The MMO Gold Rush Is Over
Over the past 8 years it seems that every franchise possibly has had a MMO variant. From Dungeons and Dragons to Lord Of the Rings to even Hello Kitty it seemed as though nothing was safe from being turned into an MMO. Despite the Darth Vader like screams of “NO”, the mmo bloat continued on and on toward an inevitable breaking point. And with THQ’s announcement that Warhammer 40k: Dark Millennium was being downscaled into a single player game with online multiplayer I think it’s quickly becoming clear to everyone.
The MMO gold rush is over.
Now I can’t blame companies for jumping on the MMO bandwagon. When you hear about how much money the kings of MMO like World of Warcraft and Everquest made you can’t help but want a piece of that. The thought of a persistent property that can endlessly string along customers is an enticing one. However it seems that while the ambition was certainly there most developers were unable to achieve the balance needed to make their MMO stick. And even though the Free 2 Play market is exploding at an unbelievable rate I think that the fad is over. Not every franchise is meant to be a mmo (Family Guy I’m looking at you) and some games just work better as a single player experience(*cough* The Sims *cough*).
Now that’s not to say that the MMO market is dead be no means, it’s far from it. However the market now demands games that want to introduce new ways of combat (Tera Online), or freeform systems (The Secret World). Cookie cutter MMOs that seek to gain fame based on the property alone will no longer cut it, and honestly that’s not a bad thing. Its time for the industry to accept the differences between a MMORPG and a MMOG. A game doesn’t necessarily have to have a full-out MMO style system and all the trappings that go with it. One only has to look at multiplayer games like Call of Duty and Halo to see the appeal of limited multiplayer.
Let’s start expanding multiplayer elements inside of current games instead of always trying to make the great leap to full mmo. Rockstar has shown a beautiful example of that with Red Dead Redemption and the upcoming Max Payne 3. Give players the ability to have persistent clans and a progression system with unlocks. You’re not pulling the players away from their current game but still giving them a potential multiplayer experience if they choose. If it does well then you can even spin off the multiplayer separately like Guerrilla Games has done with Killzone 3. There are so many ways to handle large progressive multiplayer that MMORPG’s should only be used for properties with a world so big and captivating that it’s the only logical choice.
The main message is one that the industry has forgotten all too many times: Let the game stand on its own and not by its genre.