The MMO’s of 2009: A Slippery Slope of Inadequacy

Only one word truly describes this year’s MMO releases: dismal.  It was disappointing and inadequate.  One hopes that each year there will be steps taken in the right direction, ones that will better the industry, but this year saw steps taken in the wrong direction or in a direction that simply makes no sense.  Let’s look at a few of the big ones of 2009.

The year began with Darkfall.  One could say the year ended with Darkfall but that would just be mean.  Darkfall didn’t do anything save for showing what not to do with a game you spend a decade developing.  It looked great at first.  Aventurine painted this picturesque and ideal game where the hardcore pvp’ers wanting a sandbox game could retire in eternal bliss.  What we got was the island of misfit toys.  Let’s just toss the “don’t release a game before it’s finished” lesson out there and be done with it.  What gets me the most with Darkfall is that they didn’t think ahead.  The skill system was a ticking time bomb with people being able to shoot spells at the sky to rank up, zero limitations, and a ‘sky’s the limit’ straight vertical progression.   Tossing lots of cool things into the game and hoping it works resulted in a bunch of hodgepodge that crumbled when the time came for it all to hold up.

Next we have Champions Online.  Every so often a MMO comes around that really tingles my Spidey-sense.   C’mon, this coming from the guy who has been burned a dozen times by thinking a game will be fun just to find out it’s not, when I’m negative about a game right out of the gate it’s at least worth thinking about why.   Redundant instancing to the point of having no servers and just a bunch of instances, mundane combat full of all flash and beat-em up with no substance, the feel of a sloppy port, and completely shallow and uninteresting content are but a few of my grievances.  What boggles the mind is how Cryptic thinks this model works.  They’re even going this route with Star Trek Online!   On top of it all, they charged a lifetime subscription, introduced microtransactions after-the-fact to nickel and dime their players, and still don’t have a clue.   I’m not shocked at all to hear that the game has been hemorrhaging players and feels like a ghost town.

Aion hurts the most.  On the outside it’s a gorgeous game with an interesting art direction, great animations and most of the right answers.  The first twenty levels are great.  There is lots of content for the players and most of it is fun.  Then you hit this slow patch.  The Asian market’s love for mindless slaughter of little creatures bleeds through the Westernization.  A year’s worth of patching becomes obvious as you run through a dungeon at level 25 and think “This rocks!” just to run through a dungeon at 30 to think “omg this sucks!”, come to find out the level 25 dungeon was added later.  Then you hit a wall.  There’s no content.  It’s all a grind.  If only the game had content!  I found myself wanting to play badly but I couldn’t bring myself to log in knowing that I had about 50 hours of grinding ahead of me.   Leveling up can take a long time and it can be difficult, but at least give me something fun to do.  The PvP was one of those ideas on paper that sounds like it could work but from what I experienced it ended up just being a clusterfluck of timed fortress flips — a little work on changing some of the mechanics would be nice.  That’s why Aion hurts the most.  It’s fun but needs work.  Showing us a movie of what’s to come just to find out it’s a “vision” and not stuff that’s actually on the way was a slap on the face.

When you simply don’t mind logging off or find yourself thinking that you could be just as happy and occupied by not playing a game as you can by playing it, you know that something is wrong.  Fallen Earth fits this description nicely.  There wasn’t anything pulling me in.  The crafting system is a good start but allowing everyone to craft everything eliminated specialization and a truly functional player economy.  There was never any need to even think about other players because the game catered to and encouraged the individual becoming this self-sufficient and self-sustaining post-apoc worker bee.  People wanted to make their own clothes, their own ammo, do their quests, mine their own stuff… it lacks a social game.  A lack of housing for players to create shops, no guild buildings or other mechanisms of socialization and infrastructure, and overall a lack of that ‘extra mile’ ultimately leave Fallen Earth as a mediocre game when it could have been really great.

