DDO: An Underdog Success Story

I read a quote on a MMO blog not too long ago that said something to the effect that “we haven’t seen a MMO success since World of Warcraft”.  I wish I remembered the blog and could quote it accurately, because that sentiment stuck in my craw for days after as being one of the dumbest things I’ve heard in these parts.

We haven’t seen success since then?  I guess that we should cross off Guild Wars, with 6+ million boxes sold and a sequel on the way… or the massive adaption of F2P titles like Runes of Magic, Wizard101 and Free Realms, each sporting a multi-million playerbase… or the enduring triumph of EverQuest 2 and LOTRO as they grow through expansion packs and are beloved up to a half decade after coming out… or EVE Online’s phenomenal rise in subscriptions, year after year.  Heck, I’d be okay calling any MMO that managed to launch and continue to operate a “success”, in that it’s making money and has a dedicated community of players.

Dungeons & Dragons Online has become a success of a different nature, in that it was a perceived “failure” (small playerbase with little hopes of growing) that’s now experiencing a tremendous surge of popularity and love as it’s gone with a F2P/subscription hybrid model.  Massively’s reporting that DDO has accrued one million new players since last September, which includes doubling the number of subscribers.  They’re making money hand over fist, the game continues to suck people in, and all because they readjusted the monetary cost to access the game to something more palatable.

I’m all sorts of happy for DDO.  It’s a great game that dared to do the genre a bit different with a major focus on dungeoneering, and it now seems that they knocked down the major barrier that was getting between players and the title.  If DDO was a movie, it would be a plucky little underdog that few believed in until it finally hit a home run out of the park, got a date with the prom queen, and fought Big Tobacco in court, after which there’d be a rousing slow clap where everyone in the community would stand on their feet and cheer it on.

10 thoughts on “DDO: An Underdog Success Story

  1. Ravious February 26, 2010 / 11:54 am

    I pray every day that WAR will follow suit.

  2. Tesh February 26, 2010 / 12:20 pm

    It’s also a good case study of how the game design and business model need to be evaluated separately. When the opened the doors to both subs and microtransaction models, the game was suddenly accessible to anyone who wanted to check it out, and who could pay for it the way they wanted to.

    That meant people could evaluate it as a game far easier than if it were still stuck behind one model or the other. It turned out to be a good game, players just needed to get in and play with it.

    That, to me, is the best part of increasing payment options and business models; players can *play* the games and see if they actually like playing them, then find a way to pay the devs for a job well done.

  3. Magson February 26, 2010 / 1:15 pm

    erm. . . .when you said “palpable,” did you mean “palatable?”

    Palapable = “obvious”

    Palatable = “acceptable”

    /malaprop police


    I’ve got several toons on several servers, and enjoy both soloing and grouping. I have different toons for each — the better soloers seem to not be wanted in groups so much, while the toons wanted in groups tend to be a challenge to solo. Kinda funny how that works, no?

  4. Syp February 26, 2010 / 1:22 pm

    Heh I probably did!

  5. cirdanx February 26, 2010 / 4:13 pm

    Allright, i have said it several times that i´m a software developer on this blog. There is also a good article (can´t remember it too..damn) about this.

    Anyone who thinks that WoW is the only success in mmo history is an idiot. Period. They are, the McDonalds of the MMO Universe..no matter what you say.

    Any of those MMO´s you have mentioned are successes.

    Actualy, any MMO that makes it out of the door and goes live and sells (no matter if it will go on and on) is in most of the cases a success, money wise. (look at cryptic..they have their success)

    There are dozens of mmo´s that get turned down or get stuck in the process every year. These are the fails.

    Even Warhammer is a success, or do you realy think EA would pay for any server at all if the don´t make money with it? No, of course not it would be a bad decision.

    Think about it, any mmo that is live is a success here. Yes here, cause, as an example..there are several mmo´s operatign in china that don´t make it into black numbers..but the fan articles/micro make them a success in the end.

    WoW is a mainstream phenomen, it´s not the pinnacle of mmo´s..more like the downfall of it. (i still play it from time to time)

    Not sure about you, i kinda like challenging, story driven and interesting games.

    However it´s sad to see that these kind of games become less and less.

  6. Dblade February 26, 2010 / 5:46 pm

    D&D was boring as heck to me. I started playing, but there was no real hook, just same old quest and repeat.

    Of course a f2p game will get a lot of players, because it is free. 1 million players is nothing, maple story has said they have had like 80 million players, and they keep raking in the money as well. D&D seems novel to you because F2P is new to you.

  7. Pedro February 26, 2010 / 5:59 pm

    I think WAR paid off to EA in the end. However, Mythic tried to do more than they could with their structure and poor management decisions were taken.

    Every other MMO that Syp mentioned is also a success, and IMO the biggest successes of the Western MMOs. But it’s sad that so many MMOs failed to live up to their expectations.

    DDO is a nice game, with a unique twist in their gameplay. They have the best dungeon crawling IMO with all those traps, different skills for different classes that add something more besides combat and the business model really turned the game around.

  8. SlothBear February 27, 2010 / 12:52 am

    “I pray every day that WAR will follow suit.”

    My prayers join yours.

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