One thing we forget

When people like to work themselves up in a tizzy talking about how MMOs are dying or whatever (despite objective, observable evidence to the contrary), one thing that’s sometimes mentioned is how there are only “so many” MMO players and every game released tries to grab from that same pool.

I don’t know where we got this notion that there’s a hard ceiling on the number of potential/present MMO players.  I’d love to see the math on that, but anyway, one thing that I never see mentioned is how this supposedly fixed potential pool of MMO gamers stays the same, year in and out.  That doesn’t make sense to me.  Every year, more kids move up in age and can become gamers.  We have had a constant influx of new players over the lifetime of the genre, not just one fixed group that was playing back in 2004 and hasn’t changed since.

I guess it’s a perspective thing.  We see the MMO community as copies of us — what we’ve done, where we’ve been, what we’ve experienced.  And that isn’t the case at all.  There are baby new gamers right now alongside grizzled old vets who have been playing since MUD1 came out.  Some players were forged in the fires of WoW, some in RuneScape or Elder Scrolls Online.  We’re an incredibly diverse group that has a diverse history with online gaming, and people are coming and going all of the time.


8 thoughts on “One thing we forget

  1. Pasduil August 11, 2014 / 11:31 am

    I wasn’t an MMO player at all this time three years ago.

    And I’m no kid who moved up into some theoretical age-bracket for starting either.

  2. Rowan August 11, 2014 / 12:31 pm

    Yep. I barely played video games before a friend *insisted* that I try WoW in June of 2006. I was 34.

  3. Tanek August 11, 2014 / 12:52 pm

    Same here. I don’t think I’d played anything other than Myst or Lemmings before I was pulled into WoW by coworkers after The Burning Crusade launched. And I know plenty of new gamers who started with LOTRO or Guild Wars.

    Another problem I see with the “every MMO is pulling from the same pool” part is that it does not account for diversity. While many of them do try to cast a wide net, we are at a point where the term MMO or even MMORPG is not enough to describe a game or who will enjoy it. Which I think is good. WoW’s subscriber numbers have been amazing and there is no question it brought in many new gamers, but spreading those numbers out over a variety of games could help make a better landscape to draw in even more.

  4. Azuriel August 11, 2014 / 1:32 pm

    While it’s true that the total pool of MMO players is constantly churning (new players in, old players out), it’s also true that the pool itself has gotten A LOT smaller over the years. And that’s from two entirely different metrics:’s total active subscribers and SuperData Research’s total market revenue numbers. So while games like SWTOR might bring in completely new players based on IP or game style, for the most part the average MMO is indeed fighting over the same group of gamers willing to play MMOs in the first place.

    Contrary to other bloggers though, I do not attribute this decline to anything MMOs are “doing wrong.” Rather, it seems clear to me that other games (and social media) are supplanting the things people wanted to do in the first place, but which was only satisfied by MMOs.

  5. Syp August 11, 2014 / 2:21 pm

    I would not be so quick to rely on those data sources at all; both of those are suspect at best. What we do see is an industry that continues to expand, with more games releasing than being shut down, and major studios continuing to throw money into these ventures than shying away from them.

  6. Sylow August 11, 2014 / 5:54 pm

    Hmm. I come from and even sometimes still play a MUD. Guess i am really the odd one here. 😀

  7. Tanek August 11, 2014 / 8:16 pm

    Sylow: If we aren’t ALL the odd ones here, we aren’t trying hard enough. 😛

  8. saucelah August 12, 2014 / 8:04 am

    Fixed pool, no. But finite pool, yes. It’s logically necessary. Of course, this concept is usually brought up when someone is concerned about the pool of players being spread across too many games.

    Personally, I think growth is possible and the pool can still be spread across too many games for them all to survive.

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