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The problem with player expectations and MMOs
The problem with player expectations and MMOs
October 15, 2012 | By Staff

October 15, 2012 | By Staff
More: Social/Online, Design, Production, Business/Marketing

"A lot of the hype is actually generated by the players. They want you to start huge, and if you don't sell a million copies it's suddenly, 'Oh, you're a failure. I don't care about that game anymore.'"
- Funcom Montreal creative director Craig Morrison

Though Funcom's MMO The Secret World had a highly successful beta, with over 500,000 players, the game sold just 200,000 copies on release. Whether this was due to middling reviews, poor quality, or increased competition in the genre, it's not entirely clear.

Funcom Montreal creative director Craig Morrison thinks that audience expectations are starting to handicap the MMO genre from its true potential, as he told Gamasutra in a new interview.

"I think we need to get people out of that mindset, so that a game can start at like 100,000... And then we need the gamers to not react with, 'Oh, well. That's a worthless game then, because it's not going to have a million users.' We need the users to be, 'Oh cool, this game appeals to me in my niche and my interests, and I want to see this game succeed, so I'm going to support it.'"

Morrison points to CCP's EVE Online as a successful title that grew from a small audience to hundreds of thousands of users -- instead of starting with a huge number of players and gradually going downhill, as has been the pattern for most big-name MMOs that have launched in the last several years.

The model is viable -- if expectations are correctly set, he argues. "I think you saw it outside of the MMO genre, with games like League of Legends," says Morrison. "They started with that same kind of smaller user base, build it up, continue to invest, tweak it based on the feedback from the users they get, and they didn't try and change what they were to appeal to a broader market."

To find out more of Morrison's take on what how MMO genre needs to evolve, you can read the new Gamasutra feature interview.

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Todd Boyd
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From one beta player that did not stick around, I can say that it was their pricing model. Sure, it was a fun game, but not worth what they were going to be charging for it.

Matt Robb
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How much were they charging? Was it the up-front or the subscription that turned you off?

Looks like it runs $30 right now, with a $15/month fee, 30 days included. So $15 buy-in + $15/month.

Greg Quinn
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I didn't even buy the game because the upfront cost put me off. It was $59.99 or $69.99 I can't remember. And for MMO's that don't offer a free trial I couldn't even bother.. as I've been mostly dissapointed with MMO's lately.

The game price seems to have come down now, its now 29.99 Euros.
A lot more reasonable.

Maria Jayne
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I'd argue any hype is generated by the lack of willingness for marketing to admit their game is a thing and only that thing. Marketing is so horrified at the thought of defining their product to the exclusion of a demographic that it's forever trying to paint pictures of what it never was.

Matt Robb
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I would tend to agree with you. I've stopped paying any attention to the marketing on games because you can never tell what the game actually is. I'm tired of the marketing people trying to sell me a game based on cutscenes and cinematics. If I wanted to pay for a product based on those, I hear there are these things called "movies" that are like that from start to finish.

Michael Wenk
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For me, it is cost and time. I didn't buy TSW because I didn't have time to play it. Were it F2P, they would not have gotten any money from me. I don't usually go with F2P games unless I suspect they'll be real good b/c the real cost is the time it takes to download, and with many of these titles being in the multi GB range, it takes a bit, even on a fast connection.

John Flush
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If the whole model is MMO, size matters. how big and how many people are in it is the genre. That and grinding. Lots of grinding. To a lot of people new and flashy doesn't outweigh the amount of grind that has happened in their previous MMO - so why switch?

Robb Lewis
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Sure, mass multi-million user base can be one definition of success for an MMO game but profitability is also a success. Can a MMO game be designed, maintained and expanded (GaaS) with the right balance of engagement and game design quality to support a sub million user base of 500k or even 50k? Does the producer feel they have the revenue channels (Subs, microtransactions, ads, even IP character licensing like Angry birds merchandise sold as stuffed toys or a kickstarter campaign). The big question is can a smaller, nimble team team design and deliver an good quality, engaging game that people will invest time and money.

There's a player persona that seeks niche, hip, cool things that are not mainstream. It could work :-)

Joseph Legemah
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Funcom themselves claimed to have pleased well over a million people in beta. isn't that their own fault? they had to have been lying, no way a game destined for obscurity like this had 1.3 million beta sign ups and no way did they have sucha high satisfaction ratio.