Although I love talking about MMOs, and especially playing them, I would never, ever want to go into the business of making them. I’m honest enough to admit that. For some, it sounds like a dream job, and perhaps it even is to a few, but the risks of attaching your hard work to a failing bandwagon in this field is just not worth it.
Consider: you could work for years on a project, only to have it canceled for various reasons right up to the point where it would have launched; it could flop on release, and you would be stuck tending a lame duck for years afterward; you always will have to listen to and deal with malcontents and trolls who hate every decision you make; and there will always, always be a shiny new star ready to come along and steal the spotlight away from you.
So I admire the dev teams of all MMO studios, because they have a lot more passion and persistence than I ever would, especially when every decision they make is subject to analysis, critique and second-guessing from people not in the hot seat — you know, like me!
Lately, the question of Warhammer’s recent “unlimited new experience trial” has prompted a few discussions among writers, including KTR that sees this as a desperate flailing of sorts to reverse unfortunate trends. Personally, I think it’s the right move, and I think they had to make it. Why?
Because WAR has endured a series of body blows that haven’t killed or even crippled the game, but has left it gasping somewhat. Stalling at a few hundred thousand players (most likely less at this point) was just the start — follow that up with the firing of a considerable chunk of their staff, the studio merger-of-some-kind with BioWare, the loss of Mark Jacobs, and the dead on arrival “Land of the Dead” public dungeon all served to put Baby in the corner and keep her there.
Still, there’s hope for the title, unless you refuse to see it. WAR continues to expand into different worldwide markets, has some help/resources from BioWare, recently launched their Mac version to great acclaim, retooled their entire New Player Journey experience, and continued to push hard to increase performance and decrease technical issues.
Mythic needs to de-emphasize the negatives and highlight the positives, which, to their credit, they have serveral of. Since the newbie zones got the most love recently, it makes sense to want to (re)introduce those to players. And now that we’re seeing how these “unlimited” free trials are working in titles such as DDO or Wizard101 and are largely popular, it makes sense to latch onto this trend and see if it might not lift WAR’s reputation out of the gutter.
It also wouldn’t hurt for Mythic to take a look at the following suggestions:
- Get on that third faction and/or expansion ASAP – it’s the only thing that’s going to make most non-WAR players sit up and notice you again.
- Take a note from BioWare’s marketing team, and resurrect your video podcasts and developer blogs (hey, free publicity is free publicity, and sites love to link to these things!). You guys used to be a personality-led studio, and now your public enthusiasm is all but buried and gone.
- Aggressively go after disillusioned Aion players by pointing out your PvP strengths vs. Aion’s weaknesses (after all, you allow your players to PvP from level 1, and in a variety of ways!).
- Grab some of that EA money and throw together a few witty, memorable and personality-laced ads!