The Future of MMOs - Staying Power, by Julie
Jun 19, 2007 10:55:43

"I've got staying power
Just when you think it's over
I'll come right back again
I've got staying power"
-"Staying Power", Barry White

What am I talking about? Not the immediate future but "down the road a piece" as grandmother would have said. I am not talking about a particular game, so much as a particular format or genre - those with staying power. The formats that will stand the test of time, or at least relatively so. And so I considered starting out this article with the following quote from "Casablanca"...

"Maybe not today or tomorrow but soon and for the rest of your life"

Not long ago, I read an article about the "future of gaming." Mostly it was about how players interacted with the game - things like virtual reality displays. On a side note, those who have ever use one of the virtual reality headsets have experienced something odd that I had never experienced - virtual motion sickness. But little was said about the future of MMOs in the way of format. I am not talking about console versus pc here. I am talking about the format of the MMO itself.

Consider the following:

The proverbial 800 pound gorilla of the western world is usually acknowledge as Blizzard. But when you consider the overseas market, the 800 pound gorilla doesn't really way 800 pounds any more. This is why Sony, in a controversial move, recently hired David Christianson, former vice president of business development of IGE, one of the largest sellers of virtual currency - development of overseas markets.

Consider too what sort of formats have been around the longest. While I know there will be some who will argue that games with linearity up the wazzoo have been around the longest (go ahead - bring it on) consider games like Ultima Online that have been around a lot longer than World of Warcraft. At point I thought games of that nature were dieing a slow painful death, it appears I may be wrong. What comes to mind is a phrase I have heard in the business world before:

"I was here when you got here and I will be here when you leave."

Not necessarily Ultima Online itself, which is far from being a largish chimp, let alone an 800 pound gorilla. What I am talking about are games without linearity at all. When I started playing games without linearity - with little or no guiding hand from developers, I often heard "so what do I do now?" That question was the result of the MMO not being so much of a game as a VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT. When we talk about virtual environment the first products that seem to come to mind are Second Life, and Entropia Universe. When it comes to business deals, Entropia Universe and MindArk, its creator, is, as we all know, in the process of pulling off some very, very big business deals.

But I have recently begun playing what some western MMO gamers seem to consider the "darker side" of mmo gaming - that is the world of imports. My latest interest has been voyage century. I will agree with a statement I heard one podcaster point out, that one always needs to have "something head" of you to keep your interest. But that doesn't always mean linearity. That doesn't have to be a developer holding your hand and telling what to go, where to go, and what your choice will be like in endgame - the biggest challenge for any game that is going to have "staying power." One very real future that seems to be shaping itself into the future of gaming is that of the virtual environment. A virtual world full of options - no levels, no invisible hand pointing to the next area in a linear progression - just choices.

Will that mean there will eventually reach a point where there will be nothing ahead to look forward to? In voyage century I recently pulled my 44 gun light frigate into the port of Seville, only to be dwarfed by a three decker ship bristling with guns. It could have taken out every ship in the port and then finished off the city gun emplacements. Just like in real life, no matter what the genre of a given environment - whether it is far flung reaches of outer space, like Eve Online, or 17th century earth, like Voyage Century - there will always be a bigger dog on the block. And even that biggest dog will have somewhere to go, because the thing about being the biggest dog, is there is always a smaller dog barking at your heals.

See you online,
- Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Jun 19, 2007 10:55:43 CST (comments: 0)


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