I am very used to a content explosion. The devs have been silent for months on an upcoming patch or expansion, and then CKZABOOM! we get new zones, quests, skills, etc., etc., etc. One shift I am really starting to notice is a more agile content presentation. With the current MMO direction in terms of business model, casual play, and, in my opinion, market saturation, perhaps a more frequent content drip is in order.
Surely the marketing people understand the gravitational pull of a content explosion. Everybody has already got World of Warcraft’s next expansion on the radar even if they don’t play. Even the MMO whipping boy du jour, Age of Conan, received a lot of positive attention from across the board with its latest expansion. Yet, I wonder now having a library of MMOs, where no sub is necessary, if such a content explosion is necessary or even the best option. To get subs back, a content explosion’s gravity might be necessary to overcome the activation energy required to pull out a credit card and resubscribe, but what if the player could simply log in.
The reason I am writing this is in large part to the War in Kryta chapter of the ongoing Guild Wars Beyond campaign. In the past ArenaNet would launch the content with huge fanfare. A campaign would be a complete box, buyable in store, filled with missions, skills, and a world-saving story. Now, Guild Wars Beyond is going to continue running conceivably for as long as people want to play and support Guild Wars.
Each week or two the War in Kryta updates with another small piece of the puzzle. Many times the patch notes leave it up to the community to find the new content through an in-character announcement. Regardless, the game feels consistently fresh throughout its multi-month run of the War in Kryta (and we seem to be just getting to the good part). Even if the content is a couple cut scenes or new mobs with no quest related to them, the community seems to respond positively to this activity. This keeps people checking in on a regular pace and continuing to be part of the community rather than shelving the game for the next huge content explosion.
The aforementioned World of Warcraft has also been doing something slower, yet similar, with their time-locked dungeons wings. When, for example, Ice Crown Citadel was released it dropped with, I believe, one wing open. A couple weeks later another wing opened, and so on. Although there was a lot of fan outrage at Blizzard artificially slowing raiders through progression, I think Blizzard’s method was really smart. The drip of content kept people talking and playing fresh content, and it kept players around to see what would be opening up in a couple weeks.
There is a danger, though, which is an issue in Guild Wars War in Kryta story. If content drips through in a weekly fashion rather than a content explosion, the devs should make sure that there are means to get a player up to speed. It’s one thing for a dungeon wing to open every two weeks, but it’s another to add things to completely separate zones with little connection across those weeks. Thankfully, forums and fan guides help, but those that use the resources are a lucky few.
In a perfect world, I think both a content explosion coupled with a content drip would be the best option. It seems more and more that the roar from the content explosions collapse all the more quickly as veteran MMO players tear through the intricately designed content like a one-year old’s first birthday cake. And, then comes the waiting period for more content, which breeds, in the worst cases, negativity, speculation, and a feeling of abandonment. If small changes and additions became the norm instead of waiting for “patch day” a constant thrum of player involvement might be better in the long run than a loud, short-lived spike.
he keeps me in a bubble, so I swam away from home