Last played: 2011
Experience: Very Minimal
This might be the first “I’ve never heard of that” game on my list for many of you. Black Prophecy was a space shooter MMO released by Reakktor Media and published by Gamigo in 2011. One of my freelancers for Massive Online Gamer did an article on it, and it sounded (and looked) pretty neat, so I gave it a shot when it launched.
Unfortunately, I played Battlestar Galactica Online at nearly the same time, and my memories of the two are a little jumbled. Though the games were similar, Black Prophecy seemed to have more PvE offerings than BSGO, with a distinct storyline about a couple of human-ish factions striving for dominance in space. An AI “voice” guided you around the missions, though I seem to recall it being laughably “mechanized,” like Stephen Hawking but worse, and difficult to understand at times.
I can recall that you picked missions from a kind of “job board,” and they came in a variety of categories, though they still generally involved the same type of gameplay: Go to a sector, kill some waves of enemies, find the big enemy, kill him, etc.
That might be why the game didn’t stick with me and didn’t last in general, being shut down just a year and a half after launch. It was pretty and had the makings of a decent backstory, but the gameplay variety just wasn’t there. Still, worse MMOs have succeeded. So why did Black Prophecy, which seemed nominally on par with BSGO, go under?
Maybe Black Prophecy was objectively better than Battlestar Galactica Online, and BSGO only presists because it has a big license attached to it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from studying just about any kind of entertainment property, it’s this:
The objective quality of a product is only one factor – and maybe not the most important factor – in determining whether it will succeed.
To put it another way, when I’m asked, “How will Game X do in terms of sales/fans?” I use the gameplay as just one factor in my judgment. A lot of the time, people will hear about an MMO and how utterly awesome it sounds and think it’s going to be the next huge thing. The best actual game should do the best, right?
It isn’t that simple. Maybe Star Wars: Galaxies was better than SWTOR. Maybe Guild Wars is better than Guild Wars 2. Maybe a lot of MMOs are better than World of Warcraft. Maybe Black Prophecy was better than BSGO.
You just need to look at other aspects of pop culture – I’m looking at you, reality TV and Justin Bieber – to know that quality sometimes isn’t as important as packaging, marketing, and other fluff. The next time you want to jump on an MMO’s bandwagon and label it anything from “sure-fire hit” to “WoW killer,” realize that even a good game usually needs to have more than that going for it.