Well before I get into the parts of this article I am going to go on a tangent about, I guess I should probably weigh in on the whole console war debate and winning E3 thing. Honestly, the whole console war thing is now getting ridiculous, and the fact people are throwing in their lot with X or Y brand in something that, if it doesn’t change how it operates soon, will be a relic of years gone by is astounding to me on many levels.
The fact that this year’s E3 was “won” because one console sucked the least is even more astounding on so many levels, and the fact that things like console exclusives and such to try and bait people to their specific name brand is another nail in the coffin leading towards the next video game crash. In short, I think it’s time consumers started taking a step back and stopped letting consoles and in other cases publishers, try to rule developers lives with what they are creating. It’s gotten to the point that a game that sells a million copies isn’t good enough anymore is a pretty pathetic state of affairs as far as the video game industry goes, and just shows how far it has fallen.
But now that that is out of the way, let me talk about the other issue that’s been creeping into my mind lately; why have modern MMOs been “major” flops since World of Warcraft launched? Why is WoW the only game that the average consumer thinks can succeed and ever beat itself? Actually the answers fairly simple and by how simple it is probably also demonstrates why Blizzard doesn’t get it either. Now, some may recall an article written by some big wig over at 2K games or something like that (the parent company maybe?) and him trying to tell the world at large that North Americans do not like MMOs. This statement is baffling on many levels because they are popular, to a point.
So what is the point that an MMO is popular in North America? Quite simply, a North American player will only tolerate playing the same game so many times. For the last nine years now, developers have been pushing out the exact same game since World of Warcraft launched, even some other companies attempting to try and reformat older games to be just like WoW, and gamers take notice of this. It doesn’t matter how much you change the paint job, the overall gameplay experience doesn’t change, a players interest is not going to last months. It might last a few weeks at most the more like WoW the game actually is.
Innovation is a word I rarely like to use, because generally when innovation is involved companies don’t know when to pull the reigns in an analyze if their innovative idea is fun or not. You can pretty much run down the list of every MMO game you’ve played since World of Warcraft launched, and you would find precious little difference between each of them. And this is the very reason these new games with big budgets and multi-million dollar devs team behind them fail. They don’t fail because the games were bad or had poor launches, those are just excuses of the players, they fail because they’ve done absolutely nothing different from World of Warcraft.
To be blunt, North Americans don’t like being told how to play the game, if I were to make an observation. It’s most common questions asked, can I explore, can I build the character I want, etc etc, and the answer in every one of these games is a resounding no. Developers try to say you can, but if you have a class lock system picking trees isn’t changing much to the formula. Changing how the bland kill X enemy quests to be local area isn’t changing up the formula either. And offering nothing else as an alternative style of gameplay, such as crafting, isn’t going to get much enthusiasm in the end. Hell, when you shove your PvP into secluded and segregated areas, you have also pretty much made two games, and promising people these things is both a lie and a slap in the face.
MMOs are meant to be emergent worlds where the actions of the players dictate how things can go. The modern MMO is a rather pathetic mess, a single player game forcing a player along a specific route, and North American players are very capable of seeing this crap that they’ve been there and done that already. They want something new. The markets outside of North America, are they just more tolerant or are they just accepting of any mediocre thing that’s put in front of them? Who knows? But I think it is safe to say if you want to get in on North America, you can’t make yet another clone of WoW. People will just stick with WoW in that case.