Last year was a rather bad one for mmo’s, lots of big failures not bringing in enough customers and many many mmo’s having to close there servers for good. It really is a shame to see these games be dismissed in their entirety, it isn’t like a single player game at all, the type I have enjoyed for over a decade now as I can keep enjoying well after their use by date. They are not chained down to external servers and now in this digital age of ours it is an increasing worry that these games I am enjoying now will not be playable in the future.
The closure of the Sims 2 servers as well as a few other games by EA points to much larger problems in the future and may be very problematic to gaming as a whole. Now I understand that servers require a little overhead the amount of which is rather contested, but for big companies I don’t think it would be much to keep them open. It really comes down to when an mmo or game isn’t profitable enough anymore as for some companies it is better to to put that money and resources into a project that will get better returns.
it isn’t just about attaining a profit though as they usually neglect to think about a companies good will which in this day and age of corrupt business models and greedy publishers. It’s worth a lot. Just look at the fond eyes many have of Trion now and their great content releases and decent communication, people respect the company and I think there is a lot more interest in there next projects then there would have been for a fresh company or one that has had a bad track record such as funcom. We have companies like Bioware that even though they have started down a slippery under the gaze and direction of Sauron people still regard their games like masterpieces and look eagerly forward to the next. A good reputation is one of the best marketing tools you can have.
It is a lot harder for single player games when considering the server overhead as after the initial sales rush you really don’t get much more, it is a lot different for mmo’s of course as the have a certain constant influx of revenue but I think the point remains.
I listened to the massively speaking podcast-defying the odds the other day and they were talking about how the age of empires mmo hasn’t been very profitable but instead of shutting down the servers and such that they are just going into stand bye mode. Now without developer resources and new content coming in I don’t see it being very long before the mmo shuts down completely but it made me think a little about other ways in which an mmo could continue in a more stable state at this stage.
I have been playing a couple indie games at the moment like Project Zomboid and Towns and the solution really stems from them, Instead of just clsoing a game down or leaving it with any development to whither and die we should be opeing up the source code to everyone. These indie games I play are rather bare bones sometimes but the modding community creates some amazing additions to them which create some amazing experiences and prolong the life of the game.
When a development team is not available the modding community is the next best thing, to dismiss how much they can add or a reluctance to hand over assets to others has really been the undoing of many games that could have lasted much longer. If your not going to support a game then in the end the best decision is to hand it over to the community. Even without server support I am sure the community would band together to create one, looking at the Cities of Heroes community and there efforts to keep the game alive I’m guessing they would have had a community that could have made the game grow all on their own.
It would actually be a grand experiment to see the direction the gamers themselves take the game, companies could learn a lot about the priorities and popularity of the content which could further help there own development goals and abilty to produce long lasting retention. The inventiveness and imagination that some of these modders have is even able to serve as a beacon to the industry about just how broad the genre can be, mods like Dear Esther, or Day Z which are continually pushing the boundaries for the better.
If we look at the big games that already have modding capabilities like Starcraft and Skyrim you can see just how much people can create and how long it can keep players interested in one game. for those big games though it is quite inconsequential as the profits can sustain server resources for considerable time, for other it isn’t as easy. But I think there are more options here as well, modding systems like these could be easily monetized as a way to support an overhead. There could be a authorization process and such with either a minimal cost attached to each new mod or a subscription to the modding service, enough to support and maybe a little profit but not enough to suffocate the game.
Community created content isn’t a new concept for mmo’s, there are many decent systems for it oout there and they create some excelent material but I think the extent to which this sort of thing can be used has been limited so far in it’s scope of game assets and it’s way of supporting the company. I think there are a lot of ways the support and monetization of mmo’s and games can be done. I hope in the future with some of these failing mmo’s that we see more methods being used.
Actually this would be the perfect thing for TSW, open up the source to people, let them create new monsters, new areas, new poeple with player created stories and missions. these could be a part or seperate from their DLC issues but I think it would create a nice little influx of people. Glitch woould be very resource light and I imagine it could do very weel being supported by the community in it’s entirety.
So many options out there for game companies bar just dumping the whole thing in a trash bin.