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The Daily Grind: What constitutes a 'niche' MMO feature?

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In the wake of WildStar's rocky first half year, some players have defended the game's self-destructive gameplay decisions by declaring traditional gameplay tropes "niche." It's meant to be a niche game for that tiny niche of hardcore raiders, defenders argue, and therefore criticism is unwarranted. And in the sense that apparently a very small proportion of MMORPG fans actually participate in raiding (unless forced?), they're right. But that hasn't stopped most themepark MMOs since EverQuest from brandishing raids as a mostly inadequate talisman to ward off playerbase churn. Even if we outright refuse to raid, most of the MMOs we play are designed around raiders and raiding. It's easy to not raid, but raiding is hard to ignore because it's not being treated as niche by so many of the biggest titles and studios.

The disconnect between development plans and playerbase desires is reflected in this same disconnect between what we think of as a niche MMO feature and what actually is niche by the numbers. How would you sort it out? If raids, one of the core and defining features of so many themeparks, are niche, then what isn't niche? What exactly constitutes a niche MMO feature?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

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