Ripple Works

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.

: Zubon

6 thoughts on “Ripple Works”

  1. We prefer the term “fortified wine.”

    So far it is pretty clear that WoW isn’t the journey, it is the destination.

  2. Shhh, don’t tell the uber-hardcore players that, or they’ll lose their sense of entitlement.

    No, wait, please tell them that.

    I’m sort of in a weird place. I have the head for the hardcore game, i.e., the number cruncher ability, but not the stomach for it. I’ve got one capped character in one game (CoH), and soon another in WoW. But I’ll never be a Black Temple player, or probably even a Karazhan one, and I don’t really want to be. But I love talking about theory, design, etc. I like ripping things apart to see what makes them tick. So I guess that makes me a wine critic, instead of an alcoholic?

  3. So that’s what we need! We, the hardcore players, need a number-crunching game. It only really needs a couple of dungeons, and doesn’t need levelling or gear or any of that. All we really need is for our spells and abilities to change on a weekly or monthly basis. Then we can math it all out, sort out what the first five abilities on each of our hotbars is, figure out the new role of each class, look into party composition, and hop to!

  4. “All we really need is for our spells and abilities to change on a weekly or monthly basis.”

    Don’t you get that with the normal patches already?

  5. You and I both know that doesn’t phase a number cruncher for more than ten minutes.

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