Friday’s rumor concerning Bungie and a MMO first person shooter the studio might be developing got my gears turning thinking about the possibilities of this endeavor. Now, the news, a word which I am using in the most liberal of senses, is just a rumor and can’t be taken as an assurance. The thing about the news that I find interesting is that we may be entering into a world where FPS’s and sports titles might be going towards the MMO model. Which is a model that I think these companies want to explore, this may even be a testing ground for a completely digital library. But, who will win this arms race?
Much like the rest of the computer gaming world, most companies are trying to get a piece of that MMO pie. Companies have been watching how much Blizzard is pulling in on a monthly basis from its hit MMO, World of Warcraft. Fans have been saying for years that sports games could easily go subscription, because many fans could tide themselves over with a roster update. Similarly, FPSs could easily last a few years by putting out map packs and weapons packs.
It seems like these yearly franchises change things because they have to make a new retail product every year. They change things that many people find useful instead of refining them and making them better overall. Madden ‘06 had a feature called QB Vision Control, which many people found awful but many of the people who I played Madden with thought the “cone” was a really good idea. I am sure that there were people on both sides of the argument who had sound reasons for their opinions. In the ‘07 and ‘08 versions of Madden it was optional and, finally, in the ‘09 version it was taken out completely. This is actually a better example of iteration, but why couldn’t they keep the option in for those people who liked the option.
Shooters have been working hard to split themselves between two markets, but they have also been trying to shove other market ideas down our throats. Activision was working on a MMO Call of Duty for Asia, but that hasn’t been released in the West. EA/DICE had their Battlefield: Heroes game, but it didn’t fare too well in Asia or America. The companies are trying to do what they want instead of doing what consumers want. A Chinese consumer is much different than a consumer in Chicago, Illinois. A consumer from London wants something different from a consumer in Fukuoka, Japan. If they want these games to work they need to make the games that the people in that market want.
I think that releasing a retail product in America with map packs and weapons packs that continue over a few years would work with this market. Americans want something to buy and many of them want a single player campaign. But, once people are finished with single player and they have played a hundred or more hours of multiplayer they want something new. You can just look at the sales of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare map packs to see how much people want to continue the game that they enjoy.
I think that Bungie and the Call of Duty team will be battling each other soon enough to bring out the first MMO first person shooter, or at least the first subscription based FPS. EA will have a subscription soccer game within the next two years. These companies need to learn how to approach this correctly, because if they don’t approach it right and they keep screwing up the market. The whole change to a subscription based FPS is going to take much longer than it needs to take.