A lot has happened to the MMORPG industry ever since the release of titles such as Ultima Online and Everquest in the late ’90s. Business models have evolved. One of the first was the subscription model, often being “pushed” by a free trial limited either by days or character level. In fact, that mode of business still reigns supreme as the 8 million users of WoW can attest.
Fast forward into the “now”.
Today, we can see more and more games that chose the “Free-to-Play” route. This seems an easy choice. But building the revenue on this kind of model is really all about the numbers. Countries with a big gaming population, heavy interconnectivity infrastructure and with money to spend, such as Korea, China, Japan and the US are perfect for this kind of business model. But countries such as ours, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries need to do it the “hard way”.
Have you ever wondered what’s in store for the MMORPG industry in the years to come?
Hitch with me as we try to travel to the future with just one more click…
You’ve all heard or read it somewhere – “Content is King”. And in this industry, it is still one of the major factors for success. A game is only good as long as the players are happy. If one tries to simplify all the business processes and relationships between various organizations such as developer and publisher, the goal is simply for the users not to get bored.
Such a mundane task requires herculean efforts and resources. Cash and time play a crucial role in this. Publishers have to feed the developers information as to the community’s wants and needs. Needs are “basic necessities”. Often it’s fixing bugs, a faster patch system, fixing third party cheats and the like. While ‘wants’ are the luxuries that the players request. This could be nerfing or un-nerfing stuff, game balance issues, better quests, more items, increasing level cap, etc.
And in this complex juggling act, time is of the essence. Delay it long enough and you lose your loyal players. Do it early and you might alienate the noobies from the vets.
Meanwhile, here are some future ideas which I’m sure a lot of nerds in the R&D department of big gaming companies are toiling upon.
- Player Driven Economies - Second Life has already opened the Pandora’s box for this. Imagine a game where Real Money Trading is legal. Players get to make their own stuff, put in game mechanics like stats and quantifiers and then sell them for real money.
- It’s a legit way to make money – The games of the future will be totally free while game companies make money off other players’ profits. As a an end-user, the allure of MMORPGs to significantly increase someone’s personal wealth will be a reality.
- Player Driven Content – imagine a game with NO NPCs and powerful avatars building their own nations, cities and towns with their own rules for conquest, negotiations and warfare. Items will be valuable based on actual economics – demand and supply. And like real life, it is a survival of the fittest. Adapt or die. Challenge levels are high. No patches needed. Try to imagine Spore meets Civ
- Macros will be legal – in a way. There will be some games that will allow you legally farm or level up your character. The games of the future will detect if you are holding the mouse or letting some other program control your character. Those who “hand-level” their characters will be rewarded justly.
- The taxes – Sooner or later, the tax collector/goverment will want a piece of the pie. In the future, you will have to declare both your real wealth and your virtual wealth. “Alright! I’ll pay you with a +10 sword-of-goobledigook. Are we even for that TV set I broke?”
These are just some of the many possibilities in store for us in the future. If you have any other ideas, let me know.