WildStar Pre-Postmortem

In the least surprising move this year, WildStar has abandoned the promised idea of monthly updates. Before launch, I remember some of the more hyped up fans stating that Carbine had 6 months of content already prepped and ready to go. Looks like that is simply not the case.

According to the Q2 report from NCSoft, WildStar only sold less than 500k units. WildStar is already bleeding subscribers. Will WildStar go F2P? Yeah, it will. I give it a few months.

All of this has nothing to do with the subscription model. Nothing. This has everything to do with the themepark design model and how it is no longer sustainable in this market.  People do not unsubscribe from $15 a month because of the subscription — they unsubscribe because the game isn’t worth it.

Here’s how you make a good MMO: Make a virtual world that sustains and allows players to sustain themselves with goals and progressions designed to casually scale over time. Oh yeah, and make it fun.

What can we learn from this?

  • People don’t care about end-game raids or how hardcore your promises about end-game will be
  • Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
  • Pre-launch marketing doesn’t sustain a game after launch
  • Nothing else matters if the game is simply not much fun
  • The sad part about this Keen is your statement “People do not unsubscribe from $15 a month because of the subscription — they unsubscribe because the game isn’t worth it” goes completely unheard apparently, because i just see game after game try the same model, the same technique with a few tweaks here and there thinking it’ll work. Then when it doesn’t work (which of course is insanely predictable) they blame it on the model, and ignorant sheep follow their mindset and i fear the MMO genre will be negative affected by this, you’ll see more and more games have F2P from the outset, which I believe is unhealthy for the genre in the long term.

    There are very few MMO’s with F2P where the game isn’t a “buy to win” mentality, the only one’s that come to mind are RIFT & Aion. I think there has to be a re-dedication of sorts to make a quality game that’s a subscription to essentially be the litmus test for the model as a whole. I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll say it again and your comment

    “People don’t care about end-game raids or how hardcore your promises about end-game will be”

    speaks to this very issue. I believe the MMO genre isn’t grabbing the younger generation as much as it used to, so you’re seeing the same people who were 15-30 a decade ago still being the majority of your player-base, meaning they’re now 25-40. Because of this they don’t care at all about end-game raids for the most part because they can’t actually do end-game raids b/c of how many barriers there are in it. Whether it’s the dedicated time schedule, the length of the raids etc. Which is why WoW introduced LFR which appeased some casuals but left a lot of people like me who just want to group with a few friends and do challenging content with no set schedule, out of the loop. The answer has always been to accommodate to those people, and make “small scale” content, raid-esque content but for 5-6 people (depending on the game’s default party size).

    This will help retain the same player-base that i said is still playing, and makes up the majority of market right now, and will also help bring in and retain the younger generation because they will try it out, and word of mouth will help spread the good news.

    Now there’s tons of ways to make a good game that will have a healthy subscription base for a long time, and you’ve outlined a few times Keen about making more inviting worlds to explore, reintroducing danger to the equation, among other things, but I believe what I’ve stated is a quicker fix, and hopefully eventually combined with the ideas you’ve mentioned will make not a good game, but a “stellar” game, maybe a once in a generation type of game.

    Here’s to hoping.

  • So by your logic, the only successful MMO in the past 10 years is FF14v2, since it’s the only one with a sub? 10 years as that’s the EvE/WoW demarcation.

    Do you even have fun playing anymore? It’s just seems like you’re eternally disappointed in everything.

  • When I played my first MMO (vanilla WoW) I played with the mindset of how cool it would be to get additional abilities and items over the next few levels, over the upcoming week of play. There wasn’t much of a point on focusing on getting to cap because that was a distant objective, and there were plenty of others goals to achieve within the upcoming few levels.

    Now levels 1 to (cap-1) are just obstacles to hitting level cap, making the vast majority of game content an unavoidable annoyance for players in new MMO launches; alternatively content can be avoided altogether for established MMO’s that offer purchase of a capped toon.

    In the past there was a feeling of being in the moment that is missing from new MMO’s due to the rapid consumption of content secondary to fast leveling mechanics. Why should anyone really care about a new item or ability if it will be obsolete within the day or two?

    Rapid leveling degrades the perception of persistence.

  • “Don’t promise what you can’t deliver
    Pre-launch marketing doesn’t sustain a game after launch
    Nothing else matters if the game is simply not much fun”

    I thought we learned that several years ago…

  • @Asmiroth

    Disappointment is the appropriate reaction to just about everything released in the MMORPG genre for the last 10 years.

