Why Do Online Communities Die?
This is the question I kept asking myself during a recent romp in Uncharted 2 multi-player. Where, with a full party of 5 players, it was still taking us upwards of 2 minutes to find only a couple of players to go up against. Frustration began to settle in and that’s when the question dawned on me, why is it that community in an online game seems to disappear, and more importantly why do only a select few have any real staying power?
Now, I didn’t want Uncharted 2 to be the butt of this editorial, so along with another editor from the site I decided to jump from title to title to see what was up. And while typical results did vary the general vibe remained the same.
Popped in Killzone 2 and quickly realized what was once a title that was so populated that it was hard to get into the same rooms as your friends, it had been decimated to only about 50 dedicated rooms (with the US filter on of course). Most of the created servers (and there were only a handful) had passwords and/or ridiculous restrictions. It was a similar situation with both MAG and with Socom: Confrontation. Except what I noticed with these two titles in particular was that many of the people that play one also happen to play the other one.
My favorite part of this whole experiment with KZ2, MAG, and Socom was the irony behind it. If you go online to pretty much any pro-Sony site and/or forum you will see that users will argue with you until they are blue in the face the reasons why Killzone 2 or MAG or S:C is the best shooter on the planet… yet none of these people are actually on playing it.
I totally understand that new titles come out all the time and people always want to buy and play what they think is the next big thing. I get it. On the other hand, why is it that at any given moment I can sign on to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Multi), Halo 3, Gears of War 2, and find people right away. What are these titles doing right that a title like Uncharted 2, which is arguably one of the best games of this generation, doing wrong?
Recently our very own editor Jon Ireson put up his review for Shattered Horizon on the PC. When he went to go play it online for his review, to his surprise there were exactly seven people on the entire server. Yes you read that correctly, seven. The game had literally been out for weeks and yet it’s online community was already non-existent. Ok, so the game was/is terrible and we scored it accordingly, but it still doesn’t make sense that already people who own it are avoiding the title like the plague.
Here’s a thought from a developer standpoint. Besides the fact that there is an opportunity to make money from DLC and add-ons, if you don’t think your game’s community can survive past a few weeks maybe months after launch, is it still even worth it to “tack on” a multi-player component? Should the energy that is being used on adding a multiplayer element just be used to make a better single player?
Here’s a thought from a consumer standpoint. Are we as consumers just more inclined to purchase a title because it has a multi-player element, knowing damn well that we probably won’t play it passed the first couple of weeks? Do we feel like we’re getting more for our $60 just because it’s included?
I want to hear what you guys think in the comment section. Not only why online communities die, but what makes others last so long. In the meantime I’ll go sit in the empty lobby of a great game.