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Guest Post: The decline of hardcore

Syp’s out of town this week and has turned the keys to Bio Break over to fellow bloggers.  Today’s post is by River of High Latency Life.

The Decline of Hardcore

Hi my name is River — this is the part where you say, “Hi River!”  You might know me from various roles on TV like Hooker #2, or guy holding the door, but what I’m most famous for is blogging High Latency Life.  That’s right… I’m that guy. Please I’ll sign autographs later. When Syp begged me to do a guest blog, I thought I could lower myself for one post for a dear old friend of mine, so here we go.

My Question To You is…

Are there less hardcore MMO Gamers now then say 10 years ago, 5 years ago, even one year ago?

From my perspective it seems like yes.

What is a Hardcore Gamer?

Now we need to define hardcore MMO gamer so that we’re all on the same page, because it could be very subjective. To me, a hardcore MMO gamer is a person who dedicates a majority of their free time to one MMO. Not someone who plays 3 MMOs a lot. They are hardcore, but I’m looking for that person who logs off at 4am, and logs back on at 7am, those that raid in a game 6 or even 7 days a week.

What Choice Did I Have?

Back in the day when I first started in MMOs, you had two choices, EverQuest, or Dark Age of Camelot pretty much was it for quality MMOs. Being unemployed I had A LOT of free time, and it became a way for me to escape the crap of my daily life. So I would spend 2 hours looking for a job, 8 to 10 hours in Darkness Falls or crushing  Hibs in Emain.  These days we have more choices with our MMOs , thus we may play a lot, but an hour here or an hour there.

Maybe We are Past the Golden Age?

Sometimes I hear grumblings we are past the golden age of MMOs. Maybe the love affair with the MMO is over, with so many AAA title like Star Wars not doing as well as planned I think there might be something to this. Now maybe the MMOs have to take their place with the other genres, and really work at retaining their customers. Then again now there is Free to Play, a player can come and go as they please without any economic effect.

EVE: The Last Bastion

I see the players in EVE, and marvel at their hard core abilities — or is it an illusion? Does it just look tough, and complex, or am I just not in the know of how things really are with that game? Is the death penalty as cruel as they make it seem, and do they really spend long hours working on their corporations, or whatever they call guilds in this game? I don’t know the truth of the matter, but it seems to me EVE players for the most part are pretty hardcore.

Time Waits For No Man

Well as I get older, and demand upon me and my generation become greater, with my friends having kids, and working more. Gone are the days of 6-7 day raiding, and spending as much time farming consumables. Long gone are taking part of a 16 hour AV, and being there for the whole 16 hours. What worries me is that as I lay my mantle down as a hardcore MMO gamer there will be no one to pick it up, and carry it forward to a new era, so if there was a dream of another Golden Age of MMO’s to be it might get lost, and all we will have left is CoD, and Modern Warfare clones.

P.S. Syp didn’t beg me, he put out a clarion call, and I humble took up his call. He graciously allowed me to do a post. Syp is a great guy, and if there was no Syp, I highly doubt there would be a River in the blogosphere.  Thanks Syp, and I hope everything works out building igloos at the North Pole, or whatever you’re doing.

20 thoughts on “Guest Post: The decline of hardcore

  1. Define golden age. Back when EQ and DAoC where where it was happening, they had like.. 100k Subscribers, combined?
    I remember when WoW launched and the devs where hoping for 500k subscribers, maybe even -gasp- a whole million. That quickly became 10 million, and number they still (barely) hold.

    Now the idea of hardcore gamers; I agree with your definition, and they are still there. You just aren’t. I was like you (although it was not unemployment, but a not very time-consuming bachelor-degree I was working on), I grew up, got a job, and my time playing games dwindled.

    My guess is, that so did your friends. And suddenly everyone you talk to, don’t play games 10-12 hours a day. Same with all those blogs you started up with and read.

    My bet is, that there are at least as many gamers throwing in those magic 10 hours of daily gaming into their favorite mmo, as there where when you and I could do the same. You just don’t hear about em, since the bubble has bust on mmo-sales, and now it is the Ipad games and kickstarter games that are the focus of everyone and their uncles.

  2. Asheron’s Call peaked around 120k, DAOC around 250k and Everquest had just under 500k subscribers in 2004. I believe Lineage had over a million (Wikipedia claims 3 million). That’s why Blizzard were hoping for those kinds of numbers at the time.

  3. It is very possible to fruitfully play Eve on 2 hour sessions. And the nights when I don’t have the time or desire to play, I spend a few minutes fiddling with market orders (my income source) and log off.

    To answer your questions: Eve has many complex systems. A common mantra that I say when explaining some part of Eve is, “Nothing in Eve is simple.” Think of playing Eve as the application of learning about it. You must want to understand Eve in order to play it.

    Death stings, but the loss is what makes the adrenalin flow. You won’t get the same rush from any other modern game. Losing ISK is not that big of a deal; losing the time it takes to replace the ship is a bigger hindrance for me. Logistics (moving stuff) is such a nightmare in Eve, but then whole gameplay options sprout because of it. I wish I could just Amazon one-click my ships and fittings and have them all delivered to me 😀

    Not sure what you mean by “working on corporations”. Find something you want to do, then find a like-minded corp to do it with. The corp should have clear goals, and everyone on the same page. If you aren’t having fun, then find a new corp. Plenty of things to do in Eve. There is no endgame; only the game.