If you were asked to name ten new MMO’s that released this year chances are you couldn’t do it.  Would you be shocked to know that somewhere in the ballpark of FIFTY (50) “MMO’s” were released?  If you saw the pile they’re shoveling you too would be saying “You call THAT a MMO?”.  Heck, you call THAT a game?!  Somehow the reigns of this industry have been handed over to a village idiot.   Anything that wants to be a MMO just needs to slap on the MMO tag and if it beeps, toots, or is somehow capable of having more than one person playing in any form of multiplayer it is a MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER game.   I’m not even counting the Facebook games or iPhone craps.  I’m not even harping on the Free-to-Play model.  I’m talking about pure quality.   We’re actually being inundated with shovelware at this point and it’s disgusting to hear that they are profitable.   Do yourselves a favor and simply resist it.  Speak out against it.  Draw a line and take a stand.  The bar has been lowered six feet below and it is slowly killing the industry as we all slide further and further down this slippery slope.

I’m calling for the bar to be raised again.  Let’s think about what we consider quality, what we want in a MMO, and stop settling.   Aside from the shovelware MMO’s, the big names of 2009 were not acceptable.   Developers need to be accountable for what they release to us but we also need to know what we want.  That’s a bit part of my 2009 regrets, not knowing what I want or losing sight of it, and I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow.

There was a definite trend this year of bad games, but many of the titles from years past have shown remarkable improvement.  Even games that have been out for many years are still coming up with ways to ‘wow’ veterans and attract new players.  This type of improvement should be an indication that the industry is moving ‘up’, but when we see the trend of this year it looks more like an attempt to keep their heads above the water.   It would be great if marked improvement could be bolstered by great games releasing alongside.

Let’s hope for 2010 to be a better year.  My predictions post closer to New Year’s Eve will highlight what I expect, but I will tell you now that I’m optimistic that the “quality” will go up.  Whether or not the games end up being what we want or end up being fun remains to be seen.  Here’s hoping that in 2010 I’ll be able to speak highly of the industry’s achievements.

Edit:  I do feel the need to add, although no one has brought it up, that I have no way of knowing whether or not a game was a success in terms of turning a profit.  That’s not really what I’m talking about either.  I’m basing a lot of this on my own opinion of what makes a good game (obviously) but also on popular consensus.  Try as one may, it’s hard to say why or how a game was a failure or a success.  What is the definition of success in these games anyway? Whether or not we, personally, are playing?  It’s easier to describe it as a ‘feeling’ more than putting your finger on any particular reason.  That ‘feeling’ this year was overall a year of letdown.

  • I just keep dreaming about GW2, SWTOR, and Cataclysm being the saviors of 2010. I am really leaning towards GW2 since I am really hating the grind these days, and pvp from day 1 from what I read.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I was thankful that each of those games had a late open/ish beta of some sort which allowed me to make the decision not to give them any money. Champions was probably the worst offender simply because I expected them to learn so many lessons from CoH.

    Honestly the only MMO that I played this year that felt like it had any potential at all was Allods, which is how I found this blog in the first place (there was such surprisingly limited information on the game, but you were covering it quite well).

    Personally I have almost no faith in 2010. I don’t believe we’ll see SWTOR or GW2 until 2011, and I’m not convinced I’ll ever go back to WoW, even though I do think Cataclysm is a neat idea. The only thing I have any hope for is FFIV, praying they learned major lessons from FFXI, but I’m sure they’ll pull some crazy moves and it’ll end up another grind-fest that makes me want to punch moogles.

  • I agree Tangent, it was practically the same people on Champions and they actually built a far worse MMO than City of Heroes was.. what gives?

    @Keen Thanks for your last two blog articles, I always find your summarys of MMO’s helpful in deciding where to waste, err… spend my time. I’m particularly looking forward to Allods Online once that leaves beta.

  • Fallen Earth is a lot better than you describe. It has a great community, it’s a proper virtual world, it’s easy to learn but requires patience and dedication to succeed.

    It’s true that at the moment people are focused on skilling and levelling up, but there’s a thriving, vibrant economy already and that’s only going to grow. People are already very committed to their factions, too, and building for the future.

