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I read this article over on massively about the free 2 play-market is being over saturated. I have also been thinking about this quite some time. The other day I was browsing games over att mmohub.org and indeed the market is or is damn sure about to be over saturated.

What is happening? Well, in the gaming industry one could say that MMO’s is the big thing right now and everybody and their grandfather is planning or have already released one, plus as the linked article says loads of asian games are being ported for the US/European market.

Let’s say we have an imaginary world where there is one million people playing mmo’s and this is a static number, at any time there is only one million people play and this number is evenly divided among the number of mmo’s. Now also imagine in this world to run an MMO successfully you need to have at least 100,000 people playing it.

So in our imaginary world Company No. 1 makes an MMO and has great success because they’re the only company on the market and has monopoly over it. That means the whole one million player base is spending their money on the company No. 1-mmo only. Company No. 2 notices how much money Company No. 1 makes and starts to think that they also would like a piece of that tasty MMO-pie. So Company No. 2-mmo is released and splits the player base 50/50.

Company No. 1 now has 500,000 players and so has Company No. 2, but since 100,000 players is all you need to make profit both company’s still make their fair share of money.

But now, Company No. 3-10 notices what a lucrative market this is and they also releases their MMO’s. Okay, Company No. 1 and 2 may still not make so much money as they did before, but seeing as they still has those 100,000 players each that they need to make the company go round it’s all good.

But what happens when Company No. 11 releases their MMO? All company’s suddenly only have 90,909 players each and this is when things start to go downhill. Especially since Company No. 12-15 is also knocking on the MMO-door and wants their cut.

In the end, when all 15 companies has released their games they all are down to about 66,000 players each which is 34,000 less than whats needed for a company to wake up on the plus-side of the bed. This is bad for everyone, the companies have to shut down their games since they don’t make any money and the customers won’t have any game to play in the end.

Now, in the real world, it’s a little bit more advanced, but it’s still what’s happening. The big Behemoths like World of Warcraft, of course will still be around for a very long time. But for the smaller companies in the business this over saturation is bad. Because what will happen is a whole lot of games probably wont see the light of they, and some that do might have to shut down and for us, the players, that means that we’ll miss out on some great games.

What can be done to prevent this? Well, I don’t know, I’m not some economic genius, I’m just here to rant about it. I don’t think it will go so far as too all game companies have to shut down, but some probably will, unless there’s an infinite number of players. Plus in the free 2 play market, the number of players isn’t as important as players willing to put money into micro transaction systems.

In the end, our favourite mmo’s will hopefully manage to power trough this. Of course, we also have the ‘survival of the fittest’ point of view on this, in that, if an MMO is good enough, players will notice, and players will play it, no matter how over saturated the market is.

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So, Aion goes into open beta this weekend. A lot of talk about the game, seems like it got potential. I’m not that excited though. I will probably try it out if or when it gets a trial-thingy, like the 10-day trial WoW has.

Why not now? Well, for starters, a whole lot of people will probably try to get in to the open beta, so servers will probably be a bit unstable. It will probably be a whole lot of bugs, which might act as a kind of turn-off.

Then of course, there’s quite the big chance, that I would get into open beta and just find the game a whole lot of fun and I can’t afford that right now. Another thing I’m worried about is the flying fighting thing, which some people have told me not to worry about. But I’ve read somewhere that Aion would be introducing fighting on the y-axis to MMO’s and that would be cool, if it wasn’t for my sensitive sense of balance. If it’s a lot of fighting on the y-axis, I will probably just throw up a bunch and then move on to the next game.

It would be nice though if some MMO could offer some serious competition to Blizzard to prevent them from going stale, not that it looks like they are anywhere near going stale. I think it’s a hard thing to do, for one, Blizzard has a very dedicated die hard fan base, blizzcon anyone? Plus, the world of Azeroth was three games deep before going into an MMO in the first place, there’s just so much lore,  so much great lore. Compared to other MMOs where I often get the feeling that the world is built around the mmo, in WoW’s case it feels like the exact opposite, that the MMO was built around the world. Do you get my point? Azeroth wasn’t something people came up with when someone over at blizzard said ‘Hey, lets do a mmorpg!’.

Well, one could say that a strong setting doesn’t do great for MMO’s. If you look at both Lotro and WAR. Which both has pretty strong settings to play around with.

So what does it take to be a competitive MMO? And by competitive I mean like dividing the audience between WoW and that MMO? For starters, I don’t think one MMO isn’t gonna cut it, you need a whole lot of mmo’s to split into smaller groups, but in that case there’s also a risk of flooding the market to the point where gamers just ain’t gonna be able to keep up.

I also think that not trying to beat Blizzard is important, because that was really the problem with Age of Conan, Lord of the rings online and Warhammer. All three titles were hyped up to be THE WoW-killer. But one has got to remember, right now, this is Blizzards ballpark and maybe, you might get to practice some batting on wednesday morning if you’re lucky.

World of Warcraft to, I think, was the right product, at the right place, in the right time. Maybe it isn’t the first, but it most certainly is the best. But in the end, if other mmo’s could come up with a couple of hundred thousands of subscriptions, it will still be great money. Just face the fact, that there ain’t room for two mmorpg’s with 11 million paying customers each. If one can snatch those couple of hundred thousands from WoW one should be more than satisfied, because it’s hard for a player, to just throw away something he or she has been putting down money and time in for the last four years, to just start with something with no guarantee that it will bring the same experience WoW did to them.

Now I’m gonna go out on a limb here, but I think the next big thing in online gaming, it’s not going to be Aion or Star Wars: The Old Republic, however, even if it doens’t qualify as an MMORPG, there’s quite the chance that it’s going to be a game called Diablo 3.

I mean why not, people still play Diablo online today and those games has how many years on their necks?

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