Ok I didn’t get a chance to log into Fallen Earth last night because I was otherwise preoccupied with real life stuff, but I did find this little article that I figured fits the fact that well, I’m enjoying Fallen Earth and it’s nothing like the games I’ve played in the past.

Now let’s dispel some of the myths of what makes a wildly popular MMO shall we?

Focus on the Elite and the Rest will Follow:

First off, you can put in all the shiny flashy technology you want, but if you build a game focusing on just what the “hardcore” or the “elitist” gamer wants, you’re focusing on a narrow market. Not to mention the fact that if you make the game super grindy, even a lot of the gamer elite won’t have time to play your game because they either have other games they’re playing too or they have real life responsibilities. There’s a LOT of gamers out there that don’t have time to play games in a hardcore manner even if they ever had the time or focus to do that in the past. If you build a game that keeps in mind that there’s folks that want to play something challenging but don’t have a ton of time or patience to do so, you’ll hit a wider audience and you’ll see bigger subscription numbers.

Free Realms had 5 Million subscribers in the first 5 months live to market. No brainer there, they focused on a wide market game wise, they have a free download, AND they marketed on the TV, once again hitting a broader market, this time through marketing. They were reviewed pretty harshly buy the gaming elite, but they somehow managed to not only stay afloat but surpass even their own expectations for the product. During the beta there were elitist gamer types that voiced their opinions that the game needed more hard core MMO focused material like end game raiding and grindier leveling. Yes some folks even wanted the leveling to be harder in a friggin’ kids game. The Free Realms team decided to jilt the norm and put out a game that can be played on the fly and played by kiddies AND their parents (equating to two different focus groups). Free Realms did NOT listen to the hard core or elitests and broke a subscription record. Following the crowd to prove that you’re cool to the big boys doesn’t always pan out. The stakes are higher, the whining is much louder, and you’re only setting yourself up for bitching, moaning, and long hours slugging through code.

Marketing schmarketing, we’ve bribed some bloggers we’re good

Yeah viral marketing is the hip new way to do things. It’d be cool to think that your game could sell it’s self. That and who really has cash left over for marketing after they’ve spent a year or so paying for development? Sadly though this is a big thing to consider. Just getting the blog sphere and the big MMO sites will get the core gamer markets, but like I’ve said before, if you’re only targeting the core gaming markets, you’re leaving money on the table. Before Free Realms was released there were tv spots as well as video ads posted on some major sites.

It Must be Grindy:

If you build a grind fest, you’re already instantly limiting your market focus to people with a large attention span, that are stubborn as hell, or that live with Mommy and Daddy so they don’t have to take time away from the game doing stuff like working or raising a family of their own. Sorry while there may be quite a few folks that fit in this category, there’s a LOT MORE folks who don’t. There’s a lot of money you’re leaving on the table when you focus your games on folks that work full time and may or may not have a family, but still want to dig into a little fantasy once and again. These folks are going to be turned off pretty friggin’ quickly if they don’t get very far in the limited amount of time they have to play something they call a ‘game’. While another group will inevitably whine that you’re making the game too easy for casuals, you’ll have to weather the whining if you want to expand out into the much larger and much more lucrative ‘casuals’ market.

This actually not only applies to the ‘casuals’ market, but even to folks like myself that are ADD/ADHD. If your game is grindy without a steady stream of reward or marked experience gain you’ll frustrate the users. While there are folks who will tough it out and even folks who’ll yell about it while doing it, there’s a LOT MORE folks who will just feel bad about their purchase (i.e. your game) and quit paying to play it. If it’s too frustrating to even get to the end game, why bother? Best yet, if your playing a “game” why spend free time in a boring frustrating grind when there are a LOT of other options available. Watching paint dry sounds like a better past time.

We’re not building to sell to the female market because “Girls Don’t Game”:

Right, I’ll remember that the next time I a female gamer, go to log on with my Mother and chat with other gals I’ve met in games. Here’s a tip. You want to make some money and hit some bigger numbers? Stop catering to ONE GENDER.

If you focus all your design efforts on how hot the female models look in the boob window armor and not put a decent build on the dudes, your limiting your audience. Including eye candy for more than one gender is going to up the odds that you’ll have a wider player base. Granted some of the dudes that guys came up with in Champions weren’t bad at all. My friend Savvy had a wicked looking one (which was just awesome). But Aion, the only difference between the guys and the gals is the boob slider. Also take a look at their marketing. As I go through their pages I see one image with a male and a female, but the remaining images are female. Why would I, as a female, want to play a game where all I see are females?

Sell a Service Not a Box Product:

Also what about building a game that focuses on selling a long term service instead of selling the flashiest eye candy on the market right now? I’ve been watching these games and really it seems like a lot of them focus on selling their games like they’re selling a box game. If you’re selling an MMO, you’re selling a product/service. You have to have the SERVICE side of the game too. Part of that service means building a flexible game that will be just as interesting 5 months from now as it was at launch. You need to have events, you need to have ginchy holidays, you need to a road map to regularly expand, change, or eve swap out your content. This not only rewards your regular subscribers, which are the folks you’ll want to reward at every turn, but also the flavor of the month people that you’ll be able to milk for a month of sub fees.

If all you’re focusing on is release and all you have planned out is getting people to the end game, just save yourself a ton of cash, and go to release with a multi-player or server mode. An MMO is NOT just a game that a bunch of people log into and play at the same time. As soon as you release a game that exists as a persistent environment that allows multiple players to interact with one another in real time, you’ve created a virtual world. That has very, very different connotations than a box product. You’ve created a place where people will meet friends from real life, where people will make friends they may never meet in real life, where people will play alongside their spouses and children, hell some people even meet their spouse playing these games.

If the world you create never changes and doesn’t have a lot of fun stuff to do, people will migrate to other games. Players from other games won’t recommend your game over the game they’d been playing with friends.

Building an MMO is a daunting commitment. You’re not just building a game and anyone who builds a game without depth, without character, without flexibility and without giving the players some creativity and control over their own characters, yeah you’re cruising for bankruptcy.

If We Build it like WoW, they Will COME!

Here’s a tip to the devs working on the next WoW killer. How about you stop trying to emulate WoW’s technology, and try building games that focus on WoW demographics instead. No no, not the “my e-peen is bigger than yours” crowd. I mean the folks that play a game because they like it and continue to log in every day to do dailies and chat with their friends. The folks that are willing to invite their friends to play as well.

If you want the numbers that WoW has, try building a game that appeals to a broader audience. Then you’ll start hitting those numbers.

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12 years ago

I think too many people don’t realize what Blizzard did with WoW so when they try to rebuild WoW, it fails. People try to mimic the game world, the content and the gameplay but what they don’t realize is the wide spread audience Blizzard targeted.

Blizzard targeted people in general and included aspects of gameplay for all different types of people.

Viral marketing and schilling is garbage. If a company is doing it, they’re not confident enough in the merits of their own product which says maybe they shouldn’t release so bloody early.