Devving for the 1%

(Edit: I’ve put 1%. Of course, I don’t know the exact %s except I’m 100% sure each niche of the gaming market is a small %)

I just had to stop my Big Catchup series (Part 3 nearly done) because I spotted this on Massively:

Anyone whose been reading in this blog knows it’s been an ongoing source of wonder to me that people who ostensibly are trying to make money use up so much development on a small group of players, but there it’s been for years and years! At time of posting the Massively post has 273 very interesting comments as the niches fight a rearguard battle and a good few people also say, “well, duh!”.

So what’s going to happen now? Now that the taboo has been broken and a mainstream studio actually said, “well heckit why are we doing this?” (not in those exact words).

For sure, it’s nutso marketing when the people with lives are also likely to be the people with money (a lot of people have to spend their lives earning it), and aren’t going to be all that hardcore (apart from that legendary person with 7 children and two full-time jobs who still raids 3 times a week at the top tier)(apart from that person, of course.)

On the other hand you could regard the raids/pvps/guilds/whatever as sort of like the clothes in a fashion show or the prototype cars that look all futuristic and shiny – both of which also cost a lot to produce, but garner good press.  Fashion Shows, Car Shows, Video Gamer Shows.

On the third hand (Im a Nalien), there is suuuuch a demand for each niche. Surely someone will be able to garner a profit going the full hog for each niche (thus creating a lovely diverse gaming ecosystem). Doing a playstyle wholeheartedly requires some courage though. Imagine a game which is only for raiders. Just raiders. No levelling, no frills, no crumbs for the solo or casual. It could be done! The press would be fantastic since you could really show your stuff in a catwalk way – and top price might even apply. Actually, top price might have to apply given the cost and the small player base. But what a chance to make a splash with the release of each new raid without having to worry about all the other players. I think someone should try it – any takers?

On the fourth hand (oh go on you’re used to me by now, surely) – imagine a big AAA title for the masses, no preferred playstyle, no sneering, no reserved shinies. Content focussed on real, normal people – the many. I can see it! No I can’t. I think elitism is very hard to give up. On the other hand (this will be the fifth) if anyone could de-sneer casual/solo play and make a really fantastic game for people-with-lives, I can see big, big, big shinies in many, many, many quantities. (Just don’t tack an elite on and give them the best stuff because that would be the same as what we have just now.)

Oh yes, forgot to put. People-with-lives might still be a vast untapped market for MMOs but it’s not a naive market. The opposite. People who handle their own affairs tend to be shrewd, so if anyone intends going for this particularly large, bigger-than-anelephant whalefish, they had better offer value.

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5 thoughts on “Devving for the 1%

  1. Where, I think, this falls down is that “people with lives” have lives. They have a myriad of things to do other than play MMORPGs, which, by definition, require a significant time commitment. Things they’d much rather be doing.

    It’s true that in the second decade of the 21st Century “gaming” has been assimilated into general popular culture and everyone “games” but that has largely come about through a sea-change in the types of games available and the platforms on which they can be played.

    It’s entirely possible, even likely, that AAA games that are labelled “MMOs” by marketing departments will seek to target the “people-with-lives” demographic but I very much doubt those games will hold much appeal for existing MMORPG hobbyists, nor for future generations of that persuasion. Just about everything that I recognize as an “MMORPG”, or certainly everything that holds my interest in the field, can draw a direct line of descent back through MUDs and offline CRPGs to the pen and paper RPGs of forty years ago.

    Role-playing games have always been a niche. At various times that niche is substantial but it has never broken out into the mass-market to a comparable degree to, say super-heroics, fantasy or SF. It remains just a nerd step too far for the general public. That might change but I don’t see any signs of it happening. If anything, traffic might be going the other way.

    None of which means that MMORPGs can’t be less elitist and more inclusive. They’ve been working consistently towards those ends the entire time I’ve been playing them. I don’t foresee an MMORPG breakthrough on the scale of Angry Birds or Candy Crush any time soon, though.

    On the other hand, to completely de-rail my own argument, there is the GTA series to consider. Would you say, though, that “people-with-lives” would make up most of the GTA demographic? Maybe that’s another niche, just a really, really big one.

    • Gosh, those are good things to think on. The ‘people with lives having other things to do than game’ (I paraphrase) particularly. Of my age group, hardly any one plays video games (or rather hardly anyone admits to it), let alone MMOs. Of course I’m the nutter that sees that as an untapped market. (There’s always one.) With my sane head on I think you’re right. My points go more to the people who are already playing MMOs and then grow up to have more responsibilities, perhaps, and less time and (hopefully) more money. It’s just always seemed daft to me to stop developing for them once they can’t be hardcore anymore. Inclusiveness is making inroad, yes, but it’s name-called to hell and back, which makes the process slow. GTA is interesting and I’m seeing more and more strange mini-hybrid things, that are nearly nearly mmos or aspects of them. Like little fragments, some with out the mm. It’s hard to describe adequately. Often the pvp element is where the multiplayer lies, with the rpg part more as a credential or a smaller part. I don’t know if I’m putting this well. Assassins Creed on Android is what I am thinking about. I pick large niche! And then somewhere else in the Android market people are making singleplayer rpgs, short, but fairly well done no ‘many players’ but the 3d and story are there.
      In short I do think the popularising of mmorpgs (as we think of them) is going apace with the ageing of players, but it does need to adapt to their changed circumstances. Because I play, my children do too and their friends, and then in time they’ll grow to have less time, but just with one generation the market’s bigger. Mostly my age don’t play because these things weren’t there when we were young. My parents and friends didn’t have them. Young now means having MMOs there, in a playable state and reasonably accessible plus a society in which they are known to exist, which I imagine is quite helpful :)
      I really enjoyed chewing on that, thanks Bhagpuss!

  2. Great blog! I cant agree more. They need to focus on what ppl with money but less time wants. I for example focus mostly on shorter pvp encounters which doesnt demand s lot of time and planning ahead. I want the social part of it too but not the endless grinding…. I dont like that the only way to get that cool mount is hours of grinding. Why cant i just buy it? Why not both options? Tis true what u say about elitism and hardcore. But I have no time for that :)

    • Or craft it, or breed it – or trade for it. There could be many ways to get the great horse. Right now only some arbitrary group can get the great horse. But must be said if a dev is making a one kind of game because they love one kind of play for other people that love that kind of play, that is great too (just not as easy to turn into earnings). Thank you for your kind comments Xannziee :)

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