City of Heroes has had the superhero MMO market to itself for the past four years. (I don’t think Twilight Heroes counts, although Kingdom of Loathing compares favorably with Everquest in many ways.) Now the next couple of years are promising a sudden flurry, with DC, Marvel, and Champions MMOs forthcoming. Is there really that much pent-up demand for superhero-based MMOs? Maybe this summer’s batch of excellent superhero movies will help build an audience, but I do not see it. One game might have hoped to cannibalize City’s playerbase, but four?
Marvel and DC have their obvious stables of characters to use in advertising their games, although how you use those characters in-game could succeed or fail dramatically. Cryptic can market its game as “City of Heroes II,” with all the things that, in retrospect, they should have had the first time. City of Heroes can market itself as having four years’ worth of content additions and as Cryptic Without Jack Emmert, which appeals to a certain vocal part of the playerbase.
I know we have more than a dozen significant fantasy MMOs, but do we have even a half-dozen successful sci fi MMOs? Four superhero MMOs seems like a crowded marketplace. Unless the audience for them expands, that is bad for developers, and, due to network effects, bad for their players.