Man Shall Not Live By Pizza Alone

Wilhelm has a post up at TAGN where he makes the following observation:

MMOs have become pizza.  They vary a bit from vendor to vendor. You might not like the ingredients from one, and another might not keep their place very clean.  But they are all round and share about the same set of toppings and what not.  And if you like pizza, you will probably find a place that suits you.

Pizza

The purpose of Wilhelms post is to share his past ideas about Pizza, err, MMOs; but tangentially my brain works. And it provides a nice little stepping point for an idea that’s been circulating around that confused maze of neural pathways that is my head for a little while now.

I like Pizza. Quite a lot actually. A good pizza is something to behold, and it’s probably one of the most popular takeaways/deliveries here in Australia and has been for years.

But, I don’t want Pizza every night. I like variety. I love Indian food too. Add to that Thai, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Sushi, BBQ Chicken & Chips, and all sorts of cuisines. I have wide tastes in nearly everything. But I find if I indulge in anything too much I get sick of it, and sometimes simply can’t stand the thought of it anymore. That’s only temporary of course, and I find myself coming back and ordering Pizza again, but usually months later.

So, what’s the point of all this? As Wilhelm says, MMORPGs these days are Pizza. Nearly every MMORPG running today operates off the same principles, and has the same features.

It kind of reminds me when I was growing up. Adelaide during the 70’s and early 80’s didn’t have much variety in fast food. There were the Pizza places, Chinese restaurants were popular, and the standard fast food joints (fish and chip shops that specialized in fried food, and some Yiros places.) It wasn’t until the mid to late 80’s that we started to see the cafe culture arise, and other styles of food become popular enough to support a restaurant culture. We’re still slow. Up until a couple of years ago, there were only a few sushi places around, but now they’re popping up everywhere.

The MMORPG scene started off at the opposite end of the spectrum. Every early MMORPG was different. Sure the basic principles were the same, but look at games like UO, Asheron’s Call, Everquest, Anarchy Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Star Wars: Galaxies… Same principles, but different games, different styles.

Look at what is popular now. Everquest 2, World of Warcraft, Rift, Guild Wars 2. Same principles, yes, but mostly the same features, same styles, almost the same games. There are some outliers here, I think the Secret World is one of those. It’s style and progression system are different, but the game itself doesn’t vary that much from what has come before.

So here we are. The MMORPG genre has homogenized into a collection of games that are essentially variations of World of Warcraft. Rather than each of the early MMO games branching out and developing their own sub-genres, they instead merged, publishers and developers driven by desire to emulate the massive success of World of Warcraft; but none of them near as successful. Simply because, to stretch the analogy, WoW is still the most popular Pizza place, despite reaching for the lowest common denominator to gain the biggest possible market share. Don’t forget Pizza Hut and Dominoes make terrible pizza, but they’re still extremely popular.

Another thing Wilhelm noted was that there aren’t any MMORPGs scheduled for release, or update this year. Too be honest, I haven’t been following the up and comers, but I don’t remember the last time a year went by without at least one major release. Is the MMO bubble bursting? Are developers finally realizing that there are too many Pizza places now in the market?

I do hope so. I’m sick of Pizza. I’m in the mood for Mexican.