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The overwhelming power of community

Shawn Schuster

"Without you, none of this would be possible!"

While this saying is true for most things in the entertainment industry, it's mandatory for MMOs. A single-player game can make that initial retail box sale and never worry about keeping anyone happy after that, if they don't want to. Sure, most single-player game developers understand that they want their customers to be happy in case there's a sequel or future downloadable content, but for the most part, they can do alright with a relatively low maintenance developer-community relationship.

Of course this isn't true at all for MMOs. The community makes an MMO. You can have the most immersive, gorgeous game with the perfect PvP and roleplaying capacities, but it still needs to appeal directly to a community. It doesn't matter what community, but it just needs to have a role and find that niche with people who are looking for that specific itch to be scratched. This isn't going to happen with advertising alone.

Depending on your outlook on life, the community you are currently a part of may the best or worst community you've ever seen. Everyone has their own opinion on what makes an enjoyable community, but there are many that are simply not for you. In my opinion, Lord of the Rings Online has the best community out there. Do you agree with that? It doesn't really matter, because that opinion is based on my experiences. The MMO community that holds a special place in your heart is there because of your own experiences.

This brings us to a topic that has been keeping our website (and inboxes) afire throughout December.

The Reader's Choice Awards started out simple enough, but was quickly dominated by one company. No, I'm not talking about Frogster for Runes of Magic (at least initially), I'm talking about NCsoft for Aion. If you remember earlier in the month, Aion was topping every category in the awards. Why? Because NCsoft reached out to their community to back their favorite game. It's perfectly harmless, and it worked. Until Runes of Magic did the same thing.

Frogster took these awards very seriously and reached out to their community to show the rest of the MMO world who is boss. They tweeted, they linked on the front page and they even set up regular in-game announcements for their players to make that vote. They completely dominated the awards because they have a community of people who enjoy their game, and want everyone else to know it. Did this reduce the Reader's Choice Awards to a popularity contest? Well, yes, but that's essentially what a Reader's Choice Award is anyway. If you're on the site reading a post, you're a reader. If you're making a selection in a poll, that's your choice.

Frogster was not the only company to do this, though. As I mentioned before, NCsoft did the same thing, as did most of the other companies on the list. Jade Dynasty created a contest to reward their players for getting the game in the top 3 of their nominated categories. Again, there is nothing wrong with this, but it just wasn't enough to even compete with a game like Runes of Magic.

"Frogster has figured out the formula for motivating a passionate group of people and has kept them at it for almost a year now."

When Aion first started dominating these awards at the beginning of the month, the comments were just as negative as they became regarding RoM. Speculation is always an amusing thing to me, as accusations of pay-offs and vote rigging for some wacky agenda come through from the comments. This whole process repeated when Runes of Magic took over the popular vote.

It should be pointed out that I'm certainly not saying anything negative about Aion here, because they have a passionate community as well. All of these games have passionate communities, otherwise they wouldn't exist. But using this whole Reader's Choice Awards situation as a perfect example, we're shown just how much the community (which includes the community management team) does matter to these games. Frogster has figured out the formula for motivating a passionate group of people and has kept them at it for almost a year now.

Quite frankly, it doesn't matter what the strongest detractors think of Runes of Magic. It doesn't even matter what I or anyone here at Massively think of Runes of Magic because our job isn't to tell you what opinion you should have. The fact is, Runes of Magic has one of the strongest communities out there, and they truly love their game. That should be admired, not condemned.

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