News that Carbine would be cancelling their Chinese launch, followed by the release of 60 staff working on regionalizing the game came as a blunt piece of news towards the end of last week. Add on to that news that Daybreak Games have officially cancelled EverQuest Next, its looking grim for a genre that every development studio was once trying to muscle in on.
Where WildStar is concerned I wouldn’t say that it was a surprise. Spreading an already thin development team into another region and the problems that brings was always asking for trouble. Carbine have - arguably - only only just got their feet on the ground with transitioning to Free to Play. To add to their workload always seemed illogical and too big in scope. Losing any staff is awful, but if it provides greater long term stability for the game it’s perhaps a trade-off that’s worth doing. My gut instinct tells me that WildStar’s Free to Play transition has failed to live up to NCSoft’s expectations, if it had then China would have likely have gone ahead.
WildStar is a beautiful game filled with awesome stuff. Sadly it just didn't catch on.
As for EverQuest Next, I honestly don’t believe it ever existed. While Sony Online Entertainment, at the time, talked the talk. I suspect most, if not all of it was posturing to increase the profile and value of the studio. Considering it was mere weeks after the grand reveal before the studio was gobbled up, the pessimist in me has always questioned as to whether or not it was all an elaborate rouse.
What concerns me the most about both of these stories, irrespective of how they came to be, is the fact the genre to the outsider, looks very grim. With the exception of Black Desert Online that appears to have launched well and been well received by even the harshest of critics (including myself). On the horizon however, there’s now not a single AAA MMO backed by a big publisher. With the exception of Crowfall and Camelot Unchained - both of which I supported - it’s slim pickings going forward.
On the horizon instead are a truckload of MOBA games that are undoubtedly cheaper and vastly more profitable. When you look at the income of League of Legends or DOTA 2, there’s little wonder that developers want to set-up shop. With skins selling for high prices and new Heroes guaranteeing continued revenue, it’s maximum profit with very little overheads. Considering most MOBA’s only have one map and a mode or two, the only outlay after completion is a balance patch once a month and implementing said new Hero. It’s a development studio dream. In contrast, MMO teams have to continually develop new content across multiple areas and even then the playerbase burns through it in a matter of minutes. It’s unsustainable, no doubt stressful and actually returns less revenue than many MOBA’s. Guild Wars 2 earns so little compared to League of Legends, despite all that they do, it’s no wonder development in the genre is shifting.
Interestingly and the strangest thing in all of this is that The Division, a "sort-of MMO", has sold huge quantities and so there’s clear evidence people still want online, multiplayer games, but perhaps something much more narrow or refined. Destiny certainly succeeded following that path and so reducing the scope of future MMO’s, similar to what Crowfall or Camelot Unchained are doing could be a very good thing.
What do you think the future holds for the genre?
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