I’ve mused about the lifespan of MMOs before, asking “should we be trying to keep them alive for the long run, or just treat them like any other game”? In my mind, the subscription model is built around trying to keep people playing for as long as possible. I’ve suspected that the typical MMO lifespan is more like any other offline game, with many players playing early, and a gradual decline as time goes on.
So I found this little gem in Raph’s archives:
Lo and behold, MMOs behave like any other consumer product. They have a predictable lifespan. Interesting. Despite a usage curve pretty much like any other product, they are being monetized as if there’s a perpetual reason for doing so. The addiction/inertia factor might extend the curve a bit, but there’s still the ramp, the peak, and the taper.
This is why I detest service economies, and subscription games in particular. Recurring costs do little to make the product itself better, or last longer. Human nature and market dynamics, especially in the ADHD world of games, are stronger than any desire to keep the service running. We would see pretty much the same sort of usage curve from something like Guild Wars, or any offline one-shot box sales game. It’s a natural product life cycle.
Paying a subscription does little to ensure the social dynamics of the lifespan of a product. It does little to improve the product. Maintenance costs go down with tech improvements. I’ve always thought subscriptions were a ripoff, and it’s interesting to see tangentially corroborative data like this.
As for those developers using subscriptions to pad out their financing, they are just strung out on debt, and living dangerously, a single quarter from collapse. It’s bad business.
We don’t need more subscription MMOs, we need less. We need solid, interesting gameplay, not another riff on the DIKU>EQ>WoW lineage.