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Apathy for the new MMO (or why the blogger hype cycle is a misleading beast)

I really hope this doesn’t come off as too curmudgeonly, but I’m finding it really difficult to get excited for The Secret World. Compounding that “jaded vet” feeling is that the game actually looks pretty neat. Where then blooms the apathy? Could it be, dare I say… the fans?

See, this is where I sit. Every time a new MMO comes out we collectively blog about it until the unwary or uninitiated decides that, hell yes, this game has legs; or more realistically, this may well be the next six-month stay of execution before the next big release. I’ve been there on both sides. Look through the archives and you’ll see lots of enthusiasm for distant shores and real “potential.” You’ll see me gush about the things I’ve enjoyed and encourage you, the reader, to join me. There is nothing wrong with that and, in fact, that very cycle of excitement is one of the things that makes gaming such a fun field to follow. Trace the blogosphere for a while and you’ll see just how much of a crowd mentality this is; we love games so we write about them, each and every time.

Except if we follow that path a bit longer the cycle turns the curve. They honeymoon ends. Some people continue to gush and these lucky few may have found their long-term stay. The rest, however, simply game-fade and short weeks later have either stopped posting about the game entirely, have become critics rather than fans, or have already boarded the next train for MMO Hope 3,048 to begin the process anew.

Journalistic reviews of MMOs mean even less than blogger consensus. The nature of games reviewing is to be hot on the press. MMOs deny that by design; where a 50 hour console game might take a reviewer days to complete an MMO demands weeks: leveling, class experience, endgame, and sustainability. As a result, any “week of release” review is close on meaningless.

So for TSW, I say that six weeks will tell the real story. Are people still writing? Are they still enjoying? That will be the real signal to buy in or check out.

And in either case there’s always F2P, which no one should be surprised to hear Funcom discussing in the next six months. Unless they shock us and pull a Trion, there is little chance of the game sustaining itself on a monthly fee. SWTOR can’t do it and TSW has $100 million less of a chance. To point, as more and more games adopt the free to play model, the expectations on sub-based games get higher. To date, Trion is the only studio that, sticking to their guns, has been able to justify charging monthly… Because that’s about how often they release major patches. Does Funcom have that in them? I hope so but it’s doubtful. (I’m looking at you, Age of Conan).

So despite the neatness of the title, I’m holding off on following my fellow gamers into another $50 foray of 90 days max. I’ll eventually try it but, well, that’s what Steam is for.

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