  • @jenks as long as we can also agree that anyone with that attitude who still buys MMOs has all the symptoms of an addict.

    “Oh not another MMO, I hate them. Ooh pretty pictures. Ooh they say they won’t suck. Let’s give them money. Ooh, it’s an MMO and I hate it.”

    Seriously. Move the heck on with your lives and find something you enjoy.

  • @Asmiroth

    Sure, we can agree on that. I haven’t given a bad MMO any money since SWTOR. I’m not giving up the right to take shots at them in blog comments sections, though.

  • MMO are as good as they have ever been but the world changes. People who were already around grow older and new people come along to take over. Young people have to have new things that are theirs. They neither want nor need old peoples’ stuff, even though there will always be a minority who cleave to the past and all things leave their influences.

    As youth fades many struggle, badly, to adjust. The present feels, more and more, like the future, which seems wrong somehow; the past feels comfortable and right.

    After a while it all flattens out. You begin to realize nothing you took for granted will come back or if it does it won’t feel like it used to feel. New things seem less threatening. The downside, if it is a downside, is that nothing feels quite as important as it did. Don’t expect that to take less than a couple of decades though.

    I’m very glad I wasn’t a teenager when I discovered MMOs.

  • @Asmiroth:

    While that may be true for the general public, I don’t think it pertains to writers in gaming blogs.

    I don’t get upset at a review site for trying products that turn out to be duds; quite the opposite, I am glad they were dedicated enough to give it a go so I do not have to waste my money on it.

    It’s fair to say that K&G are providing a valuable service to the gaming community.

  • First mmo I’ve played where I literally didn’t make it through the free 30 days before cancelling. Hit 50 two weeks in and cancelled five days later.

  • “Rapid leveling degrades the perception of persistence”. You nailed it. It seems so obvious to me and I just can’t figure out why they don’t get it. I need to drool over a spell somebody has who is 30 levels higher than me, but I don’t if I know I will have that same spell in another 3 days.

  • By reducing every virtual world game to an endgame gear treadmill, of course every virtual world game gets stale.

    Endgame used to be the part of the game both devs and players dreaded to reach, now, thanks primarily to WoW and its joyless progressive Raiding-porn with its incessant power creep and Monty Hauling, too many players rush to endgame and devs wreck their game to (try to) accomodate to this playstyle, chucking actual character development to the wayside in the process.

    It doesn’t even really work for WoW, the main reason they cna get away with it is sheer amount of players and people having invested in their characters (when it still had ‘meaning’) and ‘Progression’ for so long that they’re not going to abandon it quickly, be it for another game or in general. But it attracts fewer new players than it easily could with some adjustments.

    This problem isn’t new, btw, it has been identified most vocaly already with WoW’s failed Cataclysm expansion 4 years ago, and the concept of ‘Content Locusts’ ruining MMORPG’s has been around the blogosphere for quite some time, too.

  • Wildstar’s fate doesn’t really tell us anything about the future of themepark MMOs. The game is just poorly constructed, period. It’s like it was created by people who listened to one too many tall tales from grizzled veterans of Vanilla WoW. Things that look great when viewed through rose colored glasses were terrible in practice. Blizzard changed a lot of things not just to appease “casuals” but because they plain weren’t good design decisions.

    Hard core raiding with massive barriers = Smaller guilds constantly getting their best players poached.
    40 man raids = Logistical nightmare that isn’t in the least bit fun for anyone.
    20 mans gating the 40 mans = Raid teams that have trouble integrating later.
    Long attunements = alt unfriendly and unnecessary barrier to those coming in late.

    Just a few design issues off the top of my head that doomed the game before it started. Never mind the action combat that left almost no room for lag/latency issues. I literally had a 50/50 shot of dodging things when I was clearly out of the telegraph. I have no issues in any other online game. This is especially damning when you consider raids are tuned where if one guy goes down the raid will most likely wipe.

    The biggest threat to the subscription model is choice. Gamers have so many choices of games that connect them to other players they dont really want or need to tie themselves to one game. It doesn’t matter if that one game is a themepark or sandbox mmo.

  • @Gankatron: Haha thanks, I sorta chuckled and thought, “Keen and Graev’s Gaming Blog — Wasting our money since 2007 so you don’t have to!”

