Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
2.3 MMOs
These types of games led the way for the modern MMO (Massively Multiplayer
Online) juggernauts like World of Warcraft ( Wo W ) or ZT Online , which have
attained such a huge number of users and such a powerful gravitational pull
that they are, in effect, their own social networks. These MMOs, the majority
of which are largely RPG (role-playing game) third-person games that explore
traditional sword and sorcery themes, are played almost exclusively on the
PC. They require an Internet connection at all times, and the game simulation
code runs on a collection of game world servers hosted by the development or
publishing company that created the game. Some of these games have been
extremely successful, though a dozen or more have also floundered on rocky
shores that are hard to navigate. Modern MMOs tend to be extremely expensive
to build; they can easily cost upwards of $80 million just to build a product that
can even begin to compete against the best-of-class games in this sector. (And
those that are trying to truly take market share from Wo W can end up costing
several times more than that to create and market.) Many social features tend
to be built into games like this. For example, users can typically message one
another using in-game client mail, can chat in real time, can form clans and
guilds and other types of social organizations, and so on.
These types of games achieved great success by effectively creating a large
number of features that make them end up acting a bit like social networks
themselves. This proposition is a tempting one for many developers, as it
allows the developer or publisher a great deal of control over the users and the
revenue from the product.
Although it is possible to create a social infrastructure inside your game
itself that serves the same function as being tied into a traditional social net-
work, it is challenging. First, you need to have a number of users sufficient to
create a “network” in the first place. It takes more than a few hundred thou-
sand players to create an ecosystem. This networking is possible if you have
a marketing budget sufficient to raise awareness about your game. Otherwise,
you run the risk of throwing a party that no one attends; an empty MMO dies a
sad, speedy death, as many have learned over the last decade.
Second, your ability to attract those who aren't initially interested in your prod-
uct is limited. Like waiters on a slow day, standing outside a restaurant holding
menus, true social networks can lure in the uninitiated with various types of infec-
tious ways of spreading the message. But enticing a novice gamer to try a stand-
alone MMO like World of Warcraft takes a significant amount of energy; without
the surrounding social network, these are no passersby for the waiters to appeal to,
and MMO publishers are forced to spend heavily to raise awareness through tra-
ditional advertising. And even once users hear of the game, before they can try it
out they are asked to invest a significant amount of time and attention to learning
about and procuring the software itself. There is a barrier to entry that keeps these
sorts of games from being accessible to a true mass market.
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