There’s one stretch of time that I loathe for any new MMO (or red-hot expansion), which is the period of time between two and four months following release. Up until then, it’s been a hoot: tons of excitement and anticipation for launch, the big event of launch day, the honeymoon period, and the exploration of the game’s content.
But then when an MMO gets to be just old enough to lose that honeymoon luster but not old enough to really be established, it goes through a rocky period. I observed this with both ESO and WildStar, cases that were exacerbated by the increased pressure of a subscription hanging overhead.
During this period, you get some of the backlash. People have figured out if they like the game or not, if they’ve planted roots or not. Those who leave do so vocally and usually with many others. Those who had overly high expectations are now confronted with reality and have to make that choice. And it’s pretty easy to get the impression that this is a mass exodus, that everyone’s leaving, and that the game is failing.
Of course, this isn’t the case. I know people still playing and loving ESO. I’m still playing and greatly enjoying WildStar, as is my guild. It’s just a fact of life that more people go into a new MMO than will be wanting to play it for the long haul.
The good news is that after this somewhat depressing period, a new era emerges that’s by far my favorite because it is more stable and peaceful. That’s when the game gets its legs, figures out if the business model is working, focuses on much-needed content, and the community has settled down.
To co-opt the Gartner hype cycle (blue are my additions):
Sometimes it’s more fun to go back to an MMO that’s been out for a while because there’s so little drama involved with playing it or leaving it. It’s not the hot newness, it’s just a game that has (probably) gotten better over time. And there is certainly no rule nor law that says that once you play and leave an MMO, you can never return. I think the community returns more often than you’d think, just without grand statements or worrisome discussions.