MMOs by nature are time sinks. Back in the late 90's, Everquest raiding was my hobby and just by the nature of the game, required a massive time investment. From hours of learning new encounters to leveling hundreds of levels of alternate experience, the game itself while fun, required the dedication of a second job. This is the reason I stopped playing. I simply couldn't justify 30+ hours a week playing the game. My predicament was not uncommon and many long standing Everquest players stopped playing in a similar manner.
As most gamers know, this is done by design. The primary reason for this is, of course, money. Game designers need to maintain subscription numbers and by making MMO's require large time investments, publishers and game design companies generate consistent revenue. This is nothing new and most gamers are well aware of this. However, like most business practices, there is an inevitable consequence and the company that cashes in on this consequence may have tapped into quite a lucrative market.
The primary consequence has to do with demographics. When Everquest was originally released, it was rather apparent that the demographic the game was targeted for was largely male ages 18-25. This was done intentionally to obtain as young a subscription base as possible. Younger players net longer returns on gaming as younger players will have less influences that effect their ability to play the game. Attracting an 18 year old to the gaming world could snare a customer for the next 10+ years versus the 30 year old gamer who has a wife and two kids and simply can't invest vehement volumes of time necessary to progress. The 30 year old has a significantly higher chance to quit the game entirely thus causing the company to lose the subscription. Fast forward 10 years and now those same gamers that were 18-20 years old are now 28-30 years old. Life should go on and if it does in a healthy manner, those same 18-20 year olds have full time jobs, potentially a steady significant other, wife, husband and or children. In all likelihood, their time is significantly less available for gaming. This brings me to my second question for the masses:
Is there a way to market an MMO that do not require an extensive time investment to progress?
Whenever talking about MMO marketing, one should likely start with the king of all marketed MMOs, World of Warcraft. In many columns, I have stated that WoW is much more a product of marketing genius versus MMO innovation. From a business standpoint, it is easy to see why this viewpoint is one of the minority. The current model has been so successful, particularly for Blizzard, why change? As it stands now, Blizzard has a massive subscription base. In an effort to maintain longevity, Blizzard has already made minor changes to the leveling curve, the proposed 2.4 badge of justice rewards and daily quests for easy gold. It is plausible that such changes will continue in the future. However, it is likely that this issue will effect WoW just the same at some point in the future. It's cut from the same business model as Everquest.
To better illustrate the issue, consider the following:
Let's assume a 32 year old male who has two kids wants to relax in the evening with WoW. He is new to the game but reads how solo friendly warlocks are and starts there. He has 1 hour, three times a week to play the game. How long will it take him to level from 1 to 70?
- 24 hours x 6 = 144 hours
- 144 hours/3 hours per week = 48 Weeks.
Assuming this individual continues to play, it will take him 48 weeks at this pace to level from 1 to 70. To me, this seems like an awful long time to grind out one toon. This is a very low leveling time as well. A newer player, a player who wishes to explore various extra content and a player on a PVP server will almost certainly have a longer leveling time. This could result over a year of time just invested in the leveling process. From a subscription standpoint, it's great but this is dependant on the player staying interested that long with such little weekly progress.
An immature subsection of the WoW populous will provide the dribble that "Casuals don't deserve gear" and this attitude is held primarily by the opposing demographic. While players that invest more time should have more options available within the game, this line of thinking is flawed in that, the most stable and financially secure members of the gaming community are the older, casual gamers. This is also the largest demographic of players. Alienating this group doesn't lend itself to good business practices and WoW in particular has watered down the game to make it more practical for these players. Despite all these changes, the fact remains that the game is designed for moderate term character advancement followed by long term character enhancement through gear until the next expansion is produced at which point, the cycle virtually resets and repeats. This has been the business model for most MMOs in the last 10 years and for the most part, has been successful. The question remains; Is there a more time efficient way?The phrase "time is money" is undoubtedly a cultural platitude. Nevertheless, the concept holds true and resonates through the current world and MMO landscape. The challenge to the readers is to decide if there is a business model for an MMO that doesn't require massive time sinks to progress yet can still maintain monthly subscriptions. I will provide some thoughts and ideas in an upcoming post. Until next time...