    It seems to me that the main problem new MMOs have is that they are now being judged by two completely inappropriate standards. Firstly they are being benchmarked against existing, successful MMOs and secondly against offline RPGs. MMOs that now look polished, like WoW and EQ2, took months, even years to achieve that level of slickness. Most MMOs are fairly shaky for a good while after launch. That used to be accepted as part of the bargain – it’s not perfect now, but it can get better.

    What new MMOs need to be judged on is potential, coupled with the likelihood of that potential being achieved. Fallen Earth is going to be a slow-burning, long-lasting MMO. Currently it’s a very solo-friendly, craft-oriented PvE game, but everyone playing knows that it will eventually become a combat-oriented PvP game. Currently roots are being laid down, alliances made. It’s very, very early days.

    Personally, I had another great MMO year in 2009, but then I had saved WoW for when there was a fallow period, so my first go at that took up about six months. Pretty impressive that I haven’t needed that fallback for five years. Next year looks absolutely overwhelming. There’s just too much to have any hope of playing even the majority.

    Means lots more to save up in the bank for a future fallow spell, if one ever comes.

  • Funny you think the industry is falling apart, Keen, because it’s definitely a bigger and more profitable industry than it has ever been before. If anything, they’re going to continue to run away from what you like.

    Clearly the industry is getting better at doing what “works”–and it has worked in the sense that there’s more revenue than ever before–but doing what works is apparently not good enough for you.

    I prefer to write about ways to make better MMOs (and write about what makes MMOs tick) instead of simply complaining about it. But spreading your dislike for the status quo certainly does something to move towards the status quo eventually changing.

  • @Evizaer: If only being profitable and growing meant that the games were good. I don’t share your view, Evizaer. I’ll clarify that this is about 2009, not about other years. As I mentioned, there have been remarkable improvements in other older games. The MMO’s released in 2009 were not something to be proud of or celebrate and the trends continued/started are simply disturbing.

    Blog about whatever you want. I’ll even let your advertisement stay up. But please don’t patrtonize any of us with this holier than though “let’s look on the good side”. In my entry going up tomorrow you’ll see that I regret how negative 2009 has been. I’ve even fallen victim to throwing my hands up and thinking all is lost, which translated some into my bloggings. However, no matter how you look at it it’s tough to do a retrospective look at 2009 and be chipper… unless of course you’re one of the ones who actually liked Champions Online. Feel free to browse the 2009 archives here for my suggestions that I’ve already given for how to improve these titles.

  • I agree with you for the most part Keen. I really don’t have much else to add except the troll is getting annoying.

  • 1. I’m new to Darkfall, and my thoughts after a couple weeks are as follows: Darkfall is a lot different now than at launch. You certainly can’t skill up by shooting spells at the sky. There is still the issue of new players joining who won’t catch up anytime soon to earlier players who exploited the old system, but it’s hardly the disaster you make it out to be. The world is large enough and population low enough that it seems you can stay in your own little corner and not get harassed overly much until you’re good enough (stats and skills) to be marginally competitive with the rest. The skill system itself seems to work fairly well now. I think Darkfall has some very interesting ideas and mostly fun gameplay. My concerns with it take the form of long-term viability. If you can’t get into the political/war scene of shifting alliances and capturing territory, the PvE probably isn’t going to be enough to keep you around. We’ll see how I feel in another few weeks.

    2. Champions was fun for like 2-4 weeks, and then like you said, there was just nothing at all that keeps you wanting to log in. It’s shallow. The combat gets old and boring quickly. The ideas and presentation are fantastic, but the execution is so, so mediocre. Just like WAR. A ton of polish, additions and refinement would go a long way towards fixing this, but its chance at redemption is quickly fading.

    3. Never played Aion. Looked terrible. I’d rather just resubscribe to WoW.

    4. Played in the Fallen Earth beta. The combat was clunky and boring, the environments were bland and the performance was absolutely awful. I’ve heard the performance has gotten better, but not much else. And I’ve never been much of a crafter. It’d take a lot more to get me interested.

