Yesterday’s entry got me thinking once again about how big an MMO really needs to be in order to be a success. I’ve never been one to think that because a game is “profitable” then it must be a success. If your MMO lived for 6 months and you paid your debtors and made a few bucks you’re still a failure in my book. MMOs, from the business side that I view them, are all about long-term monthly revenue. This bring me to my point for today: MMOs do not belong in the hands of large developers. MMOs (Typically. Ignore Blizzard.) aren’t good business for publicly traded companies with big overhead costs, shareholders, etc. MMOs are good business for small to midsize teams — single, autonomous companies.
Here are a few easily observed trends in today’s MMO market.
- As MMOs have grown more popular, the games themselves have become relatively worse.
- The bigger the MMO developer, the worse the MMO.
- 250k subscribers means the game will shut down soon.
The trend I’ll focus on is the last one. When did something like 250,000 subscribers become a bad thing? When did 100,000? The answer goes back to my point earlier — when the companies became too large and their interests too great. 100k subscribers can be $1.5 million in monthly recurring revenue. 250k subs is $3.75 million. I work for a relatively small company right now with < 50 employees making much, much less than that each month. As the marketing director I oversee everything from product development to customer acquisition, and my budget is so frustratingly small that I have to squeeze blood from a stone every single month. Give me a budget based on $3.75 million a month and I can work miracles the likes of which you’ve never seen.
Our current predicament really boils down to MMOs becoming too big for their own good. Despite being very, very lucrative and successful, MMOs aren’t a product or an industry capable of sustaining large publishers of the McMMO model. MMOs belong in the hands of smaller companies where a little goes a long way, and the “little” suddenly becomes a lot. Will we ever beat back the hungry money grabbers in suits? Probably not for a while, but when MMOs sink so low that they suddenly become less appealing, we’ll see a reboot. That’s just simple economics.