Anyone that keeps up with what I write, or has had a chance to read MMO Evolution, knows that I have mixed feelings about the online game industry. On one hand, I am very annoyed, irritated, angry, and my panties are in a bunch about a lot of the things going on in the industry. On the other hand, I still hold a glimmer of hope that there are passionate and creative people out there that are not satisfied with the status quo, and are striving to make a change.
A lot of people consider MMORPGs to be the Killer App of PC gaming, the natural next step or evolution of plain and generic virtual worlds, and incredible money makers that last years and years.
World of Warcraft has, at least in the minds of the Western markets, burst open the floodgates. WoW has become a household word, and there are very few people that have never heard of it (although many are still unsure of what a MMORPG actually is).
As a result of the commercial success of WoW, many publishers and venture capitalists that have been waiting in the wings have cast away their shackles of doubt and are either starting their own MMORPG projects, or eagerly funding new studios. Their hope is to capitalize on the potential profits and success of an MMORPG and make a lot of money.
This is good because it will enliven the sector and the increased competition should be cause for better games. However, there is a downside. The majority (not all) of this money is what I would call dumb money. This refers to people throwing money at a project where they don’t really understand the industry or they are funding people that look good at first glance but really have no idea how to craft a MMORPG…the expectations are high, and the chance for success is pretty low.
I predict even more venture deals and more new MMORPG projects to be announced in the next 12 months or so. At least half of these will be related to some license or another, and there will probably be a handful of virtual worlds trying to pass themselves off as MMORPGs, but won’t be anything more than an advertisement laden glorified version of Second Life.
I also predict that the majority of these projects will either fail miserably and die a slow death or have mediocre success and barely stay alive. The second type is a prime acquisition candidate by some of the larger publishers trying to aggregate content, so all is not entirely lost for the investors.
While this will create a lot of excitement and exposure for our industry, along with hundreds of new jobs, there is a price to pay. When publishers and venture capitalists lose money or their projects dramatically under perform, they become very hesitant to take any risk in future projects. That will ultimately stifle the market for another cycle, and we will end up with another dry spell. Quality and originality will disappear again, and we will all be blogging about how terrible things are.
There will however, be a handful of great success stories, and at least one or two stellar runs at possibly knocking World of Warcraft from its high place.
My only hope is the few brave souls that are fed up with all the bureaucratic crap from the blind men running certain companies…they will strike out on their own and forge new ideas, concepts, and stories from their basements, garages, rooms, and corner cafes. Some will meet and begin unfunded independent projects, and a lucky few will take it to the next level with funding. They may not all succeed, as this road is long and arduous, but they will raise a lot of eyebrows and influence the rest of the industry to no small degree.
Watch the independents. They are coming. You don’t know who they are now, and many have absolutely no experience in the industry whatsoever. But they have unbridled passion, indomitable spirits, and a driving ambition to create, innovate, and build.
Our industry is one of cycles, and even with death and failure, the phoenix shall always arise.
I’m pretty excited, but for now, I will stay here on my soapbox proclaiming doom and gloom. I’m getting pretty tired of the same recycled crap gameplay and hollow story. It is time to quit playing around and take some risks. Innovate people! Innovate!