Craig Morrison is the Game Director of Age of Conan and a veteran of the industry. He’s also an avid MMORPG gamer himself, as I recently discovered during a quick twitter chat: for instance he plays Eve Online quite regularly.
As opposed to many developers I’ve talked to, he’s definitely outspoken on his views on the Industry, and doesn’t pull punches, especially in his personal blog: Feeling Strangely Fine…usually.
This time around he wrote about the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic and what he calls “the Success Anomaly“, a definition that I find masterfully appropriate to the current MMORPG market.
Here are a few quick excerpts to wet your appetite, but I’d strongly encourage you to read the original post, as it’s an extremely interesting read by someone that knows definitely well what he’s talking about.
The game will most likely sell extremely well out of the gate, almost certainly the most successful first month sales of any MMO ever, and probably by a wide margin…it will then possibly even retain over a million subscription customers (something it should be remembered no game other than World of Warcraft has managed)…truly massive numbers…unless the game somehow collapses it is going to post seriously impressive numbers…yet…you can already read many comments across the net which indicate that there is a sizable number of people who are referring to that as a potential ‘failure’.Suddenly being the second most successful MMO of all time, would not be enough for some folk to a call a game a success. For some it seems to boil down to a simple formula, where they believe the only success factor is ongoing and consistent growth, and any significant drop after your launch month is banded about as a sign of failure”
Games that launched five or more years ago simply didn’t have the profile to attract that kind of a starting audience, and neither did they have to deal with an ever more crowded market with dozens of competing games. This growth was much easier to achieve since your starting numbers were not as large, and most of the games grew organically as word of mouth spread. “
I also think that those advances the veterans yearn for will come, and the genre will become more dynamic and community focused again, but maybe not in the near future (and almost certainly not with the upcoming generation of games), and maybe not in the way we think it will…but in the mean time, we are in these changing times, and games will be successful despite not reaching World of Warcraft numbers. We should embrace and applaud the successful games, because in the big picture, they will all contribute to the growth of the genre. If theses games become too risky to make, then you won’t be able to blame the investors and publishers from being afraid of the investment. “