Tuesday, February 21, 2012

They Still Don't Get It

The Nosy Gamer blog is an awesome one to have in the blog reader because he periodically digs into topics more than your average writer. Case in point: he uses Xfire member numbers to create rankings of the top 12 MMORPGs and updates them weekly to see trends. For example:
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.


  1. This reminds of something Gabe Newell said in his recent interview with The PA Report:

    "That’s just one example of what will probably be many insights that the gaming community comes up with as better ways of thinking about how you maximize value creations in a community. Free-to-play and the community contribution side are both just sort of different ends of the same spectrum, which is thinking about how to create more opportunities for value creation and value consumption, where you’re trying to get the right people connected to the people who are creating value for other people. So if somebody’s a really good team member you need some way of recognizing that and if you just sort of–the simple way of putting it is that person pays less money for the game. That’s sort of a simplistic way of saying they’re creating value, you have to capture that and if you fail to do it you’re being economically inefficient. That’s just a tiny way of rethinking about how everybody in the community is creating value and how you need to connect that to the right consumers and that’s what the value ends up being, not worrying about whether you charge $29.95 or $39.95, which actually causes you to pay attention to all of the wrong things."

    Basically, the value of eve is less about the game and more about the people you play the game with. That rings true for me personally, as I play eve purely for the fleet/teamwork aspects of the game.
    (Here's the full interview: http://bit.ly/zAW9XX)

  2. I never thought I'd see my words up on EveNews 24 :) Thanks for the plug.

    I'm glad I didn't post why I think SW:TOR is failing because I think you did a more elequent job of it than I ever would.

  3. Easy Tiger, the voice acting in Eve is great! I quite love Aurora. There just isn't much of it. :)