A Bad Year for MMO’s? Really?

I’m going to have to stop being a nice guy for a minute.  I’m going to have to take “the game blogging community” (henceforth known as “you” in this post) to task.  It started simply enough, with a guy who likes to be intentionally irritating anyway, but now its going on, and on. Some people even quit blogging over it, then felt so strongly about it they rose from the dead  to spit on it.  Even some of my favorite blogs are not immune.

Long story short – apparently 2009 was the worst year eva’ in the MMO industry.  You know, with complete failures like Champions Online and Darkfall, Alganon, and WAR…wait, wasn’t WAR released in 2008?  Oops.

So apparently 2008 was the worst year eva’ in the MMO industry.  You know, with complete failures like WAR and Age of Conan and Pirates of the Burning Sea and Vanguard…wait, wasn’t Vanguard released in 2007?  Oops.

So apparently 2007 was the worst year eva’ in the MMO industry.  You know, with complete failures like Vanguard and Tabula Rasa.  Or was it 2006 with its lack of MMO releases?

Maybe 2005 was the worst year eva’ with the failure of that lame Matrix Online thing.

No actually, it would have to be 2004 with Final Fantasy Online and its mixed servers and awful grind.   Or Everquest II with its lame tiering class system.

Wait!  Let’s roll back to 2003 and EQOA and that god-awful Star Wars Galaxies…surely that was the worst right?  Or the failure of that red headed stepchild Shadowbane.

Even better!  2002 saw the inception of the short lived failures that were Asheron’s Call 2 and Earth & Beyond.

“Peter Gibbons: So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.
Dr. Swanson: What about today? Is today the worst day of your life?
Peter Gibbons: Yeah.
Dr. Swanson: Wow, that’s messed up. ”
~ Office Space, 1999

Gaming bloggers, we seem to have fallen into some sort of online version of Worst Day Ever Syndrome.  Each year of MMO releases seems to top the previous for how bad it was, how bad the releases were, how poorly the companies are developing their games, how badly the developers are ignoring customers.    Some people even believe we are traveling backwards in time – that MMO’s started out great and are getting worse every year out from 1999.

Part of this is due to the postmodern nature of blogging.  Everyone has their own hits and misses, and their own ways of defining what is a hit and what is a miss.  But looking at the list I just put together above, I’m having a really hard time seeing this as the worst year ever for MMO’s.  Wasn’t 2005/2006 the worst since it didn’t bring us many big new goodies to test out?  Was this year really all that bad?

10 thoughts on “A Bad Year for MMO’s? Really?

  1. Pish and tush. It *was* a bad year to be working in the industry (lots of job losses). It was also the year that saw yet more hyped launches of games that were, at the very least, not ready to be launched when they were (CO) and/or incredibly unimaginative in terms of how you play them, regardless of how pretty they are (Aion).

    Smaller titles did fine — but then smaller titles, being more realistic perhaps about what they’re trying to achieve, usually do. EVE has quietly been doing rather well over the years, and Fallen Earth was a bit of a sleeper.

    My general stance from now on might be to mock the hype machine. I’ll certainly try to avoid being drawn in by it. As you point out, after several years of hype/crap (or at the very least, of hype creating unreasonable expectations and games then being nothing like the hype), there’s no particular reason why this one should stand out more than others. (I think mostly it does because of the economic situation that goes with it.)

    Which is pretty much what I said in my post, so nyerh. 😀

    1. Good luck with the hype machine thing, TSW Fangirl! (-; The real question here is: has there ever been a good year for MMO’s? Even EQ2, I would say the most complete fantasy MMO available, was panned at launch and shunned for the first year or so of its existence.

      I will say it was a bad year to be in any industry, not just game development and mmo development. Don’t forget it wasn’t all bad though: CCP for example, was hiring when everyone else was firing.

      1. TSW is exempt from any hype-machine comments. I’m already rabidly frothing at the mouth on that one, so it’s too late to turn back. Will it disappoint in some way? Almost certainly. 😉

  2. I agree with you 100%. It seems many MMO players seem to revel in being negative. Moreover they really like being heard being negative as witnessed by the examples you have given above and by visiting almost any MMO related forum. Maybe I’m just more sensitive to it since paying attention to what is being said about a particular game is part of my job as the Alganon Community Manager and Evangelist.

