There is gonna be a burnout?

Again from Dave Rickey’s interview:

The big news is going to continue to be EQ clones. Fantasy themed clones will get ever more insane budgets and continue to be the biggest games. We’ll see more variation of setting, like we already have seen a little of, EQ with guns, EQ in space, EQ in giant robots, and those games will dominate the middle third of the market, running a step behind the fantasy games on budgets. The bottom of the market will run the whole rest of the range down, and is where we’ll see the real innovation.

There are so *many* possible MMO’s to make, and I really believe that in the long run the current run of ever-bigger EQ clones will burn itself out. Once every potential player has already played one to the point of burnout, we’ll need to do something else.

To which Anyuzer brought his attack that I slightly “time warp” here:

But, in my defense though, there is something interesting about the whole thing. The first is the future of the ‘EQ-Clones’. I mean, personally, I’m getting sick of the terminology.

EQ Clone? Why is it an EQ clone? Because it’s an Online RPG that works on fairly logical progressional elements? C’mon people, wake up and stop bitching. EverQuest was not the devil, it was simply a game that had enough psychological hooks in its design to keep players going. ALL VIDEO GAMES WORK ON THE SAME PRINCIPLES.

And the next big MMOs that come out (Vanguard, DDO, LoTR, Imperator, etc) will simply either be very good at this (in which case they will do ‘decently’) or they’ll be the best at this (in which case they will eclipse even WoW) or they’ll totally ignore these basics of human nature, and fail miserably (woooo Horizons!)

Which brings me back to Rickey’s comments. He is spot on in pointing out that ‘EQ-Clones’ are going to be the future of the industry. But what the hell is he thinking when claiming that players will get burnt out, and look for some innovative indy game? A more realistic comment would’ve been throwing away the retarded: “EQ Clone” label and pointing out the fact that the way the industry is likely to evolve, is being better at placing the progressional hooks, and being innovative in the design of those hooks.

I already commented those points on his forum but let’s give this topic another twist:

OF COURSE there is going to be a burnout. And not because I’m here predicting the future for all of you but simply because it is happening already. Just open your eyes and look around with some critical ability. Let’s put aside for a second the considerations about the design and focus instead on what is relevant about this argument. The fact is that this bunch of games like EQ, EQ2, DAoC, FFXI, WoW and all the minor ones… all aim to the same audience. They aren’t just “EQ-Clones” because of superficial classifications. They are, at their core, products aiming to get slices of the exact same pie.

Despite the numbers are hiding what is happening, the fact is that the release of WoW is strongly impacting the subscriptions of other games. Noone can expect the players to support and play all these games at the same time, so what happens is that there is going to be a choice. A choice that in this case is about comparing IDENTIC products. So an obvious, objective choice that is moving away from being a personal, subjective choice. There is no subjectivity when you can choose just between identic products. There is absolutely no differentiation between the largest commercial mmorpgs and the result of this is that the best product is going to stand out “objectively” and conquer the whole market. It’s exactly when there is ZERO differentiation that you can compare the products head to head and right now, honestly, WoW is the best game out there with a relevant advantage. It is successful because the game was able to improve the design we already know under a good number of important aspects, so the players moved over and liked, for the most part, what they found. At the same time the other games, while suffering the impact, were still able to hold because of (1) strong communities built wilth the time, (2) time investment from the players that do not want to throw everything away and (3) specific aspects of the game that remain unique and valuable for those with a deep knowledge of the game.

This is the real “burnout”. The players are getting tired of looking at a bunch of identic games all trying to compete on the same goals. Is really this genre so narrow in scope and possibilities (from a commercial point of view)? I know a good numbers of players that already left the previous incarnations of this same-game that have now absolutely no interest in WoW. This is the burnout. It’s the common “been there, done that”. When you keep finding the same thing, slightly improved, you get tired, because the novetly vanished long ago and you have no interest to commit to it again. It’s a perspective that hasn’t anything anymore to offer.

The point here is that there will be always just one, two at maximum, juggernauts out there. And they’ll crush everything in the market because all these games just overlap trying to conquer the same audience. And the audience will choose that one product that does the thing better. In this case the new, better mmorpgs “mudflate” the old mmorpgs that weren’t able to manage the progress and solve their own quirks. WoW capitalized on the design mistakes of other games, on those problems that the devs didn’t care to acknowledge. So it used those weaknesses as an hold to throw the new competitors out of the path. It is possible for an old game, with a consolidated community to hold for a long time even after being cut out of the relevant market, but this isn’t a possibility for the new projects that do not have the resources to go against the juggernaut but that still pretend to do so.

In the future the communities will become more and more “portable”. They’ll move naturally to the “next big thing” exactly because it will be easy to recognize. What we know is that the success never comes from the same source. All these game worlds reach a peak when they are able to observe the situation from outside, consider what works and what doesn’t to then enter the market and bring in some innovations. Mythic was successful because of this, Blizzard was successful because of this. They capitalize on the mistakes of others but then they become themselves gears of the same wheel and just freeze (“thick as a brick”), unable to understand their own errors just to become fresh preys for the next big thing that is going to backfire the process against them.

You cannot expect to sell the exact same food, at the exact same price but of a less overall quality and hope to survive the market. It simply doesn’t make sense. So this is why the focus should be about delivering something that the super-large company of the moment cannot afford. Yes, because those companies have also serious weaknesses that can be exploited. There is a space for interesting products which can afford a more aggressive and creative development and exactly because the largest projects will finally become juggernauts impossible to move. So you “win” the disadvantage by competing on an agility that those other projects cannot afford.

There are spaces, this genre is wide and accepts all sort of things you can imagine. What is important is to not chase the trend of the moment in order to survive with the crumbs left by the big one ahead of you. That will just get you stomped on. Use some wit, be able to understand where the market is going and anticipate it. Compensate the lack of money and resource with some creativity and passion. Just take the challenge for what it is and have some fun already in the development process.

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