    I hope Cryptic doesn’t f up STO. But chances are good it’ll just be Champions Online in space, with a few wrinkles thrown in. Oh well. My ears are perked for the Next Big Thing. If another great MMOG never comes along, all the better. I won’t have any reason to waste my time.

  • I agree that 2009 was a very weak year for MMORPGs. Maybe it had something to do with the global recession, I dunno. Anyway, 2010 looks a lot more promising and I’m hoping that Star Trek Online and Global Agenda will be decent. It’s unlikely that we’ll see SW:TOR but it would be a very nice addition if we did.

    Finally, we’re going to get some exciting expansions for, of course, WoW and EQ2 along with AoC and probably WAR. All-in-all, it could be a very exciting year for MMORPGs.

  • Oddly I think that the “one-server” type model of Champions was a good idea. Sure it gets rid of server identity, but is would then foster a single community. Not that I think Champions fostered any community.

    The big advantage is you never have to worry about server merges or splits. There is always enough zones to keep thing populated but not crowded. I think they could have done a better job of making it seemless to the user. No point showing all the shards. Just make a good guess and go.

    1) Stay with your group
    2) Most Guildies
    3) Most Friends
    4) Least populated

    Sure single seemless world (ala Darkfall) is a much better goal, but this model would work well enough in non-sandbox type MMOs.

    Other than that, It was kind of tedious to play.

  • If we are going to be harshly honest about this year’s MMOs we can say that new ideas were atleast tested.

    Darkfall took a risk with a full loot PvP game. I think the buzz around that game showed that a full loot PvP game does have a large enough market to sustain a quality one. The market isn’t big enough for EA or Activision but if a smaller company with some real money put out the effort I think they would see a profit. (I know EVE already offers it to an extent)

    Aion showed us that we can’t go back to EverQuest grinding MMOs. Even the die hard EQ veterans got tired of Aion. Aion was a good game, and I don’t think the grindiness was it’s sole reason for downfall but it was a factor.

    Fallen Earth tried a post apocalypse MMO, which is a rather untapped area. It didn’t work out not because of the genre but more so of poor implementation.

    Champioins Online tried a new way of clustering servers. It’s a good idea but again was done poorly. I think we the right circustances this format could work, atleast in a partial way.

    Over all, except for Aion, good idea’s were tried but due to poor implmentation they failed. Aion simply missed the mark to draw the West in. This could be considered a learning year for MMOs… but then last year with Warhammer and AoC you would have thought that would teach developers a lesson.

  • Great summary of 2009. Of all your list I think Fallen Earth has the most potential in 2010 to keep strong and grow stronger. Their continued growth each patch and endless added content will show leaps and bounds in the future. Unfortunately the lack of better rewards of any type and some missing content late levels caused me to leave.

    Allods shows the most promise and should be interesting to see how things go. Darkfall too pvpish and Aion was too grindish. Personally I’ve gone back to WoW and loving every moment. You never realize how awesome a world or gameplay is until you’re gone awhile. And so much content it boggles the mind.

    Really enjoyed your writeups on everything in 2009 and hope to continue reading your insight into games in 2010. Of gaming blogs I visit this is one I visit regularly because it is stays relevant and updates often. Thank you!

  • I just started playing Darkfall and the game now doesn’t really resemble what you described so I think your brush off of that game is a bit dated. I’m glad I didn’t play at or near launch or I’d probably never be back either if it was ever like that. It’s really not for people who are used to the typical model of MMOs though, if you think the goal of an MMO is to get to max level or highest stats you won’t have fun in it, but if you like being able to do whatever you like with high risks involved then it’s a lot of fun. I think the game has gotten a lot better and will continue to improve. It may be a sort of fantasy version of EVE in the long run.

