Vanguard – “From Brad to the catasses”, a game manifesto

I archive here the game “manifesto” that Brad McQuaid posted on FoH boards.

When we’re looking at revenue forecasts as well as when we’re designing the game we’re looking at long term customer retention with the realization that the majority of money made from MMOGs is from subscriptions not box sales. 250,000 I think is conservative… 500,000 would be just fine… both look pretty good though when doing the math and planning on players playing months and even years.

If the ‘core’ gamer is running out of things to do now (and I say ‘core’, not hard core, because I’m not just reading posts and talking to people who are part of that minority of gamers who play like madmen), then how much longer will the ‘casual’ gamer be entertained?

I’m not here to criticize Blizzard’s plan (nor am I even privy to it), but I can say what ours is, and it’s to keep the average MMOG gamer around for a long time. And we realize this likely means we won’t see sales in the millions. But we took EQ 1 up to 400,000+ for three years with very few cancellations, and I know the game continued with those numbers for quite a while after I left. And that’s the kind of success we’re looking for again with Vanguard.

I know the counter-argument, that those players won’t tolerate another EQ 1 and its advancement pace — that MMOGs have to be designed differently now, targeting the more casual gamer and also the gamer who allegedly has less time to play than he or she did in the past, or who just won’t tolerate anything even resembling a “grind”.

But I don’t buy it. Sure, some people are burned out. But we also hear from a LOT of old school MMOG gamers who want that longer term game again… who want a home again. And if we combine those people with even a small percentage of new MMOG gamers, who were probably exposed to persistent worlds by games like WoW, then it’s simply not that crazy to assume we can get the numbers I’m talking about for Vanguard.

Only time will tell, and I know people will disagree with me. But we really need to be right — not just for Vanguard, but for the genre in general. We can’t just give up, throw our hands into the air, and say EQ 1s were a fluke and that core gamers have somehow fundamentally changed since then such that they won’t or can’t subscribe for years ever again. Were that true, we’d never see the virtual worlds of the scope and scale we all dream about developed. Maybe we are old school, maybe past successes were a fluke, maybe we’re dinosaurs. But I’m betting not.

Btw, I just wanted to be extra clear here and state that I have nothing but respect for Blizzard. I am concerned that they might not be ready to put out new content fast enough, but time will tell.

My post was more to explain Vanguard’s plan and philosophy and how it differs from WoW’s. I think choices are good and am glad MMOG gamers have more choices now in terms of what style and pace of gameplay suits them.

I’m also very happy in a selfish way I suppose that Blizzard showed that the MMOG gamespace is far from saturated as many people were claiming before its release. And, as I alluded to, because of their name cache and their ability to attract gamers who probably would never have tried an MMOG (due to their other fine games and consistent quality they produce) they’ve done us all a huge favor.

Vanguard and WoW have different target audiences and different philosophies behind them, but I also think that a significant percentage of people who tried WoW as their first MMOG are going to finish playing it and find themselves wanting more… and that’s perfect for Vanguard. No, not every casual gamer is going to be converted into a core or hard core gamer, but IMHO enough will that when combined with the old school MMOG gamers Vanguard will have plenty of people interested in it.

Plus, this was a good opportunity to let everyone know that going after millions in the short term as a business strategy doesn’t mean that going after hundreds of thousands in the long term isn’t still viable.

I also think they had/have a vision too, and that they stuck with it (again, who their target audience was, their use of lower tech as opposed to pushing the limits of graphics cards, etc.) And while our vision is obviously different, they at least have one whereas I fear some other more recent games don’t know what they want or where they want to go… being reactive instead of proactive isn’t a good plan when making and maintaining an MMOG at this time.

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