  4. The narrow definition of “hardcore” is just…to narrow. A “hardcore gamer” isn’t measured by how long he or she has his or her ass in a chair. Do you think about gaming when doing something else? Do you blog about (and mostly/only about) gaming? Does your social network consist of a huge number of people who spend their days talking a lot about gaming? Do you play on PC, Mac, Xbox, PS3, Wii, DS, Vita AND smartphone?

    If you answer YES to ANY of those, you are hardcore. It’s not about how many hours you spend in a single game; it’s how devoted you are to the hobby as a whole.

  5. @River… You were great as “guy holding the door”. I have that poster on my wall. Very interesting post!

    @Scopique… I think you just defined my existence. Work (but thinking about lotro quests, stories, and deeds), family (that asks questions about lotro), then play. I don’t get to play “often” and usually get to log on when everyone else is asleep, but I do. I do forego sleep to play; I do maintain my blog indicating I think about gaming even more than I game. So, my hobby has a hobby. Am I hardcore? 😀

  6. @ Scop – I know there’s hardcore “gamers” out there, hell the legions and legions who play CoD or MW, , but I’m talking the old DAOC’er hard core people that got up at 3am to raid a relic keep, or the WoW’ers you raided 40 man MC/BWL 6 days a week, and farmed mats the 7th.

    I’m talking the hardcore gamers who specialize in that one MMO they love.

  7. Hardcore is something completely different now than when EQ or Ultima Online hit. Hardcore is different because MMO’s are, for lack of a better word, easier. Developers want everyone to play, not just those who have no life, but people who work, Moms, Grandfathers and gamers. They make the game more accessible because they want a larger population. More players means more revenue for them. Before I’m sure they were happy with a couple 1,000 or so people playing. But now, if your not reaching a million plus after your first 30days, your screwed as an MMO. Its all about keeping people playing and if that means making the game, “Easy” and less hardcore then that is what they will do. No more waiting around for 12hrs for a spawn, we’ll have that mob up in 2minutes or less. Want to do a dungeon, no need to wait for that anymore, you can do it with less people and we’ll provide a dungeon finder so like minded players can do it together. Its all about the seduction now. Your not there to work hard, your their to have fun.. which is why people keep going back.

    I will agree the Golden age of MMOs is gone. Your not going to find a Triple A title that’s brutally hardcore, but you might find smaller independent games, like EVE who thrive on the Hardcore gamer and maybe they can bring back Hardcore to what it use to be if only on a smaller scale. Doubtful. Thanks to Blizzard, easy is what the masses want now. They aren’t interested in spending hours doing a dungeon, they want to do it in minutes. I don’t think your going to reverse time on this issue, not anytime soon.

  8. I say Pfft to the golden age being over. The days of daoc and everquest were the birth of the genre (aware of earlier models and miss,I mean birth in the mainstream) with new people finding out about it and its voice spreading through population.

    Vanilla wow was definitely a big part of the mmo boom but I would hardly say it invokes a golden age. It brought many to the genre and introduced it to the masses. It made it far more accesible and developed some great community ties…golden age though, I say nah.

    I think we have yet to see the golden age but it seems like to me it is slowly showing its shiny dragon horns (not a reference to gw2). The breadth of available options in the market right now from playstyles to payment models and developer focus is outstanding. And it seems to be diversifying more and more each year.
    Just look at the up and coming mmo’s from big developers and small, those in kickstarter or alpha funding. Even if you you discount a half that in all probability will not become, it is still cause for elation. I see more ambitious projects, systems, and mechanics, a greater range of playatles being accounted for, more options, greater community engagement and a far more communication occuring between developer and player.
    I see no reason to be pessimistic or attributing the rise with the genres’ only success, greater things are destined and seem only on the horizon
    Or just forget this rant from an overly optimistic fool

  9. “Are there less hardcore MMO Gamers now then say 10 years ago”.

    Do you really mean “less hardcore”? MMO Gamers that are less hardcore now than they were 10 years ago? The answer to that is a resounding “yes”. The propensity is for gamers to become less hardcore over time, rather than more hardcore – certainly over a 10-year period that potentially sees them move from students with bucketloads of time on their hands to busy parents of the future generation of hardcore MMO gamers.

    If you meant “Are there fewer hardcore MMO Gamers now than say 10 years ago”, I would say that the answer is a definite “no”. Although each hardcore gamer becomes less hardcore over time, they are replaced at the hardcore table by new hardcore players. While the genre is growing, there are more new hardcore gamers joining the hardcore table than old hardcore players slipping away from it.

    That growth in hardcore numbers is hidden, however, by a growth in casual players at the same time. Some new players will always be casual. Imagine that some game started with 100 hardcore gamers. Imagine it grew so fast that after a year there were 1000 new players. Let’s say 50% of these are hardcore gamers and 50% are casual, and 50% of the original hardcore players burned out and started playing casually. Now the playerbase has gone from 100% hardcore to 50% hardcore, and yet the number of hardcore players has gone from 100 to 550. Given that there are many more players now than there were 10 years ago, it is likely that the number of hardcore players has also risen over that period, even if their percentage of the player base has declined.

  10. Great post sir. Just in my opinion. Age is only a small factor. The reason that you saw “less”hardcore gamers because we have so many choices . ( or may be too many)

    In Asia ( South Korea , China , Thailand) you will see numerous teenagers spend 10 hours a day with MMO in internet cafe. Some of them even sleep there and wake up to continue playing.

    Great blog here by the way. 😀

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