I’m generally a pretty positive person. Maybe sometimes a realist, but more often than not I’m a sparkly unicorn of rainbow optimism. Which makes the recent game depression – for lack of a better term – that I’ve been going through so strange.
I think it’s a combination of several things. It kicked off when Sony announced that they were selling SOE, which then became the dubiously-named
Gamebreak Daybreak Games, with the promise that it would be “business as usual”. Then came the layoffs, the changes, breaking away from Storybricks and the subsequent closure of Storybricks. Even Storybricks themselves communicated that if they had been successful in their purchase of SOE, they would have made deep cuts. While I’ve never been overly attached to SOE or the EverQuest franchise, it’s still a cornerstone of the industry and seeing it go through this is like watching Michael Jordan crash and burn on a basketball court.
Then came the revelations of a former Turbine dev regarding the development of LotRO. LotRO has been in a slow downward spiral for several years now, although in the past Turbine has tried to spin PR otherwise with little success. Still, hearing the stories of the behind-the-scenes of a game that I’ve been playing for years – the lost money, the dead projects, the poor decisions of executive management – it feels like it’s a miracle that it has made it this long. It’s still alive due to the sheer tenacity of certain developers, the best IP and lore you could ask for, and a dedicated, passionate, award-winning community, which was nearly decimated by the ineptitude of a former community manager.
Elder Scrolls Online, Archeage, & Wildstar all were less successful than anticipated. RIFT & The Secret World are still chugging along quietly – almost too quietly. World of Warcraft, the elephant in the room, had a gangbusters start to their latest expansion but has had questionable decisions since (selfie camera? really?). Guild Wars 2 is the one bright spot, with an expansion coming out in the near future. As far as AAA-level MMOs coming up – I don’t see any out there. There are indeed some smaller and indie-level MMOs in the works, but this is the first time in a very long time that there hasn’t been a “new hotness” coming out. This may not be a bad thing – the market is more than saturated already, with too many engorged albatrosses lumbering along with cash shops hanging around their necks.
Lest this be seen as unbridled criticism and despondency, let me clarify that it’s not. The developers, artists, production teams, community managers of our favorite MMOs are passionate people that pour their heart and soul into these games. Sometimes missteps are made, but it’s usually on the part of executive management – releasing games and patches too early or incomplete, making decisions based on what will give the fastest infusion of cash rather than on what is best for the game, putting in systems that are completely unnecessary or unwanted by the playerbase… all of which are sure recipes for disaster. The developers are trying their best to hit deadlines and trying to conjure magical experiences for us. But as Fredelas tweeted the other day:
As gamers, we all have Dorothy moments when studio curtains are pulled back and we find it run on wires and levers by mortals, not wizards.
I’m having that Dorothy moment. I’ve loved my time in LotRO, but now I wonder if it’s worth continuing to play – I see the age, the mistakes, the current state of the game and it smells like an injured gazelle on the Serengeti. The doubts cloud my mind but I’m contributing to the problem if I don’t play. Even if I try playing a newer, stronger contender, like Guild Wars 2, I feel guilty for not playing LotRO.
WTB a pair of ruby slippers, please.