Valve’s Gabe Newell got an interesting blog-bite about players funding games to be developed. Reminds me of buying pork belly stock. MMOs that follow subscription models are already halfway there. Subscribers are not just paying for the ability to play on the MMO. They are also expecting new patches, new content, new technology upgrades, and so on. Even with over 5,000,000 subscribers-worth of revenue Blizzard cannot churn out content fast enough for World of Warcraft. The game then becomes a hopeful chat room community of investors.
This just does not go for subscription MMOs, but they are the most representative. Players expect the MMO to be a living thing whether it follows Guild Wars or Wizard 101’s business model. Once the game begins to feel stagnant and hopes begin to die, players will flag to another ship. It would be nice to make developer decisions like a publicly-traded shareholders meeting, but we would probably make the wrong ones anyway.
The one other “hint” of MMO investment might be in the beta stage. This is two-pronged with one being realistic (for now). The first prong comes from pre-orders and getting pre-release access to the game. While the gamer usually pays the same amount for the game whether he or she pre-ordered or not, the developer/publisher gets a read on future sales. They can use this data to further excite vendors, newssites, and fans thereby generating more sales and money. The unrealistic prong could be asking the gamer to pay extra to get in to the testing phase. I saw plenty of gamers that would do this without question for Warhammer Online. Could this small amount of money help final development more than hurt future sales? Currently the answer seems to be “no” because I haven’t seen anyone willing to use this risky business model.
I know that Newell was approaching things from a more early development standpoint. Would you be willing to buy Blizzard’s next MMO now even if you wouldn’t get it until 2012 when you might be funding it right now by merely playing World of Warcraft? Fool me twice…
either way a sale is made