Moving the Cheese

With any luck, Bioware will tell the lot of us off and take The Old Republic in a direction that current MMO players will find inconceivable. In the best of all possible worlds, you will recognize its connection to the original EverQuest the way you recognize the connection between Pac-Man and Quake. Because we have ruined these games by defining the RPG out and setting for killing 10,000 rats because it will improve our gearscore.

Darren senses that Bioware is missing the point of MMOs. Good for them. Our niche market is a horror of trying to stretch out the fun instead of making it more fun. Portal did not become a huge hit because it made you execute the same maneuver 50 times before moving to the next level.

World of Warcraft did not become a huge hit by catering to then-current MMO players. It so vastly expanded the market that it effectively created the whole thing; which has had more players, World of Warcraft or every earlier western MMO combined? Bioware is looking for that kind of success, and they are going to succeed or fail big. They are not going to settle for a few hundred thousand players. While there are a lot of developers that could live quite nicely with that playerbase, as a corporation they are not devoting resources to niches. They can try to poach a few million current MMO players, or they can take the market in a different direction.

I have no idea if the game will be good, successful, or even something that I want to play. But I will be disappointed if it ends up appealing to the current MMO market instead of trying to reach different players.

: Zubon

House of Leaves has the best dedication page ever.

12 thoughts on “Moving the Cheese”

  1. I’ve got no interest in the game, really, but seriously if they make multi-player KoToR instead of an MMO then even just that would be wildly successful and undoubtedly awesome. I assume. If they throw grind and a $15 a month sub at it though… well… chances of awesome reduce significantly.

  2. Based on what they’ve said so far, I’m expecting this to be 25% KOTOR, 70% WOW, 5% FF11 & Guild Wars and 0% innovation.

    Which is no doubt exactly what most people are looking for–a solid MMO in the Star Wars universe with a little Bioware touch. But I think it will leave the “This game will change EVERYTHING!” crowd disappointed.

  3. World of Warcraft did not become a huge hit by catering to then-current MMO players.

    Really? Because I remember something a bit different. I remember Blizzard hiring some fairly high profile guild leaders from a then-current MMO. I remember stories about Blizzard deciding to do WoW because all their employees were playing EQ at work. I remember a big push to recruit whole EQ guilds into the testing phase. I remember pretty much every major feature in other MMOs being lifted wholesale and given that trademark Blizzard polish; in fact, I seem to remember them still doing that.

    No, Blizzard went straight for the then-current MMO fanbase, which was themselves. They just happened to have two additional magic words in their grimoires, “Blizzard” and “Warcraft”, that gave them a lot lot of additional attention beyond that base.

    As for the topic at hand, I can’t say for certain if Bioware will gives us something completely new, and if so, if it will be accepted. They, too, have some special magic words, “Bioware” and “The Old Republic”, so we’ll see if those are as potent as Blizzard’s incantations. My crystal ball is murky right now, perhaps it’s time to send it out for a cleaning.

    1. That’s fair. On the other hand, that meant a rarefied version that has been derided as “dumbed down,” and only dumbed down further with further expansions. They may have started with the current players, but most WoW players are first-time MMO players.

      If “Blizzard” and “Warcraft” were magic words, “Sony” and “Star Wars” should have been more so.

      1. They may have started with the current players, but most WoW players are first-time MMO players.

        Sure, they got their critical mass of interest by pitching to the established audience then they grew by attracting new people. Pretty much the same thing the original The Sims did, get the hard-core interested with tales of advanced A.I. and then use that as a vector for the real audience, people who wanted to play dress-up and tell stories.

        If “Blizzard” and “Warcraft” were magic words, “Sony” and “Star Wars” should have been more so.

        As has been mentioned before, SWG’s poor performance showed that people dropped the ball at Sony. The mutterings were that obviously the MMO audience was limited if Star Wars couldn’t attract large crowds, then WoW came along and shattered that comforting lie. Assigning blame is left as an exercise for the reader.

  4. Agreed Zubon. I’m increasingly convinced that MMO gamers don’t even know what they want. They demand instant gratification like a child refusing to eat their greens and skip straight to dessert. Yet a wholesome meal might well be more satisfying in the long run. Or, at the very least, there are *some* gamers who don’t just want sweets or fast food.

  5. I think the difficulty is that I find the direction very conceivable: sticking KOTOR cutscenes into an MMO. I think you are expecting a paradigm shift but looking at Bioware I just see solid, well-made games built on the same general pattern.

    Portal became a hit because they tried something very different. They didn’t just make Half-Life 2: the MMO. Time will tell, I guess.

Comments are closed.