I mentioned in a recent post that I'd been looking to purchase a new video game, and decided to wait for some titles because of the social effects of playing them – how I could share them, be part of a launch phenomena, etc. This let me to further speculate on games with specific social aspects – namely, MMOs.
To put it bluntly, I think in today's age, MMO's are poised to do not only good, but better than they have. I suspect as time goes on they will expand their hold on the market and onto multiple devices.
My recent speculations on originality, media, and the social aspects led me to the following conclusions:
MMO's Win For Socialization In Two Ways. MMOs provide the social fix people want because they are inherently social and have social tools. However as many of them become phenomena of their own (such as, of course, World of Warcraft), playing them also confers the "being part of something" experience we humans crave.
MMO's Have Endurance. An MMO acquires content over time, and if well run, slowly becomes a gigantic mass of content people can enjoy (even when occasionally the company pulls a Cataclysm and breaks a bunch of it). Even some small MMO's launch with a large amount of content and some (like LEGO Universe) not only add content they even allow people to create their own.
MMO's Have Persistence. When I finish a game and am done, it's over. MMO's focus on persistent characters, equipment, and achievements, and what you have in the game endures – and as the game expands, you can re-enjoy and re-use what you have. MMOs last.
MMO's Have Playthrough. Most MMO's can be replayed with various factions, characters, etc., which increases deployability – and plays on all the other advantages.
MMO's Have Math. $50-$60 to start. Free to $15 or so a month. In one year that's $230 dollars max, about 4-5 games. That's not an unusually high budget for a dedicated gamer, and with all the content and advantages one gets, quite a good deal.
Ultimately, MMO's are a good bargain (and play on the social aspects I've been harping on for weeks), so I see their success is not only assured, but will grow. I would not be surprised in the next decade to hear discussion of MMO's largely center around the idea that any person who games has at least tried one.
Now with that being said, MMO's still have to take advantage of the market to make sure these values get to other people. And that . . . is for an upcoming column.