I was just reading Darren’s fun rant about the hype surrounding Tabula Rasa. This autumn has been interesting in its lack of interesting things happening. I was offline for a goodly few weeks while I moved and got settled and apparently I missed nothing.
Not entirely nothing, but in retrospect the continuation of an alarming trend– game delays, cancellations and industry consolidation. Almost seems like the U.S. sub-prime mortgage meltdown has slopped into the MMO space. Warhammer and Conan delayed and continuing to slip, TR sort of being delayed or repackaged as something other than an MMO (or should I say less?). Alarmingly, Perpetual ate its first born, Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising to save its powder for the ever-cursed Star Trek MMO.
This year has really seen only Vanguard and LotRO released so far. I’m not sure I can count TR as either an MMO or released– maybe its been released for “press”… Pirates of the Burning Sea says it will be out in January 2008 (and kudos to Rusty for being honest and direct about its evolution, status and progress to date), but I wonder whether the money that has rushed into the MMO space and fostered the many highly and eagerly anticipated projects might be getting a little squeamish…
Are they afraid that anything less than Better Than WoW(tm) will be considered a failure? Do they think its even possible? Did WoW suck all the air out of the room such that for all the millions of “non-MMO gamer” types that made its success possible there simply is no “me too” game that would garner the same kind of attention that WoW was able to exploit initially and even now finds hard to recapture? I wonder.
With the repositioning of Tabula Rasa and the frequent and digestible releases of popcorn games like Mythos, Dungeon Runner and myriad others, will anyone actually try to make money in the true MMO world? Have we all witnessed the high water mark of the genre with WoW circa 2006? Are Raph and Linden and HL Mencken right? Will the next “game” world be more about targeted advertising and social networking than creating a living breathing other place?
As I sit in the autumn game doldrums looking forward to nothing in the immediate future, I wonder whether we’ll see anything like what we’ve seen in recent years. Even WoW, with TBC and presumably with WotLK look like not enough new wine in old bottles. What will fans and backers of other games say if a game like Conan or Warhammer goes the way of Gods and Heroes or worse, Vanguard? Can Bethesda save us? Will they be allowed to or will the console calculus of immediate gratification sweep the hubris of those pushing the Next Big MMO aside?
With bigger money playing the game, I wonder if anyone will really be developing MMOs anymore. Food for thought for Monday morning.