Happy new year! These days, we’re celebrating chinese new year….well, to some extent, at least. Our son is sick, so i get pretty much no time in games and/or writing about them right now, but i want to try and take this opportunity to do some of the general “predictions”-stuff one does when a new year begins.
All my 2015 predictions have already been proven true. Well, granted, i only made one, an easy one at that, so that doesn’t say too much. Today, i want to take a quick look at the genre and what i think we’ll see in the near future.
MMOs are going back to their corner
The gold fever years are over. The success of World of Warcraft made other developers think they can recreate what Blizzard has done- and all of them have been proven wrong. We could, of course, look at why WoW was successful where other games weren’t, but to be honest, i don’t think we’ll find the answer to this question in the game alone. The timing, the fanbase…it was the strike of lightning and Blizzard should be thankful for what they’ve got- as do we all, because it has been a great decade for MMORPGs. Nowadays, while you could say WoW’s influence hasn’t been all good, we have a lot of choice in MMORPGs that wasn’t there before WoW was released. Yes, all these games are in the same subgenre and if you prefer another subgenre, this kind of sucks. But within this subgenre, there is a lot of choice. One could even say too much.
I think in the near future- and this isn’t a very brave prediction, either, we’ll come to see MMORPGs being put into their place once again- not only do developers stop to chase WoW’s numbers, but they’ll also stop to chase the same player base. We might see some closures, and most likely some of them will hurt. It seems we aren’t seeing “AAA” MMORPGs from western developers for the forseeable future, maybe with the exception of Everquest Next. MMORPGs will become smaller, and this is a bad and a good thing at the same time.
It’s bad because the community/fanbase/number of potential customers will shrink, which will lead to some other difficulties, as well, but i think those who like MMOs and/or MMORPGs, a distinction that will soon be more prevalent, are in for some good years to come.
The genre matures and changes
We will see more games like Destiny, The Division or The Crew- single player games with MMO features and maybe some persistent parts of world building and progression being part of the experience. I think these games will concentrate on providing a great and diverse gameplay experience with selected parts of the “massively multiplayer” genre who add to the fun of the game.
MMORPGs will move in the other direction- they will concentrate on providing the “massively multiplayer” part in addition to persistent worlds and progression while providing an adequate gameplay experience. I think this is great for everybody who loves MMORPGs, because the genre stops chasing every player on the planet and start providing great games for their niche.
We see this happening right now- while there are no real Triple-A games coming, there are a lot of indie games in development who concentrate on some parts of the genre instead of trying to cater to all- Shroud of the Avatar, Camelot Unchained and the Repopulation are games that are very different from each other, more so than, say, SWTOR and Lotro. I’m pretty sure this is what the next 5 years will be about- diversification, providing great experiences for a niche while the mass market will integrate MMO-y stuff in AAA games.
Being niche is a good thing
MMORPGs are big games, but they grew into monsters after WoW’s success. These games cost tens or even hundreds of million dollars to get created, and they want to hit the mass-market. It’s not enough for them to cater to only one group of players, they have to get them all- and if possible, even non-MMO-players, as well. So what they’ll do is provide multi-vitamin juice concentrate- everything’s in there, but it doesn’t taste as good as the real thing.
So by concentrating on smaller playerbases and smaller feature sets, the development process will be cheaper and faster while providing better experiences for their customers. Now, i’m no economics expert, but i think specialization in a market is considered a good thing there- for every actor.
The communities will change for the better
A smaller community will be more tight-knit. I think it was in 2013 when some blogger asked the open question if (MMO) blogging was dead- replaced maybe by streamers, social media and things like that. Since then, i think the community has grown and has become better- there are things like the Newbie Blogger Initiative, bloggy Xmas, there’s some kind of blogger’s guild and community, so one could say the blogging community might have had some losses, but regrouped and is growing again.
Events like the almost-closure of Massively have pulled the community together even stronger, so there’s that. I think if the games we all like get more specialized and provide focused experiences for their niche, the smaller communities themselves, but also the bigger MMORPG community will grow and even get more friendly. After all, if PvPers/Raiders/Crafters/Roleplayers don’t ruin my game anymore because they have their own game to play, the game i chose will provide a better experience for me- everybody wins, even the developers, if they don’t misjudge the amount of players they’ll have (hello, Wildstar).