After a certain point (arguably after/at WotLK), the expansions released for WoW became redundant, in certain aspects asinine, and quickened the stagnation of a great MMO. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but what we have seen with WoW is not a cursory mistake but fundamental flaws in design, modeling and ultimately marketing. Allow me to explain:
>Neglect of essential game experience
Transmog, guild perks, pets, UI updates, talent updates, better character models, zone improvements, even the barber shop, new battlegrounds etc.
These features alone would have added years to WoW’s sustainability if they were included in the early stages of the game’s lifetime.
The community had been calling for such improvements long before many of the xpacs were even announced. The cosmetic additions ALONE add a whole new dimension to the game experience by a more intimate player customization.
Neglecting to improve the game based on the approach of “quality” – deepening the standard, immersive game experience and refining extant mechanics – and not “quantity” – piling on features which were often overdue, introducing new copies of the same thing and adding pointless gimmicks – was a major misstep that unfortunately has become endemic to the entire genre. We see skillfully made zones that have been completely deserted for the latest expansion content and the only reason why you’d pass through outland or northrend is to either level up (which has been broken considerably with the level caps) or to complete the requirements for call of duty tier achievements. Now MMOs of all kinds seeing WoW’s success release shiny xpac after xpac, following its example, hoping to breathe new life into a game that was at its core unsustainable to begin with.
>As a business model
World of Warcraft is a simulacrum or a microcosm of corporate behavior.
The way to describe the business model of corportism is that of a cancer cell. Expand, expand, expand. Expand endlessly without ever strengthening the source of such expansion and it’s capability to uphold the demands of such expansion. Expansion until the elements that were meant to be emphasized BY WAY OF such expansion, are swallowed up. This is where points made in the first part of the post come in; the idea of quality over quantity. The game would have required very little oversight from the devs apart from technical maintenance if the depth of the game was focused on first and crucial game mechanics were not tacked onto others, but augmented. Intentional or no, Blizzard withheld WoW’s best features and introduced its worst features UNTIL the expansions were released to the public. It was mandatory for players to wait until the next big xpac for the game to “finally be fixed.” This was an effective selling/marketing ploy, but lacked ultimate sustainability.
What is sustainability in an MMO? This question leads me to my final point:
>Failure to adhere to the MMO principle
An MMO is a “massively MULTIPLAYER” online game. It is a multiplayer game first and foremost, and a multiplayer game is defined by the interaction between PLAYERS. The players are those who define the game and give it its meaning; the game is but a medium for the interpersonal adventure.
Recent history has shown that the greatest MMOs are the ones that let the players create their own content WITHIN the game, using the game’s environment. It is the communal, social part of MMOs that we are so in love with.
Games like Star Wars: Galaxies, City of Heroes, Shadowbane all had a strong emphasis on player created adventures within a game-space that encouraged them to get together and fuck around. That is not to say that PvE heavy games are not sustainable. PvE content is perfectly adjustable to the focus of an MMO; the important thing however is to not let it undermine the social dimension of the game.
For example, the decrease in player communication in WoW is a result of features like Garrisons, the LFG/PUG feature, the obsolescence of Meeting Stones, the hand-holding of quests, etc. In addition to undermining the social aspect of PvE, social PvP was also greatly disrupted with cross-server battlegrounds, elite guards that do not stop respawning in small outposts and contested zones, etc. It is now possible (read: encouraged) for players to go through the entire game with the bare minimum of social interaction.
Why would they need anything else? The game has already provided them with everything needed to create their own “speshul snowflake” game experience. Players are sequestered from each other, classes are homogenized, and the game has effectively become an online single player.
This is the kiss of death. This is also why I have no faith in any MMO, released or upcoming. The picture painted here is quite simple. Big name publishers and developers must be bold and willing to demonstrate initiative in order to break the current MMO mold. Until a game is created with the MMO principle in mind, there can be no end to this ride.
By the logic of your initial argument, FFXIV:ARR is a MMO supreme that has correctly handled the issues you describe (important features by the bucketload, huge content updates at high frequency)
It falls very short on your last comment on social interaction (could be considered the worst for its inclusion of console players without keyboards) but you cannot claim MMOs as a genre are dead/dying if some of them have already(!) addressed your concerns
I never said it was a dying genre, my point was that it is a genre constrained by limiting models. There is much money to be made in the genre, but the games produced are essentially copies of games like Everquest, WoW, etc.
Perhaps the definition of "dying" is a bit vague, but you are either asserting that the current MMO model is not successful on a creative level or business level
Disregarding the latter (successful MMOs generate mad dosh), why is the current themepark MMO model doomed? I see "themepark" being used a derisory remark about these games, but the same people would not express derision towards Mario for always running to the right. Why is this popular standard a bad thing?
Check out FFXIV, the subscriber base is steadily increasing despite little to no marketing (a similar situation to WoW's launch if I recall)
I have been playing MMOs since Ultima Online and I am certain that the key aspect to their success is refining on past successes. UO/EQ, then WoW, now FFXIV and beyond