Is the MMO industry at large conditioning us to be impatient gamers? Yes and no, I believe.
One of the things you sometimes hear from long-time MMO vets is this desire to express just how different things used to be. There are many factors to that, but one that I was thinking of is that the genre used to cater far more to very patient gamers — not due to any masterminded plan, but out of necessity. In fact, all of gaming used to slant this way due to the technology and whatnot.
It makes me think of how it used to be with television. Viewers would only get a handful of stations, if that, and they were slaves to the scheduling. They had to wait for their show to air, wait for next week’s episode, wait wait wait. They had to sit through commercials (or change the channel). But then technology started to put the power in the hands of the viewers: remote controls, VCRs, cable stations, DVRs, Netflix, Hulu. Now we have an unimaginable amount of entertainment at our fingertips on instant demand, and we simply don’t have to wait much anymore. It makes us impatient when something happens to make us wait, because we’ve become used to — or conditioned to — not handle that.
So it is with MMOs. When there were just a handful of sub-based games, you had to be patient. Updates came out gradually, games took dedication to understand and get into, other games came out once in a blue moon, fights took forever, progression took forever, etc. Then it shifted much like TV: Games shifted to become more casual friendly, alternative business models (all the F2P variants) arose, titles started releasing exponentially, and so on. Is it any surprise we’ve become impatient? Why some players don’t wait to fully play a game to judge it? Why we hop around like mad?
Granted, in both the case of TV and MMOs, I am not wistful for the olden days. I don’t want to go back. I dislike impatience, both in myself and in others, but I also really appreciate options, choices, and an entertainment venue that conforms to my play needs and schedule instead of the other way around. If I was a working dad of three kids in 2001, I do not think I’d have any ability to play MMOs at all. Now I can — and stay under budget. Today I have choices so that I don’t just delve fully into one title and either burn out or have it consume me.
Yet I still am not a fan of the rampant impatience — coupled with entitlement and temper tantrums — that this environment produces. I wish we’d be much more willing to give MMOs a fair shake and a second chance down the road instead of barely tasting them before pronouncing them unfit for our royal palate. Some days I wonder if we’re going to get to a point where we’ll start to swing back in the direction of where it all began.
Perhaps that might happen if the industry “crashes” and titles start going extinct by the scores, leaving us with just a few survivors. I don’t see that happening at all, but it’s a possibility. Or perhaps we’ll get so sick of the crowded field that we’ll just hunker down and stop trying out new titles altogether. Or perhaps MMO studios will come up with ways to encourage customer loyalty and satisfaction on a level that will make us never want to leave. I don’t know.
I just don’t want to be impatient. Good things come to those who wait, after all.