3 January, 2018
I guess it’s time to look at the old year in review and the new year in anticipation since I remembered I have a blog!
The spirit moves me to write a little bit to keep some of you who check this site interested!
Clearing out the old
I’ve been a little slack lately about dealing with emails. While clearing out my backlog (“inbox zero” still seeming like an impossible dream) I found an email where someone sent me a link to a page about Quantum Link. This is the network that hosted Habitat on the Commodore 64. An interesting bit of history for those of us who weren’t able to afford connection fees (or maybe even born yet!) back then.
I always like a little glimpse at the past like that.
On a personal level
As I said in my birthday post, I’m hanging in there. Gaming is going. Still mostly playing FFXIV and DDO as my MMOs of choice. Both are games I feel somewhat invested in, mostly because of the other people that play. DDO works well for me because it’s a game I can play once a week with my two static groups and still feel like I’m getting a good value from my money since I’m free-to-play.
FFXIV on the other hand is still a game very much in the DIKU form. The recent expansion has been pretty fun, with some good changes to class mechanics and PvP that has really made things more interesting. But at the end of the day it’s still the same type of game we’ve seen since 1999.
Where’s the new?
So, where are the new games that are supposed to sweep us off our feet? After the wave of Kickstarter games some years ago we haven’t heard much from them. Missed deadlines and dragged out development times have kind of taken the spotlight away from them. Few new games have been announced so there’s not much exciting on the horizon. The shift of focus to mobile has hurt MMOs in a way, since smaller screens don’t handle DIKU gameplay very well.
The reality is that games are still very hit-driven. MMOs in particular need a certain minimum “critical mass” to thrive, and it’s hard to stand out from the crowd now. Unfortunately even a promising game like The Exiled (formerly Das Tal) releases to little fanfare and has a har time finding players to reach that critical mass. I guess we’ll see how well Project Gorgon does in this environment.
This doesn’t mean that MMOs are unprofitable. Obviously FFXIV is going strong; the game boasts big sales and income. The problem is that MMOs aren’t big and exciting anymore. To investors there’s no potential for seemingly unlimited growth; we know what the audience for MMOs is, and many people see money invested in something new and exciting as a better opportunity. VR and AR are bigger draws right now in the gaming space, with some interest lingering in mobile to see if there is still more growth.
You can see this attitude outside the games industry with the fascination with “blockchain” buzzword. A bottled iced tea company’s stock soars after they say they’re going to invest in blockchain technologies. And more recently The holding company for Hooters saw its stock soar when one of their franchises started to offer cryptocurrency loyalty rewards. In other words, selling tea and burgers is less exciting than some cryptographic technology that suddenly captured a lot of attention.
This same attitude holds within a company. A company like EA or Square Enix has to believe that the money invested into an MMO will provide better returns than another type of game. I think this is why we’ve seen some games come out with more MMO type elements rather than traditional MMOs games; game companies have seen this as a way to mitigate the risk of MMOs.
I know things have been quiet on my blog. Things just haven’t been all that exciting recently, with the same bleak news happening over and over. But, maybe you see something I don’t. Do you see something exciting happening in MMOs, or even online gaming, that I haven’t talked about? Post a comment below!