I was just reading Keens thoughts on why he won’t be lasting more than two months in SWTOR.
He’s repeated a few things as to why I didn’t end up buying the game myself. I had two big problems of course, limited time and budget, that made me critically evaluate whether I’d play or not. A couple of years ago earning around 100K a year it would have been a no-brainer. Dropping over a hundred on a game (the initial purchase and a couple of months of subscription) wasn’t a matter of wallet.
But overall, I knew that if I got SWTOR it wasn’t going to be a long term proposition for me. Buying a single player RPG is one thing, you don’t have to play it every day to get your moneys worth. A sub based MMO on the other hand kind of demands time spent. And unfortunately SWTOR is very single player oriented. Don’t get me wrong, Bioware have come up with some interesting mechanics to allow players to cooperate and not spoil their own character plans. (Selection and assignment of dark/light side points while in groups is a case in point.) But SWTOR never felt that much massively multiplayer to me.
But that isn’t where I want to go with this post. I digressed.
At the end of his post, Keen asks
Can this really count as a MMORPG if it only lasts a month?
That’s a really interesting question.
I think the obvious answer, at least to me, is yes. MMORPG stands, as we all know, for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. We don’t call them Massively Multiplayer Online Long Term Role Playing Games. Players don’t sign up for two year plans that prevent them from changing ‘providers.’ How long it takes a player to complete the game is irrelevant. As long as he or she enjoys it.
If the game allows dozens or hundreds of players in an online world to be in the game at the same time, and that there is an element of persistence, then the MMO acronym is deserved. RPG on the other hand, well, we do over use that term a bit these days, but the premise still holds. Having lots of players on at the same time in your online RPG makes it a MMORPG.
I think the more interesting question is can a MMORPG be profitable if it only lasts a month?
The usual way things work is that a when a game is released it sells well for a while, and then as new games enter the market, sales of the older ones drop away. Developers and publishers often continue to support these games, fixing bugs and patches and providing forum support for a while, but there is often no new content unless the game is designed for DLC. (I’m not counting sequels.) The most profitable period for the game is right after release. If the publisher gets the development costs and marketing mix right they can make a lot of money.
Can a MMORPG do the same?