Sunday, 18 February 2007

Games and barge poles

Most of the people I know are from the MMORPG fraternity and these people come from all walks of life, as befots a global market of perhaps 20m-30m people for this genre. Notably there are a wealth of cultural differences from different parts of the world, which many have already commented upon - one was particularly interesting was that players in one part of the world wanted their character to fit in and be similar to others, where people in another part of the world were extremely keen that their character could be customised to the nth degree. Many people will also have heard of the Bartle Test, where you can determine, which type of player you are - Explorer, Achiever, Socialiser and Killer, or any combination or balance of these.

The Bartle Test is really quite important in my analysis and can be found here:
http://www.guildcafe.com/bartle.php. Here are my scores:
Breakdown: Achiever 46.67%, Explorer 80.00%, Killer 6.67%, Socializer 66.67%
ESAK players often see the game world as a great stage, full of things to see and people to meet. They love teaming up with people to get to the hard-to-see places, and they relish unique experiences.
Look at the description there and - bearing in mind that this description is largely comparative (compared to a SEAK or an EKAS, for example) - decide whether you know anyone who would fit that description very closely.

Chances are you do. But of course they won't be someone who plays MMORPGs at all. I would suggest that 90%+ of them have never heard of an MMORPG and would never ever entertain the idea of participating in one. If you explained it to them, then their response would likely be one of the following:
a) No, I'm too busy for that type of thing
b) No, but my 10yo might enjoy it; I grew out of those things a long while ago
c) No, you have to pay to play in those?
d) No, my computer isn't powerful enough
e) No, I have REAL friends
f) No, I don't want to get addicted to them
g) No, I think they are a social evil, which stop people from dealing with reality
h) No, I'd like to, but my wife won't let me
I won't get carried away, but there are plenty of reasons.

One of the largest groups of people you would meet would be (b). Basically, "I don't touch games, with a barge pole". Now, I'm not going to argue or analyse the merits or otherwise of this point of view, simply to say that it exists and it will be VERY HARD to persuade people to participate in an on-line game, with this perspective. This same group will often be those that enjoy "entertainment" more pertaining to their adult status, such as opera, eating in or out or concertgoing, so I don't personally feel the idea of having an on-line avatar who does all these things would be so far-fetched for this group of people. The issue is mainly that MMORPG has a "P" and a "G" in it. The word "play" and the word "game" makes many people feel awkward or embarrassed or indeed they simply reject it as not part of thier lifestyle.

You can see perhaps why restyling "play" as "participant" and "Game" as "on-line environment" is so critical for the development of the genre. Brent at Virginworlds recent podcast talked about Sony On-line Entertainment's new "Front screen" being far more functional than before. Clearly, it's going to turn into a marketing tool for Sony products from all areas of entertainment and quite rightly so. Bringing the mountain to Mohammed as well as Mohammed to the mountain is going to raise the awareness of Sony products and artists to MMORPG players, as well as include multiplayer gaming as a realistic entertainment option for that huge market out there that buys music from Sony artists. Having said that I'm not sure how many would install a 17Gb game onto their PCs.....

The clever bit about this is that suddenly MMORPGs move into the mainstream, by association. And in the mainstream, some of the (b)'s above suddenly become a lot less awkward about their involvement...

Well that wraps things up for today. I'll be back sometime later on in the week.

2 comments:

SCYTALE2 said...

Recent data has indicated that the global market may well be much larger than I had anticipated, possibly 80m+, with the numbers announced by NCSoft over the last week or so.

swiftvoyager said...

I'm 37 years old and play Eve a lot, but I didn't try my first MMO till just over a year ago. I really had a negative view of subscription games and didn't see anything special about them. It took quite a bit of coaxing from my brother to get me to try it. I was quite happy buying a 30+ dollar non-MMO game and investing many hours in them. It is just a really big jump to go from paying for a box with a manual and a disk to paying for a download and an account. That was my entry barrier. Young people like my 12 year old daughter are growing up with subscription games like Webkinz and Club Penguin, so I think the MMO market is going to explode when that generation starts to get jobs and has the ability to make purchasing choices on their own.

As for the people you are talking about above, my father falls into that catagory nicely. He's 64 years old and he plays a lot of older single player games, such as sim city and industry giant. He spends a lot more time playing games than he realizes I think. He likes to criticize me for spending so much time in the MMO and has even accused me of having a problem. He has such deep prejudices about MMO's that he'll never play one. The only things he knows about them are the things he's seen on the evening news, and most of that is shocking horror stories about addiction and the effects of online violence and sex. On the rare occasion that I accidentally mention the MMO around him, there's usually an indrawn breath and a roll of the eyes.

I think the concept of MMO's is still in infancy and the people who play them will be seen as early adopters. If you remember how long it took for TV to really get going and gain market share, then you begin to see how slow people are to accept new entertainment mediums. There were the same media horror stories about how TV was bad for your children etc. Then those kids who grew up with TV became adults and now the world can't exist without a TV in the house.