Tonight’s topic is one that I’ve had on my mind for a few days. When I think about all the problems MMOs have, and all the issues I take with them, I can trace a ton of those issues back to big publishers and too much money.
Maybe I’m being a dreamer, or focusing too much on the idyllic scenario, but I think a small studio with a modest budget and a really good idea can and should do better than a huge studio with ridiculous amounts of other people’s money. Maybe they want it more, or maybe it just comes down to survival. A small studio values every single player, and works hard for every dollar — it all means because it has to for them to remain open.
A small studio can focus on making ‘riskier’ games. That sounds backwards because the smaller studio can’t afford to fail any more than a juggernaut, but the smaller studio can afford to find a niche with a smaller group of players willing to pay. People have a really bad idea of what it means to be successful. If a MMO has 250,000 subscribers then somehow that’s a failure. My favorite MMORPGs of all time weren’t much bigger than that, though. And no, it doesn’t matter that the industry has grown and 250,000 isn’t what it used to be — that’s incorrect. Again, it boils down to managing your business properly. Who’s to say 80,000 subscribers can’t be enough?
Smaller studios can make great games. That should go without saying, but too often I read “small” or “indie” as insults or reasons to avoid a game. There are no free passes, though. A bad game shouldn’t be given any leeway because it was made by a small team. I completely support criticizing games and their creators when it is done for the right reasons.
I think our future (a future free of the usual tropes) lies with those smaller, more driven, and talented studios with great ideas and the willingness to take risks. Consider giving them a chance.