Risky business is rarely a term twinned with the industry. In the MMO spectrum it may be commonplace, however, but that's expected when a game takes eight years to complete. World of Warcraft, the presumed king of the genre, had an estimated budget of $100 million, and the reward has been huge for Blizzard. But that's the point of this blog post - the massive risk that an MMORPG is and why so many studios take the gamble.
The last couple years, the MMO genre has been overpopulated again and again. Last year, there was an MMO released every month. Not all of these were successes on par with WoW, but most of the time that's not needed to be financially successful. The Lord of the Rings Online was released with a big budget and recently went free-to-play to find its profits triple.
This blog post is inspired by news of another Warhammer MMO, Dark Millennium Online, has a budget of $50 million and we can expect it in the next couple years. That's a huge investment, but relatively small against competitors in the genre. Banking on an MMO to succeed has decided the fate of some studios, and luckily Vigil Studios is owned by THQ so there's no threat. With the mixed reaction to Darksiders, response to its biggest project yet should be interesting.
The CFO of THQ, Paul Pucino, spoke the typical business chatter at a business conference for Wedbush Morgan Securities, the same company where the Pach-Attack is employed. He anticipated a decade of straight profits, and for the game is to be successful two million units must be sold. The degrading success of World of Warcraft and the coming release of Star Wars: The Old Republic from BioWare will still dominate the genre airwaves and so the game's success is certainly in question. Though, Warhammer does have small and dedicated fan base, so I could be talking out of my ass. But purely based on other releases in the seemingly saturated genre, the game is dead-on-arrival.
As with anything, there are games that stand out, usually one each year, that threatens the reign of the genre king. Any game given the title "WoW-killer" seals its fate immediately, and Rift is this year's victim. The game mimics WoW from the dashboard to the similar PvP combat, but employs the namesake mechanic: rifts. Monsters start pouring out and it's the player job to close it. Otherwise the wave of creatures could take over important parts of the map and severely hamper attempts to level in the area. It's an interesting idea and a great way to keep yourself entertained. Other games given the title include Aion, which had a severe spike in players looking to leave Azeroth; after a few months the game died and several servers had to be merged. It's a doomed title. That's all I'm saying.
The genre is a massive gamble and most games fail. I thought I should rant. Have fun people.