A few months ago, last Dec 2007, Eve Online underwent a huge update with their Trinity expansion. This free expansion not only added new features, ships and items, but was also a complete graphical update to keep up with the next generation of MMOs. Eve Online as far as I know is the first MMO to completely revamp their current game instead of creating a sequel which not only keeps all your current members, but creates enough of a buzz much like a sequel to boost membership numbers.
Taking a look at some past sequels, Asheron’s Call 2, Everquest 2 and Lineage 2, none of these sequels were able to match their predecessor’s in terms of members. Not only that, but if you combined the numbers from both games after a year, they were less than the original game at its peak.
So why can’t MMORPG sequels succeed?
Starting over – After playing an MMORPG for 2 years, do you really want to start over in what basically is the same game with updated graphics? Regaining your levels and items, finding a new guild and friends to quest with? From the numbers it doesn’t look like many do and they end up sticking with the original.
It’s basically the same game – Making a sequal for a MMO is not like making a sequel to Halo. Many, many things must remain the same. Races, maps, towns, ect. Sure there will be new areas, new features, possibly a new race or two a maybe a new skill system, but for the most part your playing the same game with updated graphics.
Dying game – When a sequel to a game comes out, it basically feels like the original game is on its way out. For those members that stay with the original, it feels like your the old man at the bar and eventually you’ll stop going there.
New games – Once a sequel comes out many gamers do not want to make the switch for reasons stated above. They also know that eventually there going to have to move on as the original game begins to die. So if they’re going to have to start over, why not start over with a brand new game with brand new stories and atmosphere.
Not only do subscription numbers plummet after a sequel, but you have to put in the cost of creating the sequel. It will be interesting to see if GuildWars 2 follows in suit with the games mentioned above.
Going back to Eve Online, I think the studio was fully aware of the track records for MMOs sequels when it decided to do a complete update to the current game instead of making a sequel. I’m sure all Eve Online players also prefer this method especially since the expansion was free. Way to go Eve!