    On the other hand, I see no hope for Aion. I only tried it and stuck with it because of my guild. But a lot of them are still playing and liking it so…to each his/her own I guess. I think it was around the point when the only thing to do in the game was run fire temple and people had no problem just doing the same content over and over and over again that I started to wonder why anyone thought it was worth paying for. I wish that level of polish could have gone into a better game.

    As usual thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, even if I don’t agree I enjoy reading them. 🙂

  • @Gustavef: I can see where you’re coming from with the “everyone is together” line of thinking. I just can’t get over the truncated world into a ton of instances. To me that destroys any sense of community created 100x over.

    @Nobs: Mostly agree with everything you said. The only thing I kinda disagree with is the relation of Aion’s grinding to EQ’s. In EQ the mobs that you grind on felt like more of a challenge. Fights were more involved and took longer, required more than you standing there whacking on it. Tough to explain, but the grinding in EQ didn’t seem to bother me quite as much. I’ve talked with a few others who agree and they’ve also been saying “there was just more to it in EQ”.

    @Slothbear: My take on the game is definitely dated, I’ll admit that. Several of my closest buds went back and the consensus has mostly been “It’s the same game”. They note many improvements though. The skill system isn’t completely nonsensical anymore. I’ll credit it with improving or trying to improve, but I think it’s still mostly the same game that failed on implementation. Looks like we reached the same point in Aion when we couldn’t understand continuing. 😉

    @Salbos: I agree with you on Fallen Earth. I think if they simply change some of their implementation with crafting and then think about expanding into Player Housing, Guild Housing, and expand on their risk and reward they’ll have a fantastic game. They need a necessity for community. Heck, it’s post-apoc — there should be some need to rely on others.

  • Currently I play CO and AION, Aion cause of friends, CO because I really love the character creation, which is unfortunate, I’m hoping Cryptic upgrades the game, but I have been waiting for that a while now, and the Christmas event was somewhat lackluster.

  • I plan to continue playing Aion. I may take a break in the future, but I plan to make it to 50 and hope that some of the “vision” patches make it out by then. If so, then I’ll stay. If not, then I may put it on hold until some of those patches come to realization.

  • You know it’s been a bad year in MMO’s when you fire up some EQ emulation and have more fun in that than anything you played all year.

  • To be honest, I pretty much agree with your musings about most things. I just happen to like DF, so it has kept me an MMO gamer. If it wasn’t for DF, I wouldn’t play MMOs at all. I think this is what separates me from the “MMO gamer”. For the stereotypical MMO gamer, the name of the game is “find the best and stick with it”. However, for them, best is not necessarily equal to good (or even fun).

    That being said, all of the MMOs you mention are still alive, so at least some people are enjoying them. If you’re not enjoying them, perhaps the current incarnation of the MMO genre is not for you? I’m interested in your comments, and how that affects your next MMO experience.

  • I loath the “potential” argument. When I play a game today I want it to be fun today. I don’t care if it will be good in 6 months or a year. If it’s good then, I might check it out. The “potential” term has been dropped in every MMO I have played from Vanguard, Alganon, to Fallen Earth.

    Champions instances aren’t half bad. In many games you aren’t going to see ~100 people in a zone anyways. I loved that the game made me feel “Super” from the start. (they fixed that)

    MMOs that are coming soon always seem to be better than ones we can play now. I still hold out hope for Guild Wars2.

  • I haven’t played any MMO for the whole year. Not because I don’t have the time or the money (got plenty of both) but I just didn’t find any of the titles interesting. Some of the games seem to have the right concept, but they just can’t seem to make it work right.

    Well, wonder what 2010 will bring. I’ll probably still be playing non-MMOs next New Year. Sad.

  • @ Keen :

    Great post, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    I look at the people who post here and on other MMO related sites, and I just sigh with disbelief.

    The problem my fellow gamers is : We get bored and despite our hatred of the recent run of releases, we’ll get out our wallets to spend on the next failure.

    What makes this especially sad in my mind is, we’ve been burnt consistently for at least 2-3 years now. We know what a shitter looks like and what it smells like. We’ve had the experience of playing buggy games, games with little to no content, games that are unfinished, yet, we have no problem dismissing logic to drop $49.99 on a box for a “chance” at the next MMO fix.

