The PC gaming landscape has changed since Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games became more popular. Someone knows someone else that plays World of Warcraft, or perhaps they played it themselves. The market may feel some oversaturation fatigue soon though. WOW isn’t the big bad kid on the block anymore, others have moved in on its PC stomping grounds. Games like DC Universe and the newest release to the MMO market Rift offer similar experiences. The problem is people just can’t devote time to more then one MMO. It’s just too time-consuming.
I recently picked up DC Universe Online — an MMO that is structured around the DC comic line. I was somewhat coerced into picking it up from a few friends. One friend of mine who works at a Starbucks says people play it all the time…. that and World of Warcraft. You can still walk into any Café and see people playing WOW. But for some, WOW isn’t special anymore and game producers and developers feel that the MMO market can only become more profitable.
Still, the audience is limited. I’ve bounced back and forth between 3 different MMO’s at one point: WOW, Aion and DC Universe but there just isn’t enough time to play them all. This is because most MMO’s have very similar structures; level up you character…oh, but that is going to take anywhere from 50 to 100 hours depending on the game. A friend of mine who works at Microsoft says that MMO’s are very popular, and I asked, “which ones?” He replied, “Really, I don’t know. Everything…most people just play WOW.” Are you sensing a theme here?
Most MMO’s have a subscription fee, coupled with the fact that it just takes too long to get anything done in them (leveling a character can take upwards to 100 hours or more — most people just play WOW; some just one, and only one MMO at a time. But most companies make money from constant subscriptions. There are dozens of MMO’s now and for the most part, the majorities are subscription based. However, it’s just not a big market. People play MMO’s to a certain point and then suffer from what I call “gaming burnout” wherein they devote so many hours to a game that they eventually get tired, because they didn’t pace themselves. And let’s face it; most MMO’s can become repetitive.
Because of this “gaming burnout” most people may never go back to an MMO, they just move on to the next game. For a producer that is banking on subscription fees this a negative result. Yet not only do people get tired of MMO’s, they just can’t allocate their time to play anything more than one at a time. So why suddenly are there so many? It just seems like a bad business practice to over-saturate a very niche market. Why invest in such a fickle fan-base? I played WOW, and then stopped. I played Aion and then I stopped. I’m currently playing DC Universe, but I will probably stop playing it as well.
You see World of Warcraft is really it’s own game. And I’m not so sure that there really is a “MMO Market” per se. I just think that the development time and cost far outweigh the benefits. For every WOW, there is an APB or Matrix Online — two very short-lived MMO’s. Some, however, can work. The recently announced Transformers MMO may have a viable audience. But how long will that last? How long before people just get bored and move on? Can you actually make a profit that justifies the development time and cost? The aforementioned APB is an example of the bad side of the MMO market: long development (2005 to 2010), high cost, and little reward. So it’s a relevant question to ask, “Is there really a MMO market…or is there just World of Warcraft?”