“We’re not betting the company on Star Wars,” said Frank Gibeau, president of EA Labels , which oversees the Star Wars game. “While it’s a major undertaking, it’s one aspect of a larger strategy to transform EA from a company that sells discs to one that derives the bulk of its revenue from digital games and services.” –Los Angeles Times, Business
If the internet had existed in Abraham Lincoln’s day one of his famous quotes might have gone quite differently…
“You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but if you want to piss off all the people all the time just try and make an mmo that pleases everyone.”
There was a time I used to think that gamers are a fickle lot. No longer. The truth of the matter is that taken collectively, gamers to whom any variation of an mmo is a hobby are the most capricious of the lot. Like virtual junkies whose body builds up a resistance to any drug we take, after 30 days we keep searching for a new fix…a fix which public relations specialists from game publishers are always eager to provide. But like the story of the elephant and the three blind men what each gamer sees as the outcome will be entirely different. Ask a million gamers what their perfect game is and you will get a million different answers. Even an MMO that has a perfect launch (something I believe has yet to occur since Meridian 59 went live) someone will always be displeased.
The Big Gamble
Around the internet, Star Wars the Old Republic (SWTOR) has been called Electronic Arts’ “big gamble”. And while no one outside of EA’s upper echelons truly knows how much SWTOR costs, there is little doubt that there is a lot riding on this particular horse. Last fall John Smedley said SWTOR was going to be the last subscription based MMO – “In my opinion, this is going to be the last large scale MMO to use the traditional subscription business model.” If EA does lose its proverbial shirt by publishing SWTOR, they may not shutter their doors, but it will no doubt have a drastic affect on the video game industry.
What will happen if EA fails at their attempt to turn their company into “one that derives the bulk of its revenue from digital games and services”? What if their new digital download service, Origin, finds that the slingshot they have aimed at that digital giant Steam can’t bring it down? It has only been since September 2009 when Turbine took Dungeons and Dragons online Free-2-play and a year later since Lord of the Rings Online went free-2-play. Since then game publishers have hopped on the same band wagon, hoping for the same lightning Turbine got to strike twice will strike a third time for them. Will the free-2-play business model be a success? Or will it be a repeat of the rapid rise and even more rapid decline of the “dot com” businesses in the 1990s?
The gamers, the mmo, and the bathwater.
What if happens if the gamble that EA has taken on SWTOR fails? Will the industry follow suit and turn away from service based games and concentrate on the console market? What happens if the MMO industry finds that it cannot repeat the success of Turbine and Zynga in the long term? Could the two combine to form a perfect storm?
Perhaps in our haste to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater every time a new mmo doesn’t meet our exacting expectations we will one day find that there are no mmos to be had – period.
See you online.
One of my recent favorite quotes from SWTOR:
“If we encounter a Duke or a Countess what do we do? Bow? Curtsey? Wink knowingly?” – Corso Riggs