A topic that came up in last week’s TWIMMO (which I wasn’t on, but it was still a very good show) was the hosts’ perplexity at why people want to see MMOs fail. The “high road” states that as long as you’re enjoying your game, what does it matter if other games succeed or fail?
I had to think about this for a little while myself, because I’ve often found myself in similar moods, as relates to MMOs today or TCGs in my other life. The Spoils, in particular, was a TCG that came along a few years back that, privately, I wanted to see fail. It was touted as the TCG for high-level, hardcore players, and was supported by big-money tournaments, convention appearances, and other extravagances. The game itself was a so-so knock-off of Magic: The Gathering, as most TCGs developed in that era were, so all it really had going for it was its marketing and lure of cash prizes. I think what offended me the most was the sheer ego of its creators, who believed The Spoils was God’s gift to gamers, and it’s this narrow focus on big tournaments and high-level play — by The Spoils and other companies — that was as instrumental as anything in driving me away from the TCG industry, a mistake I hope the MMO world doesn’t make in its rush to embrace e-sports.
(The most amusing Spoils moment I can recall occurred in the comments on an online interview with the game’s designer. The designer’s mother chimed in, saying she was “so proud” of her son. You better believe the Internet jackals pounced all over that one.)
I think the desire to see a game fail is often as simple as a conscious or subconscious desire to see the market react to its failure (or, inversely, its success) in the way we want it to. In my case, I didn’t want to see games like The Spoils become the dominant type of TCG, because if it did, then other companies would try to mimic its success and create more games I didn’t like.
From an MMO standpoint, maybe you want to see The Old Republic fail because you think it’s boring or unoriginal or you don’t like the subscription model or you think its attempts at story are garbage or whatever, and you’re afraid that, if it does succeed, other games will attempt to do the same thing. (To go off on a slight tangent, if TOR does succeed, it will be in large part due to one factor — it’s friggin’ Star Wars. If other game companies can copy that, i.e., base their MMOs of uber-successful sci-fi licenses that generate billions in revenue every year, they’ll do just fine. If they try to copy all of TOR‘s gameplay elements and think they’ll have similar success, guess again.) That’s a moderately valid reason to want something to fail, for the same reasons I want reality TV to fail. I’d rather have more shows about stuff I actually want to watch than another show with Simon Cowell on it.
This is somewhat related to the notion of there being limited resources in the world — yes, even on the Internet — and wanting your game to have them all, or at least the lion’s share. Magazines and websites only have so many writers and so many hours in a day, so if they’re covering NotYourGame, those are valuable resources that could be used covering YourGame instead. And then there are the companies themselves. If your favorite game’s company is devoting resources to another game that company makes, it can be frustrating when your game isn’t getting the attention you think it deserves.
Then there’s the simple notion of being right. If you’ve staked your claim to an ideal, whether it’s the Yankees being better than the Red Sox, liberalism being better than conservatism, Christianity being better than Islam, or Rift being better than World of Warcraft, you want to be right. Yankees fans want the Red Sox to lose every single game. These days, most Christians may not want to eliminate Muslims, but I think many of them wouldn’t shed too many tears if Islam vanished. Red states, blue states… And there are some Rift fans who want their game to be the mythical WoW-killer… or who want TOR to fail… or who think Guild Wars 2 or The Secret World are overrated and won’t affect Rift at all (hint: they will) because if those games do better than theirs then the people backing them were right and they were wrong. And that hurts, just as much as when the Red Sox blow out the Yankees. Maybe we see it as our duty to convert those poor, misguided souls and get them playing a “real game,” you know, like the one we play! Which will lead to more money for that game and (theoretically) more content and continued life for us, because the fewer options out there, the more people will be playing our game.
Finally, there’s just the human desire to see blowhards fall flat on their asses. As was at least partially the case for my distaste of The Spoils and their cocky attitude, when some marketing rep or game designer makes a bold claim that we don’t agree with, we want to see it blow up in his/her face. I think the TWIMMO topic was sparked by Trion’s CEO talking up his game and you can find many more examples of this kind of boisterous bravado that rarely finds traction with anyone other than a game’s most devout followers (but gets people talking about their product, which is kinda the point).
Whatever the reason for “wanting a game to die,” I think most of us would agree that we don’t have anything personal against that game’s players and especially not against the employees of the company who would be out of a job. I can’t really take the high road here, spiteful little creature that I am and tell all of you not to do it. And, in all honesty, some games probably should fail — not every business venture can be successful, and trying to keep them all afloat just dilutes the healing potion (so to speak). I’d just prefer to see them succeed or fail due to their quality and not their marketing. A game that has too much of one and not enough of the other, in my opinion, deserves what it gets.