"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.
"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."