry 1.4M+ players!! (Which makes it the #2 subscription game.) I think the problem there is that they spent a fortune ($200M) making it when they really didn't have to. The game could have launched smaller, but that wasn't what they wanted - they also were aiming to unseat WoW. The thing is, WoW hit the market at the right time with the right product, and Blizzard profited hugely. Like Zynga. Like Facebook. Like Microsoft. My only surprise on hearing about Bioware's layoffs was that they took so long.

Dominus ending right before beta, that is baffling. Apparently they ran out of money at the worst possible time.

None of this is anything new. There are a metric ton of cancelled MMO games. Of those that actually got finished, Warhammer was going to kill WoW, then it didn't. Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan -- all of these were WoW killers. None of them succeeded.

I don't understand why people can't concentrate more on making good games with reasonable budgets and executing a plan to build a profitable business from them. Oh damn, I just spelled out my top-secret business strategy. (And ArenaNet's, and CCP's, and Turbine's!)

The one big upside of these huge projects that people seem to forget, is that lots of people were paid to work on them. Sure its disappointing to never have your work seen by anyone, but it sure beats not eating. The cynic in me wonders how many MBA types set up game companies just to fleece naive investors.

I think the real concern here is where the money for games projects comes from: the venture capitalists. They're looking for a flashy pitch, a huge upside and a solid exit strategy. Blizzard has been the huge upside in a lot of pitches the last few years. Some people are worried that investment in MMO's is going to come to an end now with these high-profile failures, but I would submit that VC's still have money, and they are dead-set on gambling it to recreate lightning in a bottle. VC's don't care about the games they pay for and they will never accept that Blizzard just won, and be able to leave it at that. So that's good for us in the games industry who want to eat.

I'm making an MMO. I still have funding to continue. It's starting to shape up quite nicely now. Sure, it won't be on the scale of TOR, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. And I'm feeling pretty good about the MMO industry.

By Postie on 2012-06-02 00:08:33
Homepage: email:
The games industry as a whole seems to suffer from a "I want a slice of that action" mentality, where people seek to pretty much clone a successful existing product and announce to the world that theirs is the next big thing. Then they blame the industry or pirates when it doesn't live up to its hype.

I think its up to the smaller developers to come up with the innovation, because the big studios don't have time for such risks when they have shareholders to think about.
By DAn on 2012-08-12 04:41:49
Homepage: email:l1qw1d at yahoo dot com
In the case of SWTOR vs WOW, I would site saturation and quality contrast over timing. When WoW was released, yes it was optimal timing- but Blizzard had made a tie in to a very specific set up- WC3. Everyone thought 'How could they POSSIBLY top that and what they do PVP?!' so they bent the genre in a way many didn't predict.

This overshadowed EQ2- Exact same product look, feel, and cohesive world (and less patching at the time), but had the DRIVEN fanbase to support it.

Star Wars has been proving to be a bloated, slow moving Empire of it's own. While it can just use a direct punch with IMMENSE force, the stream of lackluster, banal, and poorly conceived ideas mean that the punch lacks substance and staying power. The same company that gave us groundbreaking changes every game can no longer innovate the way it once had.

I cite this because what if (a favourite game in these types of things)they had made games that made you wonder what was going to happen from Bioware? What if they came out with all their infrastructure, and wireframing ready for Alpha production? And then in one fell swoop dropped a DLC teaser with a 'test run' of 20000 people (all while having the servers set up and partly stress tested)?

While there's no way these can be answered I can honestly say I'd have PLAYED that version of the game and been far more excited for it. A stable nearly non patch needed, supported and cohesive story that doesn't double back on it's own canon? I'd be there.

For both companies? I say let the Giant in the Playground FALL

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