  • Been waiting for it to go F2play to try. I wasn’t happy with paying them a monthly sub.

    Imho I think I like the GW2 model the best. Company gets reinbursed through the box price and churns out content for its gem store. Best payment model. And the fairest in game store going.

  • I tried the beta but hated the opening hour so much (dull as toast with an annoying Space Western motif) that I uninstalled it long before I read about the stupid decisions they had made regarding the end-game.

    I knew it was doomed, I just did not expect the “OMG this time it will definitately be a WoW-Killer” drones to have given up so quickly!

    Ah well, I’m sure there will be another MMO coming soon with a horde of people promising it to be WoW’s Nemesis right up until a few days after it’s launch.

    Until Blizzard kill off WoW with Titan that is…

  • After play wow for more than 5 years to jump to play lol for the next 3 years and leave after the game has become so toxic that is simply unplayable, without count also the incredible quantity of afk and etc, I tried a again to come back to the mmo world that I tough was over for me.

    Maybe league of legends change me after so much rage, stress and etc and thats why maybe I see mmo again with different eyes.

    I was playing FFXIV even if I knew from the start, that it was a dead end game for the simple reason that was not what really I like, when I decided, after all the terrible critics, to give a change to ESO.

    I read so many bad comments and critics, that I decided not to buy it, if it were not because 5 friends were playing and told me to join.

    ESO is awesome, my friends no one play anymore, but I still do. I have no intention to stop playing for the moment and I see it like a game with some future.

    I just don’t get it how people could think that wild star was a game with future. Is very similar to wow, but ESO I see it a lot different, in ESO you die, you die doing quests, you feel the combat different and well, I don’t want to mention everything, but I think many people know what I mean.

    Now WoD will hit in september, a lot of people will come back to wow to try the new content, 50% will play for the next 2 or 3 months, then 70% and at the end the same people as always. Meanwhile wild star will go f2p, because the 99% of their players were wow players, because is the exactly fucking same game, ok with differences that make it different, but is the fucking same game.

    In my case I will continue playing ESO, till lol do some changes to their chaotic and sick game.

  • @Marcus: I agree with you, though for me, I have found that Rift is actually wonderful, instead of ESO. Mostly because I played a nightblade in ESO but found it unfun due to the problems with the class. So I think you just have to play something you find fun whether it’s a ‘dead game’ or not. I do tend to go back to WoW each expansion as well, but for the story. I love the lore of that universe so I play through the expansions for the story, though that has been sorely lacking in amazingness since WOTLK.

  • I feel like there’s something wrong with me. I’m having fun playing wildstar and for the life of me I can’t understand why nobody else seems to like it as much as I do. And the same thing happens with ESO. Yes I play them both. And I’m having fun. What’s happening to me?

  • @PorceleinEve: Nothing is wrong with you or happening to you. I think it’s fantastic that you like them. I actually wish I could. I wish I could like everything, but I’m picky. I’m particular. I know what I like, and what I like doesn’t seem to be made anymore. I think I used to be in the vast minority, but that minority is growing as the current generation joins the old guard.

    The old guard used to be a small group of 500k people. We’ll soon have 5M+ people joining us, and then it won’t be so easy to ignore.

  • @ Keen I think one of the biggest problems with that Keen, and i totally agree that soon the developers of these games will HAVE to listen to our concerns, our ideas etc, I’m not sure we’re all in agreement in what a “quality” MMO is, i think ideas are scattered, not that focused, and without an majority picking a direction for new games, the MMO genre will continue down it’s current path, because while it’s failed the last few years, it did succeed for awhile, and that’s better than trying multiple varying ideas with the hope that one of them will latch on, financially speaking that is.

    This group of 5M+ you speak of (which I’m apart of) need to have a singular message towards the developers. MMO’s need to seriously start sending out questionnaires far before any game development starts, not when you’re in beta, and your choices for change are so limited at that point. Maybe doing this for awhile will form a concrete idea, and path that they can then follow for awhile. I said on this very forum, and even on this particular post about my idea for “small scale” content, and while i think 100% it’ll work, and that it’ll be fun as hell, there’s probably tons of people who still want raiding in some capacity, or don’t want endgame PvE at all, so unless some developer sees something that a large amount of people want, why would they try to then develop something in order to capture those few people?

