I tend to cover whatever I feel like covering, as long as my bosses agree that the games I am writing about do not stray too far away from the MMO core. Some of my readers see my writing as supporting games that are not MMOs, promoting developers who want to ruin true MMOs by selling power, or elevating social games that are anything but MMOs. But I believe I have covered and will continue to cover "true" MMOs. I try to recognize the current state of MMOdom, and I want to capture it all at the same time. It has to be possible.
That debate is valid but almost pointless in this conversation because I want to make a specific guess at the current state of client-based, large download, and three-dimensional "classic" MMOs. I'll leave other MMOs out of it for now, games like MUDs, mobile, and social MMOs. I want to concentrate on games like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Ultima Online, Second Life, EverQuest and others like them, the ones I cut my MMO teeth on. I started in 1999 and am beginning to believe that newer gamers will see these MMOs as many now see MUDs: quaint, interesting, still valid but not the hottest thing.
This happens with each new generation. Fresh consumers come into the market and attach to whatever the rest of the market tells them to attach to. In my youth, it was "thrash" metal, (remember when skaters used to skate to metal and punk instead of hip hop?) and Nintendo games and VCR tapes that needed to be rewound for fear of a dollar fine. Think about today's 13-year-olds and what they see as modern. Today's youth will have a multi-use, powerful tablet for less than we were able to get a console or PC back then, streaming libraries of video and music that is made not with a band of musicians but by a single dude with a bad haircut. As part of the older generation, you can either recognize the good in these newer developments or you can be that older lady in your neighborhood who still feathers her hair. And as my wife points out, it's important to remember what a privileged life it was to be a gamer back then. It wasn't for the poor and it required a lot of time. These days being a gamer is easy and common.
How many recent AAA MMOs have done as well as we thought they would? This is a market in which a galaxy-sized IP like Star Wars produced a game that hasn't done nearly as well as many predicted. This is a market that doesn't seem to want strangely brilliant games like The Secret World; this is a market that has a base that grows older each year, a base that often scoffs at social media or thinks that demanding graphics and screen sizes determine quality.
"By this point many of my readers have skipped the article and are posting a comment about how I stand for everything that is wrong with the market today. I'm not sure I will ever understand such a response simply because understanding market trends and recognizing new developments is exactly how genres survive."
The good news, in my opinion of course, is that the idea behind "MMORPG" is still as strong as ever, maybe even stronger than ever. Social gaming, or gaming with others, is almost a standard now. At the very least gamers enjoy comparing screenshots or stats across social networks, an act that we could define as a massive experience. Slowly, but surely, being social or playing with others will become the default because it's now possible to include it every product. More of us have faster internet and more ways to connect, a state that can only lead to more massive gaming... with others.
I cover all types of MMOs because I am absolutely in love with experiencing games and worlds with other people. I like interaction, attention, and being part of a team. Enjoying new trends and recognizing the games that are on the fringe of the meaning of MMO doesn't take away my gamer card -- it renews it.
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!