    We’ve got to stop. We have to stop enabling publishers to tell a development team to release because their revenue models are under projections.

    We’ve got to stop allowing developers to develop games on a wing and a prayer, all of the while either flat out lying about the game in which they are producing, or practicing deceptive prerelease hype.

    We just have to stop. Stop buying the trash. It’s sad to see where this genre has gone, the depths to which it has sank into the mire.

    I’m hoping that 2010 is the breakout year for us, but judging on the past 3, I’d say hope is all we have.

    I know for a fact it will be the same if we all don’t learn the lesson : If it looks like shit and smells like shit, despite what the publishers shiny marketing materials might say, it’s still shit.

    Let’s all stop buying the shit.

  • @Crackbone – I disagree about your post if it at all includes Aion. I also disagree with Keen’s idea that after a certain level, Aion no longer has content. Aion has content through all levels, its simply the grind that effects you and whether or not you can effectively level with the rest of your group when you go to partake in certain content. Aion does not have the content of a MMO that has been out for years, but the content is there. It’s just whether or not you can deal with the grind. They say that the grind feeling is on the top of their fix list. They even went so far as to say that they are building a development team in NCWest and that their direction will start to differ from Korea due to the needs of our players over here.

    Aion has to be the least buggy MMO I’ve played ever. If grind and the small amount of content are its only issues, I fail to see that it fits as part of your post at all. And as I stated before, Aion has the content for all levels, it’s just the grind that may blind you of it.

  • @Steeldragoon: It has some content. “No content” is an exaggeration. However, when compared to other games it is definitely lacking in content and “fun” things to do while you’re leveling. It’s on the list because it was a disappointment for me.

  • Of course I dislike the release of unfinished games, but perhaps the reality is that it is more difficult these days to release well executed games that aren’t just beta extensions. I do agree that if you can name a current MMO that you consider the paradigm for all of your gaming needs that it was most likely flawed at release and matured into its current position of greatness; this also begs the question, can you name a handful of MMO’s that currently meet these high expectations. I liked Tabula Rasa and Fallen Earth, each with some very unique game play elements, but neither was able to WoW me in the long term. Rag on it all you want, but WoW seems to be the only one that could fit that description for most people (EVE has staying power, but is a niche game; I loved the ship design, but disliked that I couldn’t actually walk around, missions were repetitive, and that the great majority of my time in game was spent targetting little red X’s like some old Atari console game). I would bet that many game designers are envious of the good ole days of WoW 1.0, when grinding was considered amazing thing to do with your friends. The question is, can there be enough money to develop and release a non-beta “massive” multiplayer game, which can meet our bar raised expectations? I wonder what would be its fate if WoW came out in 2010 and had the same problems it did on its actual release? Would we be lamenting about it as we are now about Aion? Realize this post is not in defense of obviously avoidable poorly executed releases (I still get a nervous facial twitch when I read a word that has the letters a, o, and c in it…), but I have to wonder if the industry has hit a financial wall trying to design a financially viable game on a massive scale in a virtual world where players want total freedom to seemlessly go everywhere and do everything in a way that is not stale and already tried? Will there enough money to be fed to this beast of a game to make it worthwhile to maintain?

    Massive player expectations * massive non-instanced environments = massive amounts of capital (especially difficult when no revenue has yet been generated)

    Perhaps this is where a game like Allods will succeed, it isn’t trying to design a “revolutionary” game, it is Russian WoW, and tweaks it by implementing additional successful mechanics found in a variety of other games; alot of fun, but nothing that will progress the field; in the end, how many WoW clones does the gaming comminity actually need?

  • @Keen

    I loved EQ, my problem is though did I love it because I didn’t know any better? Everyone uses girl friend analogies for MMOs and I think they are fairly accurate, even though I hate analogies.

    I don’t know if there really was more to EQ or I just didn’t know any better. Aion was alot more like EQ than it was like WoW.

