Name what you think are the top 10 MMOs. You’ll easily come up with World of Warcraft, Rift, EVE Online, The Old Republic, and maybe a couple more. You know these are popular because they get all the mainstream media attention, because you know people who play them, and you probably play one or more of them yourself.
Now name some examples of “failed” MMOs. Well, we all know DC Universe Online was a massive flop. So was Aion. And Battlestar Galactica Online is by Bigpoint, so we know that’s no good, right?
One of the most difficult things to do when deciding on content for a magazine (or website or any other media outlet) is suppressing your personal affections for certain games and covering games that you have lesser, or even no, interest in. Harder still, I think, is covering games that you “know” aren’t popular, even if numbers tell you otherwise.
I’ve been working on and updating the Buzz Index spreadsheet for about a year and a half now and, “back in the day,” used it to help plan content for Massive Online Gamer. The Buzz Index isn’t perfect, but I think it paints a reasonable picture of the relative popularity and, to an extent, player base of MMOs in North America. In other words, if it ranks DC Universe Online at #5, then it can’t be a complete failure, on par with, say, Final Fantasy XIV (#32) or Warhammer Online (#40). Just because you tried it and didn’t like it or people are bad-mouthing it on the Internet, doesn’t mean that a lot of other players don’t like it, and it especially doesn’t mean that a media outlet shouldn’t be devoting attention to it and trying to get traffic from covering it. (Point: You think the Star Wars prequels sucked? Fine. They still brought in about $2.5 billion in the worldwide box office.)
Then there are all the Asian-imported MMOs, most of them F2P, some with egregious cash-shop pay-to-win gouging, that also rank fairly well: MapleStory (#12), Rappelz (#19), Allods Online (#20), and so on. Here’s the simple truth: If these games didn’t have an active player base and, by association, pull in money, then companies wouldn’t keep importing them to North America. Someone must be playing them and, by these metrics, they’re bigger/more popular than better-known Western games like Age of Conan (#22), EverQuest II (#26), and Champions Online (#30). (True, these types of games tend to be a bit more volatile than others and come and go quickly, but I’ve selected three of the steadier ones over the past year to make my point.)
Finally, there’s Battlestar Galactica Online, which exploits what is definitely the biggest weakness of this system. According to Compete, its website ranks third among tracked sites. I was as surprised as anyone to see this, and thought it was a fluke, but the numbers have held steady (about 1.5-2.5 million/per month since March). This is due probably in large part to BSGO being a browser-based game, meaning that you have to visit its site to play. Monkey Quest, which is #2, has the same issue. A client-based game, like World of Warcraft (which tracks at around 700k uniques per month), doesn’t require regular website visits to play it (even though many people do anyway), so it’s possible that BSGO and MQ receive higher “bonuses” for that aspect of their gameplay. That said, the Compete numbers are based on monthly unique visitors to a site, and it seems likely that even a casual WoW (or LOTRO or Rift or any other client-based game’s) player would visit a game’s site at least once a month. Even taking off a significant portion – say 25% or so – of BSGO‘s or MQ‘s website traffic would make little difference in the Buzz Index. So I’ll let it slide for now, until I can figure out a way to better incorporate this anomaly. And no, I’m not looking to downgrade BSGO just because I didn’t like it:
One of the purposes of this post is to try and get people to understand where I’m coming from when I talk about/analyze MMOs, whether it’s here on this blog or elsewhere on the Internet, like on TWIMMO. Sure, I have my favorites, and I’ll blog about them more often than not, but when I reach outside of the realm of games I’m intimately familiar with, I’m not going to pump them up or bash them based on opinions, whether mine or the popular consent on the Internet. When I rag on FFXIV, and you don’t like it because “this patch will make all the difference, just give it time,” I’ll point at my listings and show that it’s about as popular as Aika and Global Agenda. If I say nice things about AdventureQuest Worlds, “which nobody plays and I’ve never even heard of,” I’ll point out that it’s about on par with Guild Wars and City of Heroes. This isn’t because I particularly like or dislike a game – that’s just how it is. If you want to argue a point, don’t do it based on what you think or what you feel – give me some data to back it up. In the meantime, open up your eyes to the possibilities that exist beyond your personal experiences. That’s rarely bad advice, in MMOs or elsewhere in life.