Monday, November 2, 2009

Syncaine has one interpretation

I have another. He's said it before, though I think the situation is greatly more complicated than I've seen him allude to, and that is the whole debate surrounding hardcore vs. casual. Or more apropos, "sand-box" vs. "theme-park". The gaming market is but a microcosm of larger society, though in this case it's complicated by the international nature of it. Peoples in geographic regions so far apart often have very different views on things, because apparently grindy MMO's are all the rage in Asia. Not so here in the U.S. where we prefer a little more refinement from our entertainment.

And this portion of the international market has seemingly spoken as to the casual vs. hardcore debate. Games that Syncaine favor -- Darkfall for one, do not have the mass appeal that he would like them to have, and he's blaming all the wrong things for that. It's not that people run off to test out Aion that cause the problems in his type of games, rather it's the problems in his type of games that cause people to run off to test other games. Factor in that any number of people who say they are hard core players, aren't really hard core. Either they are fooling themselves, or fooling someone else. At least part of the time. Games that offer sand-box elements, but other more casual elements tend to do reasonably well in the U.S., though what that level is no one can really say. It's all hearsay and innuendo after all. Especially because no two developers definitions on what an account is, seem to match.

The raw hard reality of sand-box MMOs is that they strictly rely on a certain population level because its the population that creates the vast majority of the entertainment. Whereas in theme-park MMOs the majority of entertainment is provided, and usually only supplemented by sand-box elements. If the population falls below a level where you will be able to sustain a reasonable level of activity in the game, then boredom quickly sets in and people look elsewhere for entertainment. The less hardcore leave quickly, and the more hardcore tend to stick around for longer. Syncaine is in the habit of blaming other games, and WoW specifically, for the ills that befall other MMOs. Like WAR, and Darkfall.

That simply isn't the case. The market always speaks, though not in a single voice, and not all at once. And the market is never wrong.