Even with the 800 pound gorilla of the genre, World of Warcraft, Blizzard is trying to stave off some doldrums. Despite the surge in interest the 2.4 patch generated, it's been nearly a year and a half since The Burning Crusade came out -- by releasing news about its upcoming expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, which has certainly caused no shortage of buzz here and elsewhere, but that's not due out for months. City of Heroes, Tabula Rasa, and Lord of the Rings Online have all recently rolled out fairly substantial content updates or point releases. And still, there is a general sense of the community collectively holding its breath, as if waiting to move on to whatever is next.
This isn't a decision to be made casually, as many players have a substantial amount of time, energy, and attention devoted to their current virtual endeavors. Combine that with the social circles that most players are involved in -- formally or informally -- and it's not always simply a matter of clicking that "Cancel Account" or "Uninstall" button. There is a complex matrix, a constellation of factors, that informs any decision to move on (or not).
On the other hand, some players are not necessarily so bound -- people who are, by nature, merely exploring as many virtual worlds as they can get their hard drives on. Call it an occupational hazard of doing First Impressions as a serial undertaking, or simply an insatiable curiosity to see what sort of creativity exists throughout the MMO market. Being a virtual tourist in myriad worlds, you won't necessarily grow attached to any of them. For better or worse, this isn't necessarily how a lot of gamers approach the MMO genre, however.
Leshrac summed up a certain type of player's perspective like so:
I never say goodbye since I'm not always 100% sure that I'll leave the game for good. I've tried and re-tried EQ2, LotRO, EVE, AC1, AC2, Lineage 2, Tab Rasa, SWG, etc, many, many, many times.
For me these games (MMOGs) are living, breathing and evolving worlds, they can and will change over time.
For my part, every time I've left an MMO, it's been for good. We touched on this in passing last week, noting that some of the reasons I myself have left one universe for another -- Anarchy Online for Star Wars: Galaxies, and then left SW:G for World of Warcraft. I've never even been able to keep two MMOs going (and, unlike many folks, haven't succumbed to a scathing case of alt-itis); my foray into Tabula Rasa was tentative at best, and it never had a chance to gain much traction for me.
When and how do you decide when it's time to move on?
||Rafe Brox spends an inordinate amount of time annoying people who think they know more than he does. When not causing friends and enemies alike to /facepalm electronically, he can be found extolling the virtues of the weird peripherals in his life, from kettlebells to the Trackman Marble. If you, too, would like to tell Rafe exactly how wrong he is doing it, the target coordinates are rafe.brox AT weblogsinc DOT com.