    I think one thing that A LOT of these MMOs nowadays try that usually fails, is they try to be THE MMO, meaning they want to appease multiple demographics simultaneously. Is it me or a decade ago, wasn’t there a selection of PvP driven and PvE driven MMOs? So that depending on what you wanted you picked that MMO. The last decade with the themepark model overtaking everything and lately falling on it’s face more times than i can count, you see so many games trying to encompass all aspects of an MMO experience, rather than be more focused on one, I think it’s just exacerbating the very problems within themeparks that already exist. They’re too worried about making a singularly focused game that will only be appealing to one crowd, rather than the ENTIRE crowd. Which is ironic given that, in their attempts to appeal to the ENTIRE crowd, they’ve appealed to none, for the most part, because instead of making an MMO that excels at one really popular direction, they usually wind up making one that has all directions and choices, but is mediocre at all of them.

  • We’ve basically reached a problem of scale / return on investment.

    If you build a niche game, you have to size it according to the target market.
    Otherwise, no investor is going to touch you with a ten-foot-pole.

    So either you accept lower production values, but enjoy the benefits of a the core design or you open the game up to as wide an audience as possible and enjoy the giant budget that comes with it.

    Look at Dwarven Fortress.

    That games core systems are just amazing. Just. freaking. amazing. But it is SO niche. It will never be main stream and it’s presentation is flat out ugly. It’s also free.

    So that’s the place we find ourselves in.

    I think tastes, like all things are cyclic. I hear the Oculus Rift has all the hall marks of being a transformative experience. Perhaps that’s where the future of MMO’s is?

  • Here’s a question for you Keen.

    Where are all the open source MMO’s?

    Back in the early 90’s, we had MUDS (Multi User Dungeons). The code that ran those servers was open source. There were hundreds of different servers, with different rules and worlds to explore. They were, however, strictly “Text Only”.

    Given how ubiquitous open source software is (you can find opensource alternatives for a huge number of commercial software packages), where are all the open source MMO’s catering to people’s niche tastes?

    The answer is cost. MMO’s are giant. They are expensive. They require hundreds of developers and thousands of hours to design and build. They’ve only gotten worse as their production values have gone up.

    That’s why modern MMO’s are so set on “maximum return on investment”

  • Anon has it right. AAA game development is ultimately investor-driven. Investors want the maximum return on their investment and that means the larger the budget, the more people the game has to target. MMOs suffer from this moreso than other genres because of their inherent complexity and significant, long-term maintenance costs.

    While it’s true that the market for MMOs has grown considerably since the late 90s, there’s no consensus on what a “good” MMO is. The truth is, most of the AAA MMOs that are written off here and on other enthusiast blogs/websites end up being moderately successful. Most of these games carve out a sustainable, loyal portion of the MMO marketspace (100-200k players) and remain in active development for years.

    Times have changed. F2P is no longer a badge of shame and the post-launch population decline isn’t always indicative of a game’s quality but rather a normal part of an MMO’s life cycle. Wildstar is no different in this regard. The population boom is over. The playerbase will reach a sustainable plateau or dwindle to such an extent that F2P-ing the game makes the most business sense. Either way, it’ll be around for years to come and Carbine’s investors will get their money.

  • problem with me is that:

    1)I love virtual worlds (sandbox). For example long travels and things that makes sense (arrows, quivers, compex crafting and lot of things to do out of combat…my friends laugh at me that I wanna play “sims online”…well yea I would like it with some combat in it.
    2) I hate ffa pvp
    3) I don’t like action combat (though if anything else is what I want, I can oversee it)
    4) I am very picky with my avatar/toon. I want to be high quality and beautiful.
    5) I don’t like vertical progression through gear treadmill and I got bored of the traditional leveling. A system like EVE where you put things on que and you just play and do whatever you like is what I want the most.

    Age of Wushu was the closest one to my likings until now but you know… ffa pvp with no pve server. Also the servers were in America (I play in Europe) and I had a lot of lag.

    Do you think that is ever possible a game will come out for me?

  • Many (most) MMOs these days (especially AAA) are indeed investor driven. I would truly be shocked if an investor-driven MMO was ever again one that I loved. I think what I love most about MMOs might be the part found within the labor of love. It’s the part where you can tell the people working on it truly pushed to make the best game possible, not the most money possible.

  • @ John

    I think its only a matter of time before another game comes out with development tools to make online worlds. And then communities of players will be able to make their own niche worlds.