Why Are The MMOs Declining In Popularity?
The MMOs (Massively Multi-Player Online) games still have millions of users. The games have generated millions of dollars. But in recent history, it’s been widely reported the major MMOs have lost millions of users. ”World of Warcraft lost 1.1 million customers in the last three months. It’s lost 2 million in the past year. Meanwhile, EA’s highly anticipated entry in the field — Star Wars: The Old Republic — failed to take off, with subscriptions dropping to under 1 million last quarter” (Source: Yahoo! Plugged In).
Why Are The MMOs Diminishing In Popularity?
Some have suggested the slower economy is partly to blame, and they may be a component.
As with any technology, MMOs came into full maturity in the last 10 years. Many people joined as the MMO wave as the software became more fluid, user-friendly, and full-featured.
The MMO designers capably created positive feedback loops, giving subscribers all manner of virtual kudos: points, gear, prestigious titles, access to hard-to-get-into areas, fame, and all manner of positive sensory feedback.
The MMOs gave potential customers this offer: If you join up with a group of friends and play us regularly, then we’ll give you an enduring fun and exciting experience for months to come. And most MMOs followed through in fulfilling on those promises, giving subscribers a perpetual experience in their preferred fantasy world.
Why Have MMOs Continued To Decline?
First, even more than most video game experiences, MMOs take a terrific amount of exclusive time commitment, often several hours every day. And as the average subscriber is getting older, and many take on more adult responsibilities, real life time demands conflict with virtual life demands.
Second, all media formats are facing more competition from increasing alternatives, both fee-based and free. From free phone game apps, to social networking, to Netflix, to ever-expanding cable channels, to more free digital over-the-air TV stations, to e-readers, on and on. All media formats are receiving more competition for users’ time. MMOs are not the only tech gaming sector in decline. Console makers and their software developers are also facing downward pricing pressures as demand decreases - as potential customers are often still actively playing games from the massive library of games from the last 20 years.
Third, there is another major reason for MMOs decline, a reason that is not mentioned as often: Modern technology consumers are growing more savvy, and becoming more aware of the distinction between real and virtual rewards. While MMO subscribers will often say, “It’s just a game,” at the core of the allure of MMOs was an implied suggestion that the gamer would be able to build and grow something that would have lasting and continually increasing worth.
MMOs will always be around. So will console gaming systems, computer games, and most of the other different media formats. They will wax and wane in popularity.
A college friend of mine, who was a hardcore World of Warcraft gamer for several years, stopped playing WoW several months ago, and plans to stop his Star Wars Rebellion account soon. He’s become older, has a new dog, and the demands of real life are conflicting with his available gaming time.
MMOs will continue to decline as more subscribers get older and make a similar decision to the choice they make in so many other areas of their life: If the time and effort required to do an activity well does not produce a sufficiently pleasant or profitable outcome, they’ll often stop doing that activity. Whether a person is deciding to play a game, go see a movie, or download an app, there is a “cost & time vs. potential profitability” analysis that most people use consciously or subconsciously.
Why do you read a book? Because there’s at least a hope the amount of money spent on the book and the time spent reading it might result in a sufficiently pleasurable or profitable outcome?
Unfortunately for MMOs, despite all their marvelous bells, whistles, and shiny objects, more people are deciding the daily hours needed to play them well are not sufficiently rewarding in reality to warrant the real time and money expenditures.