Beyond the MMO

Last week I mentioned the Dragonball Z MMO trailer (along with my shock that the game interested me), and on our podcast, Bonnie speculated that other owners of anime properties may be watching to see how it does before deciding to try one on their own.

This got me thinking.  Of course that's not unusual for me, but still.

What it got me thinking is just how many companies can and will try to do MMOs out of their existing properties?  How many of them are watching the Star Trek Online game, the DBZ game, etc. to see if it might be worth the leap.

Certainly there's many properties I know people would be glad to see as MMOs.  I've heard the idea of a Naruto or Bleach game floated many times (though they'd probably have to be developed more like superhero games).  There are even game settings that would probably be appealing as MMOs – I could see a Sonic one (hey, Sega will try anything), and I'm pretty sure a Pokemon MMO could dominate the world.

There's lots of properties out there.  So as opposed to asking if people will try to develop them (since I'm still chewing over that possibility, and believe companies are watching the current economy carefully), I wanted to ask what would happen IF developing an MMO for an existing property became something a lot of companies would try.

THE MARKET: World of Warcraft rules everything, but WoW is not for everyone, and not everyone wants fantasy.  In addition, comptuer users and gamers are expanding in number, and diversifying in their demographics.  I think there's room for MMOs – especially branded ones and more casual/social ones.  However companies would have to do good research and some would butt up against each other.

A FEW (MORE) BIG NAMES: WoW may rule much, and I'd be pretty sure that if there was an MMO rush, a few properties would start dominating some markets.

THE TIME FACTOR: Games in an MMO-heavy world would have to rely either on loyalty (to keep players involved and bringing in the cash), or be easy enought to play, people would play them casually (thus ensuring perhaps less play time but more players).  People's timne is a commodity you can't really make more of.

SOME BIG FALLS: A few big projects would doubtlessly fall flat on their face.  For instance, I think a Bleach MMO probably would only appeal to the fans and thus limit the market (a Naruto game, say, set a hundred years later, could also make it as "default crazy Ninja MMO" to the general public).  I'd also note the Star Trek Online game is a big risk in that, if it is not done right, it would be a massive humiliation to all involved.

MMO COMMON CODE AND COMPANIES: Smart companies would jump on an increasing MMO trend and start producing common code, tools, and soforth to make MMOs quicker to develop or quicker for them to develop.  I could easily see more companies who specialize in MMOs and MMO tools – especially onces that are casual or semi-casual games that companies want to get to market quickly.

BEYOND THE COMPUTER: There are some console MMOs, but to really reach everyone, companies doing MMOs would need to consider the console market to maximize audience (and possibly cut delivery costs along with using DLC on PCs as well).  Reach is important.

So if we enter an "MMO for all world" I can see a lot of market battles and research, where a few companies vie for top positions, and many others find powerful niches to work in. Meanwhile there's more development work for specific studios and tool companies, who will specialize.

For progeeks, well, thats just a lot more opportunities for us if this happens.  Code will need to be written, environments design, marketing research done, etc.  If an "MMOs for all" age hits us, being on top of it could be very good for you.

What are your thoughts?

– Steven Savage