Few people can predict the future with any degree of certainly. Every now and then someone comes along like Steve Jobs who predicts that the future is mobile application and has the power to help make it true. As for myself, the only thing I am sure about (other than death and taxes) is the old adage – you can please some of the some of the time, but the only thing you can do all the time is piss some people off.
If you ask Disney’s CEP Bob Iger about the future of gaming he will no doubt tell you Social Gaming (read Facebook games) are here to stay. In fact he recently told Seeking Alpha (via Worlds in Motion) that Disney is shifting their assets from console games to social games.
“So, we’re going to continue to console games. They will primarily be Disney-branded, not all Disney-branded, and they will in most cases be derivative of product that’s been made for other segments of the company, like our motion pictures. So I guess, as you look at our strategy, you’d see a blend of investment and some reallocation of investment from the console side to basically this multifaceted side. Also, it became pretty clear to us that game playing and social networks is real, here to stay.” – Bob Iger, Disney CEO
Now we are certain that it has nothing to do with the fact that Disney spent over three quarters of a billion dollars on Playdom (“563.2 million, plus performance-based earn outs of up to $200 million”)
There is no doubt, no matter what kind of games we end up playing, they will reach us through digital downloads. Even Ubisoft, infamous for their “always connected” DRM (if you disconnect from the internet while playing the game it quits) is using Steam for their release of the movie Tie-In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (maybe they have seen the hand writing on the wall but we doubt it). Will Wright (the man who created Electronic Arts’ 800 ton single player gaming Sims series) not only agrees, but believes retail used game sales is their ticket to oblivion:
“To some extent, as the retailers come up with policies like used games, they’re actually putting their foot on the gas pedal to oblivion. And that ultimately is going to make the game industry digital about as fast as it could possibly be,” he added.” – Will Wright, gamesindustry.biz via gamespolitics.com
Mr. Wright also feels the industry is in for some evolutionary changes…
“I think we’re in the Cambrian explosion of games, where all these weird new life forms are popping out for the very first time and filling these niches that are appearing dramatically,” Says Wright. “And of course a lot of the old, established things are going to be dying off pretty rapidly, even the major life forms. But more than anything else, I see this being the healthiest thing that could happen in the industry.” – Will Wright, gamesindustry.biz via gamespolitics.com
After we interviewed Dr. Richard Bartle on No Prisoners, No Mercy Show 46 we were left with the impression that the truly innovative advances in gaming will come from the smaller studios. One look at the video below will have you believing that the future will come from a company that is now part of NCSoft – ArenaNet. Listen to the trailer below you will hear the following words:
“We founded Arena Net to Innovate, so Guild Wars 2 is our opportunity to question everything; to make a game that defies existing conventions. If you love mmos you’ll want to check out Guild Wars 2, and if you hate mmos you really want to check out Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars 2 takes everything you loved about Guild Wars 1 and puts it into a persistent world that’s got more active combat, a fully branching personalized storyline, a new event system to get people playing together and still no monthly fees.”
What? Can it be true? All that and no monthly fees? Not even microtransactions? It sounds fantastic until it reaches the following words:
“As a structure the mmo has lost the ability to make a player feel like a hero. Everything around you is doing the same thing you are doing. The boss you just killed respawns ten minutes later. It doesn’t care that I’m there.”
“We do not want to build the same mmo that everyone else is building. In Guild wars 2 it’s your world, it’s your story. You affect things around you in a very permanent way.”
Wait. Did the woman on that video say PERMANENT? You bet she did. The first thing I thought about is the first thing Keen from Keen and Graevs’ Gaming Blog pointed out and that is the very structure of Guild wars 1, where the entire world is instanced except for the cities. It is this very characteristic that dulled the appeal of Guild Wars for me. At first I doubted their ability to do all the trailer promises and still not be instanced. Then I thought about the phased technology that Blizzard used in Northrend. This is the technology that allows the same persistent world appear different to two players depending on where they are in a story line. Will Guild wars 2 make use of a similar technology?
We here at NPNM really want to give ArenaNet the benefit of the doubt.
Then I remember that ArenaNet is a studio that is owned by NCSoft. Suddenly names like Auto Assault (closed 2007), Tabula Rasa (closed 2009), and Dungeon Runners (closed 2010) comes to mind. This is the same company that was sued by Richard Garriott for $28 million dollars because they waited until he was in quarantine after his space flight to wrongfully terminate him.
Then I read this article by Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires. When I got part way through the article, this paragraph grabbed my attention:
“Unfortunately I’ve seen and heard a lot of these sorts of claims before. Funcom was going to revolutionize combat and we got a couple of combo buttons. Sigil was going to revolutionize factions and diplomacy and we got an in-built card game. Blizzard was going to revolutionize questing and we got floating exclamation marks. Mythic was going to revolutionize PvP and we got battlegrounds queueable from anywhere. Not that any of these mechanics aren’t fun or good in their own right, it’s just they’re hardly turning the entire genre on its head. It’s evolution through tiny footsteps, not giant leaps.” – Gordon, We Fly Spitfires
Nobody is saying that Guild wars 2 will fail. If ArenaNet can deliver on their promises they really can set the industry on its ear. Still I can’t help reminiscing on all the wonders of gaming that Paul Barnett promised us when he was the front man for Warhammer Online – yes it is still there but not exactly going strong is it? If ArenaNet doesn’t deliver, these are the words that will come back to haunt them:
“…and puts it into a persistent world”
But if they do deliver…yes dear readers if they DO deliver, then there is little doubt that we will all be looking back on the days when we USED to play mmos the old fashioned way, and Guild Wars 2 will be up there with the rare air.
See you online,
Our own Sister Julie had questions about ArenaNet’s Dynamic Events System vs. Public Quests as we all saw in Warhammer Online. It seems Randomessa has done a detailed examination of the public quest issue here. I don’t have a ruler to wave around but it is a detailed analysis of claims versus performance to be sure.
[posted for Julie Whitefeather by The Webmaster]