Hardcore MMO players are a niche audience. There, I said it. You, as someone who is taking the time to read an obscure MMO gaming blog, are in the far tail of the statistical distribution. And I’m writing it, so I’m even further out there.
Attempting to appeal to players like us is intentionally gutting your potential audience. At IMGDC, Gordon Walton of Bioware compared you to a connoisseur of fine wine. You have discriminating tastes and an attention to detail, and you will go through great effort to wrest a nugget of fun from your entertainment. For most others, he explained, “ripple works.” Fine details are lost on them, and simple is easy.
Sure, you say, children like sweet, bland, and greasy food, but they eventually move beyond McDonald’s. We can lure them in with casual semi-MMOs and then let them graduate to the big leagues. These WoW players are going to want something meatier soon. Great, show me anywhere it has happened. Has your favorite book outsold The Davinci Code? Which of your favorite band’s albums has outsold Britney Spears? Is the main character of your favorite movie better known than Jar-Jar Binks? There are lots of great things that appeal to refined tastes, and few of them are market leaders. Popularity does not determine quality, but it does determine who gets rich and where resources get invested.
Don’t worry. It’s a big market. Your niche can survive a long time. The same market that mass-produces pap (some of it really enjoyable, if we can see past our elitism) makes it worthwhile to cater to lots of smaller markets along the way. The center of mass may be even less hardcore-MMOy than WoW’s pre-70 game, but that will subsidize your less lucrative refined tastes. That should be a liberating thought for the ~5% of WoW players who beat the Black Temple before 2.4: millions of people paid for the creation of content that you completed and they never saw.