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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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  1. Green Armadillo

    I waited for something like 4-5 months after the SWTOR launch, got the game for $20 off, and benefited from all of the bugfixes and quality of life improvements that had been implemented during the two major patches that came before I picked it up. (I also got to pick a server knowing it was one of the relatively more populated servers after the launch rush, though that wasn’t enough to save me from being caught in the game’s mass server merges.) I suppose from my readers’ perspective this means that some of the stuff I’m writing about is old news, but I have no real complaints about the experience.

    1. Chris

      Yeah and that’s a great point. Timeliness breeds page views but in the end I think most of us write because we like to share what we enjoy. If you’re playing SWTOR and enjoying it, the posts you write will be more fun to read as a result. And the savings/bug fix aspect is a major plus too; better game for less money!

      1. Ysharros

        Meh, page views are over-rated. I’ve never cared if I’m the last one with the news and I’m not about to start now. But then my blog isn’t (and never was) a news blog. ;)

        Article point taken – we all go through the cycle, at least those of us who blog for any length of time. It’s endemic to the way the MMO industry works at this point (hype-boom, unsub-bust) and it’ll probably be years before it changes, if ever.

        I’m not sure it’s a cycle we could or should break though. My TSW enthusiasm has at least started me blogging again, which for me is a good thing. I missed the blogging, but for a long time I just couldn’t muster any game-related energy. I certainly feel my posts are total pap these days compared to some of the (much) more interesting stuff I was writing about a few years back, but maybe that’s just part of my general jadedness. Fortunately I don’t actually care who reads it, which is vastly liberating.

        1. Chris

          True enough on all points. I agree that I don’t know the cycle should stop either. We write about what excites us and that’s as it should be. Plus it makes for posts that are a lot more fun to read! My only real point is that I’m pulling back from joining in with everyone else this time; being a pioneer doesn’t have the same appeal anymore because all the people founding Plymouth Rock will likely be moved on by next quarter or sooner. That we have a tendency to move from “this game is great, bugs be damned!” to “it was good but this is what drove me away” at a rapid clip is worth noting.

          For what it’s worth, I totally acknowledge that a lot of this is about personal expectation. Do I want to be able to say “I was there” when we talk about this a few years down the line? Sure, who doesn’t. I just don’t know that kind of thing is all that meaningful anymore. That said, you can bet your butt I’ll be in on Day One of Guild Wars 2′s launch!

          I was just about to write, “I’m as guilty as anyone else” but it’s not guilt worthy, it’s why be have blogs in the first place! :-D

  2. Moxie

    I get where you’re coming from – I’ve had very similar feelings about TSW. The title looks intriguing, but this cycle has happened so many times – new game comes out, everybody & his brother plays it for 1 to 3 months, and then it’s on to the next, likely never to be thought of again, unless it’s for quick and easy 1 month re-subs a year later.

    While I’m all for playing different games (and don’t have any personal objections to players that play like that), I also mourn the days when you could really sink your teeth into a title for a year or more. Whether that’s because games these days have faster playthru time or because we now have gaming ADHD, or a combination of both, I’m not sure. At any rate, I may still pick it up in a few months – I want to see if it has teeth first.

  3. Chris

    Same here. I’ll almost certainly get it at some point. The game looks neat. Like Green says above though, waiting a bit gets you a cheaper and less buggy version of the game. I also think you’re spot on in your assessment of why we move so quickly from game to game. I’d only add to that the idea that our expectations may have gotten unreasonably high over the years. Unlike years ago, we have lots and lots of games to look forward to at any given point, so when the realities of games being imperfect hits us it’s on to the next because it just might scratch that itch. Thanks for stopping by, Moxie! :-D

  4. Stabs

    I think it’s worth remembering (or reassessing) just what exactly our hobby is.

    We all started as gamers. Over time we become forum posters, podcast listeners, blog readers and writers and hype junkies. None of this is, in the pure sense, gaming.

    I pretty much skipped the hype cycle for TSW. I knew vaguely what it was, and some of the hype sounded innovative in a Blair Witch way, but I wasn’t “following” it. I didn’t even discover the release date until 3 days before Early Access started.

    The beauty of that is that I was neither excited nor disappointed. It’s an intriguing game on its own merits and with the puzzles it benefits a great deal from not knowing a great deal about it. I’ve wondered about for hours trying to piece together clues of what I’m missing (and googled a few too, I’m no saint).

    It wouldn’t have been possible to play this game the way I’m playing it, casually, not knowing the puzzles, if I’d been immersed in the pre-launch community.

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