It’s Good To Be Niche

I’ve spent a good deal of time in a multitude of virtual worlds over the years. My most recent infatuation is one that many readers are fond of, World of Warcraft. But my enjoyment of the title waned over the past few months, and I began to look to other games – some new, some old and some I was already a part of – to fill in the void. While it’s hard to compare apples to apples in the messy MMOG sector, there’s one thing that is easy to judge objectively, the community surrounding a title. For most niche titles, the community is a beautiful relationship between players, developers, fan sites and media. Not an unmanageable Roman-sized empire that Blizzard Entertainment has ended up having to deal with.

Fallen Earth has been a champion of community relations long before I become a member. In fact, reports of a helpful newbie channel and constant chatter from developers and GMs was a big deciding factor to subscribing. I knew I’d be behind the eight ball in knowledge, joining the game late as I did and completely alone in doing so. While I’ve known the developers from trade shows for some time, I’m glad to report that the in-game community relations are as superb as the out of game support. The creators even lead near-weekly Trivia contests, participate in live events on a routine basis and pimp out player-led events all the time.

Global Agenda is another game I’ve sunk a lot of time in during my break. It to has a fantastic community, even if just to mess with. The general chat isn’t all that useful – you’ll find guild or agency conversations far more informative – but what GA lacks in universal language is made up by Hi-Rez Studios’ dedication to the game. From official to unofficial forums, blogs and fansites, the company absorbs all comments, and supports anyone that discusses the MMOG. For example, Sandstorm and its outdoor universe, a community request that the devs brought to life. Devs are constantly popping up in Dome City – HiRezStew – just to chat, and the community has no qualms with the developers having fun or breaking the fourth wall by dropping boss mobs in the sanctuary city. They participated in our community event last week, and now the developers are going to be melt faces in the Challenge Tournament starting this month.

I’m not a psychologist, but when developers go this extra mile, when they mingle and play beside those that enjoy their world, it hooks me that much more. So what if it’s a niche title, if it’s not as massive a universe or as well polished. It’s one that I’m more than a number in a spreadsheet, or at least, that’s how I am made to feel by the community.

Blizzard should not be given a pass because it has a product with 12 million members. With that many paying subscribers, which we know turns into ridiculous profits, the company could afford to hire a crew of hands-on GMs for each realm. It just chooses not to. Just like it chooses not to have a very organized way to disseminate information or keep its forums from being troll heaven (RealID would have helped). The Community Site Preview shows that Blizzard looking to remedy a few of the issues.

Interested in checking the aforementioned communities out? Here’s a code for 30% off Global Agenda – GACOUITZKOOPA06302. It’s first come, first serve, but I have more so drop me a line if it gets used. I’ll randomly gift a commenter with a code for 30 free days of Fallen Earth, so leave a topical comment for your chance to win.

5 Comments

  1. If you really like these kinds of close relations between developers and players, and helpful player communities, you should probably try out a game called A Tale in the Sand.

    Its very VERY niche game, but its got a community thats beyond anything ive experienced in an online game.

    (Tobold is way better at describing it than i am, so here’s a link: http://tobolds.blogspot.com/2003/07/tale-in-desert.html. This is just the start of a quite long article series about the game, so plenty of stuff to read.)

    Also: unless its a 30 days free code or similar, consider me out of the draw. not enough money to buy it anyway :(

  2. yeah i know, but i really don’t have the money to buy a new game at the moment.

    Afterall, theres both cataclysm and christmas shopping coming up :)

    (16 years old, so not much in the way of income :P)

  3. @Mordil
    GA is NOT F2P. The model is the same as Guild Wars, you’ll have to buy major content expansions. Think of it as paying for WoW’s content patches, but no monthly subscription.

    @Jondare
    I’ve read about Tale in the Sand quite a bit, even some articles from that series. I’m definitely full on MMOG right now. Perhaps I will take it for a spin when I opt for another break.

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