    I don’t know though. I’m sort of lost in the world of video games right now. Everything new I play reminds me of an older game I loved and then the new game just feels like a cheap substitute with better graphics. It’s depressing.

  • Isn’t it a little funny though that DDO’s remake as a F2P/Microtransaction game is actually the biggest success story of the year?

    They went to the dark-side, and it’s a better game for it. Who knew that was going to work out so well?

  • @ Gali: Maybe in your opinion DDO is “successful” now, but *I* still don’t want to play it. Free crap is still crap.

  • I don’t play it either, but can’t deny that it’s turned into a huge moneymaker for Turbine, and they’ve added two new servers. That means folks are playing it. Lots more folks than were playing it previously.

    Has any MMO ever started increasing total servers again after culling them?

  • 2009 was a bad year for MMO’s. I tried DDO, paid for a VIP account, and canceled it last night. DDO is cool, but I really dislike the caster classes and playing a melee all the time is boring.

    I guess I’m just going to install some solo RPG’s, and kill time until something better comes out.

  • I think it was the year of F2P to be honest. I’m surprised you forgot Allods Online in your list. F2P is finally starting to get legitmacy and steam, and even sub companies are using it to bolster revenue.

    I think it’s also the year that people woke up and found out that Korea is a MMO developing powerhouse.

  • This is strictly MMO’s that launched in 2009. Allods will be on the 2010 list since it’s still in beta testing. I agree though, F2P is gaining momentum.

  • It’s striking to read how different your perspective of the year in MMOs has been as compared with mine being a fairly monogamous MMO gamer. In 2009 I played WoW, with a four month stint in EVE at the beginning of the year, and couldn’t be happier with the current content nor with the continued refinement to the game’s mechanics. WoW has never been more accessible nor had as much to offer those pushing the edge of current content. The top raiding guilds attempted one of the hard modes, Yogg-Saron with 0 watchers, for more than a month before a Taiwanese guild finally cracked the encounter.

    With the improvements to the looking for group functionality in the latest patch, along with hundreds of minor improvements that have brought such things as better in-game tutorials for players new to the games, stylized maps of every dungeon, and improved quest log/tracking, WoW in 2009 has never been better.

    I suspect many long term players of EVE or EQ2 would say similar things about their respective games. I understand that your comments are reflective of the industry as a whole but I think it’s important to keep in mind that “success” need not only come in the form of new products. Especially for MMOs, improvements to existing titles are often just if not more significant in terms of player satisfaction.

  • I’m talking about the games released in 2009 and a lot of the shovelware. Games like WoW and EVE are some of the games that I mentioned as having lots of improvements.

  • I’m talking about a play style that doesn’t peg one’s interest in the genre, nor one’s enjoyment of such games, to the “new hotness.”

    For whatever reason you haven’t invested yourself in any of the new titles of 2009. You played these games for the first month, perhaps a little longer, found them not to your liking and dismissed them all as the detritus of a stale genre. By your own admission you didn’t stick around for the inevitable improvements that made each of these games a viable property going forward, nor did you stick it out long enough to see each’s “end game.”

    It is an indictment of the initial presentation/quality of these games that they aren’t immediately appealing nor polished at release. If that’s the extent of the criticism, fine – but to be fair 2009 wouldn’t be special in that regard. If you’re claim is that these games are poor in some objective sense – and your description of the industry as a whole being dismal suggests that – then using as evidence quick looks at sprawling games and hear say from others about the continued success or failure of these games (and the parts therein you never saw) doesn’t justify your conclusion.

    My point is that 2009 was clearly a dismal year in MMOs FOR YOU. If you want to play armchair industry analyst, you need to do the legwork to make the kind of argument you try to in this post. Personally, I’m hesitant to say that the companies you highlighted phoned it in in 2009, and many existing properties that you didn’t discuss saw steady refinement and growth. The latter have just as much claim to being included as part of the MMO industry, and if the industry is in decline, then one has to account for them as aberrations.