    Of course I love it when people seem to “get” our game and say so. And yes we have taken our fair share of beatings (some very brutal) at the hands of many bloggers and (to a greater extent) the forum members at some of the most popular MMO forums but even with all that we still keep moving along.

    We still keep working and improving our game because we do it for our players and not for our critics. Criticizing something takes almost no effort. Building something is a bit more difficult but ultimately (whether you succeed of fail) much more rewarding.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Tork!

      I’m hopeful that Alganon can find its footing, because as I stated in my “review” of it (can we really call them reviews anymore?), I think it has some neat elements to bring to the table.

      I think you have hit something on the head here though. Ultimately building a game into a success requires more than devs and financial backing – it requires a dedicated community to embrace new players and the game itself.

      Perhaps we need to start including that in whatever formulas we decide to use to declare an MMO a success.

    2. First time I’ve been compared to game forums. Not sure that’s fair, either, for me *or* the other bloggers linked above, but for 2010 I’ll make sure I write about nothing but rainbows and ponies.

      1. I have no problem with a writer expressing their dissatisfaction and by no means would I ever try to change what anyone chooses to write but as I read articles about games I can tell when a writer has taken the time to try to write objectively about the game. Many don’t choose this writing style and that is their choice.

        Anyone working on a game likes “rainbows and ponies” articles but only when they are written by someone who really has taken the time to see what you’ve tried to accomplish with your particular game. Same goes for articles where the writer was disappointed in what they experienced.

        My comments were really directed toward the MMO community as a whole. Many of us seem to have turned into complainers and arm-chair designers. There are some great MMO blogs and forums out there but if you were just getting into the genre and relied on the current MMO community writings you may come away thinking that this genre is horrible when it really is quite the opposite.

        MMO players have never had as many options in game and revenue structures as they have right now. The MMO industry is really blossoming in this “Post-WoW” phase. There will be more MMOs in the future to choose from not less.

        (That said I must admit that i get a little bit of sick satisfaction in watching each and every new MMO launch. It’s just such a time of craziness and speculation. Also having been part of the preparation for two MMO launches now its even more crazy from the other side.)

        I believe 2010 will be a big year for MMOs in the growth of not only the genre as a whole but in the variety of revenue structures and perhaps the year when alternate revenue structures (such as F2P) really gain ground in the US.

        We will see. 🙂

      2. “as I read articles about games I can tell when a writer has taken the time to try to write objectively about the game. Many don’t choose this writing style and that is their choice.”

        That, sadly, is all too true. It holds to some extent for all criticism (movies, books), though with games it’s even more apparent because it usually takes a number of hours to form any kind of genuine post-first-impressions idea of what a game is like.

        As for growth and success — I certainly hope so. I personally may not enjoy every MMO that comes out, but I wish them all as much success as possible since that opens the field for more, better, different MMOs. More quality choices can’t but be a good thing, at least for an end of the line consumer like me. 😉

        I would still contend that many MMOs are released before they’re ready (though what constitutes “ready” can be pretty hotly debated too), and that this sours not only their launch but the mood of the receiving community in general — in the case of this discussion, notably bloggers; I’m not going near forums like FoH and its ilk. As gamers we need to learn to be a little less hype-embracing, even though the nature of hype is that is increases admiration and decreases critical evaluation — if we stay a little more sober, we may be a little less disillusioned when games turn out to be just games rather than the second coming of the entertainment revolution.

  3. Personally I think it was a fairly good year, from an MMO player’s perspective – and of course from my own perspective.

    1) More games adopted or changed to different payment models than the traditional (at least in the Western hemisphere) subscription-based model. More options and variety is a good thing.

    2) More non-fantasy MMOs being released. Not as many as I would have hoped for, but among the Western-originated titles there are at least Champions Online and Fallen Earth. And both are nice games I think.

    3) Some interesting/bold steps in refreshing and changing the existing games. For me Mission Architect in particular comes to mind – an interesting stab at easy-to-used player-created content. Did it take the world by storm? No. But I think it is a fine example of developers trying to push forward and just not repeat the same old features again.

    I have probably tried and played more different MMOs or sort-of-MMOs this year than any year before. I did not like all of these games, but I certainly do not regret trying out all of the games I tried either.

    1. Same here Sente,

      I’ve enjoyed the looks and time I got with Fallen Earth, Alganon, EVE, and Champions Online all outside my norm, and all of which brought new things in. Hopefully the coming year will be just as good.

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