Why the overall decline in hours played from last week? Last week was a down week for the hours played in the twelve most popular MMORPGs on Xfire. The overall decline of 5.6% was lead by four games that saw over a 10% drop in playtime from the previous week: Star Trek Online (-20.7%), Star Wars: The Old Republic (-14.4%), Maple Story (-12.5%) and Aion (-10.9%). Those 4 games accounted for 82% of the overall decrease in time played. Why?He goes on to talk about possible reasons for the decline and I want to jump on the point for SWTOR:
The fourth pillar is crumbling - I can explain what is occurring in the first three games fairly easily, but what can I say about Star Wars: The Old Republic? This week's 14.4% decline in time played is just part of a larger decline of 49.1% in time played since 15 January. 15 January is a significant date as it is the last date that everyone who had purchased SW:TOR counted as a subscriber. Starting on 20 January people could decline to subscribe. If the Xfire numbers are representative of the entire player base, EA and Bioware are in danger of not having the 1 million subscribers they feel they need to be successful.I've been preaching for years that end game content that is fixed and scripted will fail to keep players engaged for any long term period because ultimately, players need freedom in order to stay committed. Freedom to choose how they play, how they succeed (or fail), and how they interact. The vaunted "fourth pillar" could be more accurately described as a fourth wall of a jail cell. Ultimately, once players have pounded through your content (no matter how well described and voice acted) once or twice, they quickly realize its the same tropes in various guises and lose interest.
Yet Eve Online, "a terrible terrible game" with some of the worst PvE content in the genre, has players hooked for years at a time. Why? How? Simple: the best end game content is other players. Bar none. There is no story as glorious and as fulfilling as the one you write yourself. Sure, maybe its not as pretty and maybe the voice acting is terrible, but it is real, dynamic, unexpected, filled with twists and turns, failures, successes, and underdog and villains.
Don't build a game with four "pillars", build a world with no rules.