Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Does the subscription model cause MMO fanboism?

Fanboy or Fanboi is a derogatory term used to describe gamers who prefer a single product over all others despite any flaws or problems their choice may have. It's most often associated with consoles, though it can also develop over exclusive titles for a console. It's a horrible affliction and is probably the third leading cause of internet trolls after Xbox Live and the WoW forums. It's been theorized that fanboism is caused by the high cost of consoles, which often leads to people only ever being able to afford one. As we've seen in every generation of video game consoles there is almost always a clear winner who becomes the most popular and gets all the exclusive titles. Developers slowly start to abandon the other consoles and the game library for the winner climbs until the next generation is started.

I'm borrowing heavily from Yatzhee here but owners of the losing console often go into a sense of hyper defensiveness where they believe their own stubbornness can change the fabric of reality. They'll gloss over anything bad about their game or console and instead expound on whatever decent features they can find. The problem with this type of self delusion is that it tends to be permanent. Since every company at one point has lost or won the console war, there are fanboys for every one of them. They roam throughout the internet like mindless zombies eager to tear down anything not associated with their system. Their motivation seems to be that if they can direct enough nerd rage against their opponent's products they can make their own favorite more popular.

MMOs have almost the same problem as consoles though its hard to see any similarities between the two. The price of a MMO is actually quite reasonable for the amount of entertainment you get from it. Then again if you add up the cost of a year's subscriptions plus the initial cost of the game you arrive at something very similar to the price of the Wii. Thus while the initial cost is not as great as a console, the cost of seeing all the content does add up. This combined with the time commitment required by most MMOs makes it so most gamers can only play one game at a time. Now it becomes a bit more clear how MMOs gather the same kind of fervent fanboi attention that consoles have.

I personally think that MMOs attract even more fanboi attention then consoles, but the small size of the genre in the past has limited the effects. The console wars involve a much larger number of gamers and so its impact on internet forums has always been greater. Now though with the MMO market being so much larger, the effects of MMO fanboism can be felt all over the internet. The trolling just this summer between Warhammer, WotLK, and AoC has gotten so impressive that it's like a mini console war. Unlike consoles, the fun in MMOs seems to be directly proportional the amount of people playing it. Grand Theft Auto IV doesn't get better if more people buy it, but you can't necessarily say the same thing about a MMO that depends on grouping. This is why MMO fanboys are so desperate to convert people.

This gets so annoying that I can't even begin to describe my hatred for MMO fanboism. I just want to enjoy the game I'm playing in peace and not hear the ravings of people who got to the end game in another MMO and now are lonely, ever so lonely. I especially like the ones who champion a game which hasn't even released yet. Fanboys somehow believe that marketing material on their future game allows them to make detailed comparisons with current MMOs. I don't know if anyone has followed the history of any video game ever released but "THEY LIE". Until you sit down and start going through the half way point for a MMO, you never really know how the game plays or what is actually included in it.

If you want to know a secret then lean in close. I've never bought a MMO which I didn't think was worth the money. And you're talking to the guy who bought the normal version of Tabula Rasa for 50$ and now has to see the collectors edition for 15$ in the bargain bin. I've had some problems with SOE and their expansions for original EverQuest but that was a long time ago. In general most MMOs are worthwhile products and there have only been a few in the history of the genre which most people can say were horrible. Even most of the games which were horrible at release eventually improved enough that they became worthwhile later on. Vanguard and Anarchy Online are prime examples of this trend.

I'm comfortable with the subscription model because quite frankly I'm lazy and I don't like keeping track of a whole bunch of micro-transactions. I also don't really trust them, because every time I calculate how much I spent in arcades as a kid I feel like I was robbed. If there is one redeeming feature of the free to play model though is that it would probably but an end to fanboism in the MMO genre. Groups of friends could easily moved from game to game based on what they felt like doing that evening and not have to commit to a single game. This would annihilate the need to convert people to your game and spew out unrealistic critiques of every game you weren't playing. Of course for this to work someone actually has to make a free to play game which doesn't look like crap or play like ProgressQuest.


Mallika said...

THANK YOU! I completely agree with you. And as for this:

I especially like the ones who champion a game which hasn't even released yet. Fanboys somehow believe that marketing material on their future game allows them to make detailed comparisons with current MMOs.

That was just great. Something I've always wanted to articulate but never did. Numerous times over the past couple of months or so, the rampant fanboy-ism was just way too thick in some places.

Mallika said...

Some places meaning, some blogs out there. :)

Viet said...

Guild Wars! lol.

Relmstein said...

Guild Wars kind of contributes to the problem by never including their old expansions when they put out a new game. If you add up the cost of all the expansions together you get something very similar to paying for a year of a subscription based game.

Plus they still have some problems with having persistant areas for people to gather in which sparks the whole "Is it really a MMO" argument. In all honesty I think it qualifies as a MMO but I'm not sure I like games that only add content through expansions, even if it has no monthly fee.

Openedge1 said...

I especially like the ones who champion a game which hasn't even released yet. Fanboys somehow believe that marketing material on their future game allows them to make detailed comparisons with current MMOs.

I know these people

"Keen and Graev"

But, they are quite young (isn't Heartless under 20? Can't remember where I read that)
Maturity makes people realize that it is ok to like something, but if you blow it out of proportion and make it sound like the second coming, you will be in for a world of hurt.
I enjoyed the features of AoC before release, discussed it even, yet, I knew not to get my hopes up. Then on release, I thought it was fun, it did really well, and seemed like it would be a good game overall.
But, that also seems to be tanking now.

MMO's have a hard road ahead. WoW has set a bar no one can attain, and everyone is compared to.
I think so many people who have left that game would rather see it fail, than actually being a "fanboy" for the game that will topple it from it's throne.

With WAR getting so much attention now, it can hurt itself even more than AoC, Tabula Rasa or even Vanguard due to it's roots.
WAR has that "fanboy" image due to it's miniatures upbringing.
I played Warhammer and WH40k when I was younger...yet WAR does not excite me.
All I see is WoW everytime I look at it.

And I am no WoW fanbiy...thats for sure.

Relmstein said...

Hahaha, I didn't name anyone specifically but a lot of MMO blogs do seem to be taking what Mythic Marketing aka Paul Barnett says at face value. I honestly can't wait to try out Warhammer and I will probably drop Age of Conan for it. However, at the moment I'm playing Age of Conan and enjoying it.

I like the way Tobold talked about Age of Conan. He didn't like the ultra violent fatalities and he was disppointed that the Destiny Quest was so far spread out. So he quit, but didn't try to convince the world the game was crap.

Openedge1 said...

I agree with your Tobold statement. But, I did have an issue that he already had an "impression" of AoC before even trying it of past hates, dislikes. He used blanket statements on his blog to describe the launch time server issues, comparing it to AO, etc.
I am sure we are all guilty of that.

I went in with zero knowledge of Funcom and the way they do business, but boy did I take it upon myself to write about how I feel they have run AoC after my initial month.

Maybe I also was fooled by the "Marketing" of AoC.

Zelmor said...

Yeah, reference to Keen was quite clear, the guy aggrevates me quite a lot, the way he is a sucker for the media lies WAR producers hint in their walk. What I can say under NDA, expectations to WAR surpass the game to a limit, the game in creation cannot keep up to it, nor do the creators have any idea how to please the future mass. It will end up ugly. Darkfall is in a better situation, as they lack public relations and media buzz due to their lack of publisher. I have more faith in that game so far as I have in WHO. Silence is better than lying and not knowing how to make it a truth.