Twinkies are going away. Or maybe they aren’t. But for all the gnashing of teeth, lamenting of a fallen American icon, and political opining that came our way when the news broke a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think: So what?
I haven’t had a Twinkie or other Hostess snack in at least a decade. Maybe it’s the same for you, and maybe it’s not, but unless you’re a ravenous devourer of the pillowy snacks – and judging by Hostess’ sales numbers, you’re not – you probably won’t actually miss their demise either. I’d wager that the vast majority of people who scribbled panicked “OMG no more Twinkies!!!” onto their social media outlets probably hadn’t had one in years.
And if you are a Twinkie connoisseur, you’ll live. There is a staggering range of choices for snack foods – maybe too many, considering the health of many Americans. No more Twinkies? There’s always Little Debbie’s. Or you can move on to some other kind of snack, like chips or cookies. Even better, maybe you’ll cut them out entirely.
Put simply, you don’t need Twinkies nearly as much as you think you do. Any feelings toward the contrary are likely just a mix of nostalgia and a general ennui regarding the state of the American economy.
City of Heroes shuts down next week. It was my first MMO and had, as of 2008, over 120,000 subscribers. I last had a subscription in 2005, and have only played it for a couple of hours since it went free-to-play last year.
Obviously, some people are still playing CoH and wish it wouldn’t go away. But, just as with Star Wars: Galaxies last year, they’ll live. Old games with dwindling populations probably have vastly more former players than current players, players who are essentially unaffected by its shuttering but still feel a certain sadness to see their old favorite die. Deep in the back sof their minds, they all harbor the notion that they’ll return to it someday, that they’ll find the time and/or money to resub for a month or two.
But that’s just being dishonest with oneself. You left that game for a reason, and you’re probably not going back. It’s because new things, new games, or maybe just new life experiences, like starting a new job or a family, get in the way. It’s just how it is.
Then there’s another school of thought that reasons that more options are always better, and that shrinking the MMO market is automatically a bad thing. The first thing I’d do here is ask how many hotbars you have in your current game du jour and whether you’d like to see your number of skills doubled or tripled because, hey, more options are always better.
Less facetiously, I’d propose that this isn’t the case with MMOs and I think is part of the reason why it’s so hard for an MMO to gain traction these days. In a way, you can treat the entire MMO universe as one big MMO, with each game being a server. If you have too many servers, the population is spread out too thin and you have trouble finding people to play with on your server. Yes, you can have characters on multiple servers – i.e., play more than one MMO – but you’re only one person. You can’t play both characters at once. And, invariably, one or two become favorites and the others tend to be neglected or abandoned entirely. Too many choices of MMOs is just as bad as too few.
I don’t know if we’re above that “critical mass” for a healthy MMO industry, but as quickly as people try new games and abandon them, either for old faves or the new hot thing, it sure seems that way. Back in the day™, when there were fewer MMO choices, were people more patient and more likely to stick with a game, even when it didn’t suit them perfectly, because there weren’t greener fields somewhere else? Are the general bad feelings regarding subscription games a result of thinking can easily get something equally enjoyable for (almost) free? Maybe.
As far as my personal feelings go, I think we have enough right now. In fact, I’m not so sure I’d be upset if there wasn’t a single new MMO launched in 2013. Sure, I’m interested in The Elder Scrolls Online, but between everything I’m playing now, other, non-online games that are coming out, and a backlog of older games that I’m meaning to get to (someday), I think I’d be perfectly content if nothing new came out next year. And I’m an unmarried, semi-employed adult. I’ve got about as much free time as anyone. An embarrassing amount, really.
If you go into a grocery store right now, there are thousands of items for sale. Losing Twinkies would go almost completely unnoticed. And, apart from a select few very large titles, I think that the same could be said of MMOs. An aging, stagnant MMO going under isn’t as big a deal as people think – at least not for those directly affected, like the employees of the company – and certainly not for you, even if you’re a current player, and certainly not for the industry.