Speaking earlier today at the Evolve conference in Brighton, Michael Pachter a videogame analyst for Wedbush Securities, stated that he believed the MMO market is as big as it’s ever going to get stating:
In the next couple of years [following 2008] MMOs peaked; we didn’t know that [it had peaked] untilStar Wars launched. I, and many other likeminded people thought that Star Wars would expand the market place.
Star Wars was supposed to bring in all of these new people that had never played an MMO before, just because they loved the brand. We know that Rift just took players from other existing MMOs, and the same with Conan and Lords of the Rings. Now the same thing has happened with Star Wars.
It looks to me as though the MMO market is as big as it’s ever going to be – as far as subscription MMOs. People willing to play $15 a month.., there are six or seven million of them. Period. If Star Warscouldn’t expand it, when it’s made by BioWare, nothing can do it.
That’s why Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios went out of business, because he couldn’t get financing [for his MMO].
This analysis of the market seems very short sighted to me. While I fully agree that the current state of the MMO marketplace is flat, it has in no way reached its limit and how could it? There has been zero innovation to the industry for nearly a decade and the industry is only 15 years old.
I remember when RPG’s were a niche market in gaming during the 80′s and 90′s, but over the last decade with series like Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, Fallout and BioWare’s other Star Wars RPGs, they’ve vastly expanded the market. Today you have games like Skyrim shattering sales records.
If you go back to the early days of Elder Scrolls, Fallout and even the original Diablo, sure they were popular, but they were still in a niche market compared to the rest of the gaming industry. Today RPGs are the considered mainstream thanks to the innovation from developers over the last 15 years or so.
On the other side, MMORPG’s have barely changed despite what some studios claim. They’re stale, repetitive and rely entirely too much on developers ability to push out new content.
There’s no doubt MMORPG are in a slump, but I don’t believe the genre as a whole has peaked, it’s just waiting for a development studio to break the mold and light the way.