I’ve talked before about my back and forth relationship with World of Warcraft. At times, I’ve felt like I’d always be playing it and, at others, like I’d never go back. When I think back to the first time I left, I realize that leaving was the hardest part. Not just because of the uncertainty that comes with jumping into a new game, either.
One of the biggest things I missed leaving the game was the meta-gaming that went along with it. Meta-gaming is involving yourself with the game when you’re not playing it, through theorycrafting and the like. In my case, I felt the impact of not having a WoW Insider like source to turn to when I was bored at work. When I first started playing LotRO, my rebound game, there was virtually nothing out there except for a couple of rarely updated blogs. When compared with the masses of high-quality WoW sites, the landscaped barren and, as a result, I wasn’t as satisfied outside of WoW than I was in.
Being an MMO player is a lot more of an experience than you find with other gamers. We invest ourselves more, and think about it more when we’re not playing. It’s part of what makes gives us that insurmountable hook that keeps us coming back to the trough for the “next big thing.”
And it’s also an important factor for companies that want to pull WoW players away. When a player can spend time investigating the game, even though they can’t play, I think that makes them more eager to log in than ever before. This is a difficult thing for developers to address since it’s almost wholly community based. WoW will probably always have the upper hand, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth developer’s time to compete.
The first step is to communicate with the community, build the hype train, and make people want to share their enthusiasm and knowledge of a title. It shouldn’t stop after the game comes out, either. It’s no coincidence that the community hushed up shortly after Mythic did. Toss some giblets into the pool and let the piranha’s roll. Players should be given resources to turn to, like Developer Diaries and interviews. Keep the website moving with new content.
Second, they need to give supply their own material. Turbine’s Lore Book for LotRO is a great example other developer’s should follow. Add onto that developer blogs and tools like My LotRO and you have a recipe for an active community. There’s more community activity now than ever before for that game and it’s because Turbine is giving the players what they want: meta-content.
There’s more though. I think it’d be a smart move for developer’s to go a step further. Branch out to group’s like Curse to make a quality database. Create social networks. Hold competitions.
WoW does almost all of these things and it shows. Even though they get knocked for the vocal losers of the community, the reality is they also have one of the most active and devoted gaming communities ever to exist.
Every time I go into another game world, I find myself wishing there was as much community support as Blizzard’s has. It may not be realistic but I’d bet a lot of players probably feel the same. These resources help solidify the game as a hobby. We like it. We like to think about it. And, we like having a place within a community, even if it’s as a silent reader.
Maybe in time we’ll get there with some of the other big games. LotRO is on it’s way. One thing’s for sure though, our community is a great one and it’s a shame more people don’t join in the fun.