I’ve mentioned before that I’m not really one for the serious analysis of the MMO market, the games or their design; I started out that way, but too many others are all ready doing it, and far better than I could ever be bothered to.

Making light of the industry and its games is easier, for me at least.

I did however have a small vent a while back and received some encouraging feedback from the general bloggerati.

A small addendum, then, to that original post, the basic thrust of which was:

So here we are in the tree of MMO life, where Everquest saw the graphical MMO genre explode out from its roots, and World of Warcraft brought it into the branches of mainstream popular culture as perhaps Half-Life did for FPS games. And now we begin to see the influx of MMOs released in the wake of this success, and the weight of all this extra growth that isn’t needed begins to damage the tree, it weighs it down and forces it to spend resources in keeping these branches alive which would be better spent in growing a few stronger and healthier branches. And if nobody comes along to prune it, eventually it will wither and fail, until it is a gnarled trunk unrecognisable from its former glory.

Today we have news that Gods & Heroes is to be cancelled in favour of Perpetual focussing their collective effort on their Star Trek based MMO instead.

Yesterday we had news that WAR is stuck in the trenches and the limited beta has now been closed entirely for a period in order to allow for what, one can only assume, is some major emergency reworking of some fundamental part of the game.

It is a few months ago now since Van Hemlock’s supernatural kiss of death upon the niche yet ambitious Auto Assault, and more recently the blogreel has been spattered with tales of the latest saga of Ryzom.

Even the stalwart golden child of the current MMO crop, Pirates of the Burning Sea, has not been without the odd delay, which means that its release date is pushed back – along with nearly every other anticipated MMO of 2007 – into at least the first quarter of 2008.

And need one even mention the delays to release, and the lukewarm beta response, that Tablua Rasa has experienced?

My problem is this: I’m not sure what this means with respect to the tree analogy; the cancellation of AA, G&H and Ryzom seem to be a pruning of the weaker branches, allowing for more freedom on the part of these companies to produce newer, fresher and more healthy growth. However, the delay of nearly every significant MMO title of 2007 still seems to me to be indicating the suffocating effect that all this extra growth is having on the MMO market, and that the phenomenal success of World of Warcraft still casts a monstrous shadow over the rest of the canopy of games, thus blocking out their light.

It will be interesting to see how the MMO market shifts in the coming year or two, whether WoW’s domination will finally break, whether the current crop of anticipated MMOs (when they are eventually released) will produce more than just another batch of fresh blooms, that burst forth in all their fragrant glory only to wither away to nothingness too soon after. Will frameworks like Metaplace actually shift the market in an entirely new direction? Will it, perhaps, seed an entirely new market tree, one we cannot yet predict because the opportunity has never been presented before?

If nothing else I’m still glad that I, like many others, have built my house in the MMO tree, and I wait with a fervour of anticipation the next major development of the surroundings.

5 thoughts on “Wither?

  1. Bonedead

    I for one welcome the delays. How many times in the past were games released when they weren’t ready? How many times did Half-Life 2 get delayed and how did it turn out? Delays are healthy for the most part imo. If a game came out without delays, I’d be a little bit skeptical of the quality.

  2. Melmoth

    Yes, bonedead, the delays are to be applauded if it means that we’ll be getting a better game for our money in the long run; the real issue, however, is the number of the delays and cancellations that have occurred within this year: it has set a precedent within the MMO genre, and not a good one, I fear.

    I have indeed heard of Fury, long, but thanks for the heads-up anyway. Alas, I am not a great PvP fan, mainly because I am quite awful at it, but also because these games rarely seem to foster a community spirit of healthy rivalry and mutual respect, but one of derision and superciliousness.

    I may, for my sins, try it out at some point anyway because, if nothing else, some of the game play elements do seem to have a different outlook on the standard MMO practices.

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