MMO’s Don’t Work Where?

MMO’s Don’t Work Where?
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Stop. Just stop playing that MMO you’re having fun with. I don’t care if it is Guild Wars 2, EVE Online, or even Lord of the Rings Online. Because They Don’t work, at least according to Strauss Zelnick, Chairman of Take-Two Interactive, who claimed that MMO’s really shouldn’t be a focus in the US Market:

“We’re actively investing in online and MMOs, we’re just not doing it in the U.S.” Zelnick said at the Cowen and Company Technology, Media and Telecom Conference today. “MMOs don’t work here. A couple of our competitors have found out that through very, very expensive lessons. One of our competitors just recently announced they’re restarting an MMO project.”

To support his argument, Zelnick asked, “How many MMOs have been successful in the U.S.? Two. World of Warcraft and EverQuest. Kind of a bad slugging percentage.”

Now, to Zelnicks credit, when we have this kind of discussion, the word “successful” probably should be defined; success exists on a sliding scale.How much money does an MMO need to make before it is successful? How many subscribers should be active? How long should it be in play? It’s an excellent question to ask, but I can’t help feeling that Zelnick’s definition of Successful isn’t exactly a valid one for this conversation. 

I’ll use the most obvious example: he’s neglected to mention EVE Online. Sure, EVE Online might be a special case in the realm of MMO’s, having its own unique draw and fanbase, but its a subscription paying fanbase. EVE Online has done quite financially and CCP has even expanded into the console realm with Dust 514, which could easily be considered an expansion of EVE Online. 

EVE has also stood the test of time, having recently celebrated  a 10 year anniversary. Finally, EVE also has nearly 32,000 active logged in players; No where near the levels of World of Warcraft, but still a sizable collection of players. 

The Number of Active Players In EVE since 2006

We almost always ask the question “What Makes a Successful MMO?” when a game is in development; we want to see it succeed. Yet, the question gets asked rarely seems to get asked after an MMO has launched. We seem not to define success, and merely wait until a game is pulled from the market, shut down or languishing in purgatory to finally say the game was a flop. Instead of (correctly) shouting that Zelnick was wrong, perhaps we should, as a community determine what qualifies an MMO as successful or not. 

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Editor-in-Chief of With a soft spot for epics, sagas and tales of all types, Jacob approaches games as ways to tell stories. He's particularly interested in indie games because of the freedom they have to tell different stories, often in more interesting and innovative ways than Triple A titles.