A Gaming Bully

Updated Thu, Jun 04, 2009 by B. de la Durantaye

There’s no doubt that the game is changing the scene, and since its launch in 2004, the industry has taken many drastic turns. There are players who are utterly frustrated with today’s games, and yearn for earlier days, when playing solo through the entire level range was not an option, and players were forced to group if they wanted to progress. Forced grouping and slow leveling created a strong community, and many of these players now feel that that community feeling has been lost in today’s titles. Read our article, 'Bringing Back the Community through WAR' for more thoughts on the evolution of community and online gaming.

The bottom line though, is that massively multiplayer games need to be massively multiplayer, that is, they need subscribers, and lots of them.

Blizzard recognized this early with World of Warcraft, and in an attempt to maximize their subscribers, they made the game accessible. Accessibility not only meant it could run on virtually any home computer, but it also meant the game had to be an option for players who didn’t have hours at a time to commit to look for a group, or camp a rare spawn in order to get a quest item or equipment that they were after. Blizzard gave players the option of being able to play solo through the game, offering something for everyone, whether they had all day to play, or just a sporadic hour here and there.

While that model did prove to be extraordinarily successful, and the game quickly soaked up a lot of players from older games, as well as lure in millions of new players. But some of the older gamers resented that. Suddenly their thriving communities began to dwindle, and the only options they had left were to play the more popular game of World of Warcraft or continue to play another game, where, like ugly people in Hollywood, the community was slowly thinning in numbers.

There is a divide in player’s thoughts of the changes, and Game Designer, Andrew Krausnick, recognizes it.

“The community growth and WoW's game play shift has been so pronounced that there has been a push back from the original MMO denizens,” states Krausnick. “Most non-WoW MMOs often require a higher degree of commitment or learned expertise and are therefore generally considered more 'hardcore.' These MMOs frequently have vocal community members who respond defensively to any perceived movement towards 'WoWification' with the cry of 'go back to WoW, noob' (or some facsimile thereof). And while a general example, it is endemic of an unfortunate divide in the community at large. If the new people that WoW has brought to our slice of the gaming world are going to be a genre-wide boom, then both our MMOs and our communities must grow to cater to a wide spectrum of users.”

The player boom is large, make no mistake. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) was behind EverQuest, which was widely accepted as one of the largest subscriber-based games at the beginning of the millennium. In early 2004, SOE divulged an approximate subscriber number of 430,000 players in their press release of Champions of Norrath.

Today, World of Warcraft has reached in excess of 11.5 million subscribers. That’s a pretty clear indication of the sheer size of growth the market has seen in the past five years, and it’s had its impact. 

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