Just this throw-away line on Terra Nova got me thinking, possibly in the wake of my last (ages ago) post on here (see below). There is definitely a shift in the MMO marketplace but I am not sure it is all doom and gloom.
Pathfinder Online is aiming for a bout 30k subscribers. Not a huge number, when you consider the likes of WoW and Guildwars 2 and such. The game is designed with a dedicated and engaged core audience in mind and as such it is a complicated game with a fairly high barrier to entry. This is not true of the much more densely populated games I mention above. MMOs used to ALL have a fairly high barrier to entry – even WoW – with its painfully slow XP curve and class/race imbalance. As ‘casual’ gaming becomes a much more profitable exercise and casual gamers multiply it makes perfect sense that the most populist MMOs become more ‘casual’ in nature. They are easy to get into, require less dedicated time, and provide features around their core gameplay that resemble the drop-in-drop-out nature of casual gaming.
I think this is great. I recently got back into LoL and I love the casual but social nature of that game (toxic atmosphere aside). Providing a more casual level of engagement is I think going to be critical to most community or socially based games, even those with a complex ‘hardcore’ backbone like PFO. A world must feel populated, and turning away players who only want to log in 4 hours a week seems unnecessary. There are a number of features in PFO that are slated to provide more casual type gameplay and I personally am really excited about what they will do to the game. Although there is some pushback from the more hardcore fans on the forums who dont want ‘casual players clogging up their world’ I suspect that in fact that is EXACTLY what they want – they just haven’t seen how it plays out yet.