Massive Rethinking: Are We in an “MMO Hype Vacuum”?
James “MMO Folklorist” Crosby I recently wrote an article using a term that I think is so apt that we should all adopt it: the MMO hype vacuum. Essentially, he’s struggling with the realization that we have a lot of big new MMOs on the horizon, and yet the expectations and hype surrounding the games have bottomed out. The LOTR MMO and the new Warhammer 40K MMO are just the tip of the iceberg; we also have Throne & Liberty, Blue Protocol, Dune Awakening, Chrono Odyssey, Pax Dei, Anvil Empires, Ashes of Creation, Bellatores, Soulframe, ArcheAge 2, corepunkRaph Koster’s thing, the riot MMO, plus heaps of smaller MMOs and borderline titles like wayfinder And nightingale And Palia. Some of them are only new to the scene since our last big roundup of the MMOs we’re expecting. There is a huge variety of studios and game types.
Crosby cites several reasons for the phenomenon and speculates that the lack of concrete information (even for MMOs expected to be released later this year) has dampened the hype, along with the fact that many of the games aren’t actually aimed at MMORPG players aligned like him.
“Anything that actually feels like it’s going to come out in the next year or two seems to fall into two extremes – gritty Unreal Engine action MMO or ‘snug’ wholesome MMO.” Prefer that one Taste your MMO Dark Souls or Animal Crossing?”
Let’s join this week’s massively overthinking speculation. Is Crosby right that we’re currently in an MMO hype vacuum? If so, is he right about the causes, or are there more? And how many times will we misspell vacuum before this column ends?
Andy McAdams: I think the last time I really got excited about an MMO was Wild Star before realizing it was hardcore cupcake and thinking it was just a stylized sci-fi MMO with a good sense of humor. Before that maybe it was Guild Wars 2 with the original developer manifest it somehow adhered to? Perhaps?
But I think the core of the problem for me is that there is nothing worth hyping about. I’m feeling a bit like what Crosby is feeling here – hardcore gloom with GTFO Carebear and it’s all super intense interactions where a single mistake means you get pulverized, it’s not really my cup of tea. While I like “cozy” MMOS, I get bored easily because “cozy” often equates to the depth of a “drop of water on the counter” in gameplay and systems.
I think a lot of really inspired titles have come out. We have eastern ports poured left and right with more or less “mobile game” sensibilities. New world It was fun, but not particularly memorable in terms of setting and mood, and also randomly punishing. We have some interesting things coming up Wagadu Chronicles And Book of Travelsbut I’m having a hard time getting excited about it as neither seems to really suit me.
I think what would really excite me about a game is a really big and daring game that turns the industry on its head. I think something is like… Wow was back when it completely changed the industry. Maybe I want Oasis? I don’t know, but so much of what we’re covering is just the same basic gameplay, the same tried-and-true gameplay that we’ve had for 30 years – it’s not even the same game with a new coat of paint, if developers are you mix the same game with a coat of paint they found behind the shelves in the garage and try to pass off the old and cracked as something new and new.
I want something that will blow my mind and excite me.
Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): What counts as hype? I think since the advent of streaming, studios have changed their methods of communicating about the product. I think the hype is just as widespread today as it was then Wow was published; it just took on a different and less obvious form. When the message is delivered by a trusted content creator, it feels more organic, even if the creator is paid the same salary as any in-house PR or marketing team.
Briana Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Yes, I think James is right: this is a real thing and you see it across the genre, on Reddits, Discords, forums, blogs, YouTube, everywhere. Even some of the people who get excited about a new game are skeptical about everything else. And I think skeptical is the right word because MMORPG players are right when they are skeptical. Our biggest games are a decade or more older, we’ve just gotten a dozen years of Kickstarter programs that rarely actually lead to release MMOs, and the vast majority of MMOs that have actually released in the last decade have been disappointments.
So yes, MMO players right now are Charlie Brown ready to kick the ball but pretty sure Lucy will rip it up again. It’s hard to cheer for that.
I also think James is right: just because the games are new doesn’t necessarily mean they’re for you. If you’re looking for a traditional sandpark MMORPG with all the bells and whistles, then no, there won’t be much on the menu. And why should you get excited about something that you know has no long-term value for you personally? You may be glad other people get a game – I always am – but I won’t get it hyped.
Finally, many of the MMOs have toned down their hype, partly because it’s cheaper, partly because there was strong opposition to the messy and unproductive “open development” of the 2010s. Advertising budgets are also in sharp decline right now, meaning it’s having to rely more on word of mouth and video influencers, both big gambles in a genre where neither is particularly trustworthy or provides the pervasive fan sentiment that it is one cannot flee.
In closing, I would like to point out that being in an MMO hype vacuum can be boring, but I’m not sure it’s a bad thing. Unfounded hype creates jaded gamers anyway.
Chris Neal (@wolf eyes, blog): I don’t know what Crosby is hoping for from the upcoming games, but I don’t really agree that the choices are as binary as he would like to believe, so I think he’s generalizing a bit too much here.
Still, he might be on the right track in that it feels like a vacuum, but mostly because there seems to be a general uneasiness about who is currently piloting the ships: Daybreak sits on its laurels, Amazon enjoys widespread distrust from both Publishers and especially as developers, Square-Enix is hungry for NFTs, Blizzard is Blizzard and the indie scene, which was supposed to “save” the genre, has noticeably lost the ball.
Still, I don’t know there’s any reason to despair. I find Blue log has some legs, I really think a leisurely game or two is badly needed (especially for escapism’s sake), and having a few of the old favorites staying solid as a foundation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Still, I would agree that a new cannonball in the pool would be welcome, if not absolutely necessary.
Colin Henry (@ChaosConstant): For me, the hype vacuum is less about the quantity or quality of the information or the types of games coming out, and more about the fact that I’ve been burned too many times. Too many games are either a buggy mess that just took longer to cook (Magical Legends) or were canceled before they even came out (EverQuest Next) or their scope was reduced so much that they didn’t even try to make new MMOs (Torchlight 3/Frontiers). It’s hard to be happy about something when players have experienced so much disappointment.
These days I’m much more excited about an existing game that brings major improvements than something completely new. It shows me that the developers are genuinely committed to the product and don’t intend to just cut their losses and shut it down.
Sam Cash (@thesamkash): Personally, I feel a bit like I’m in a hype vacuum. It probably has something to do with the huge disappointment I experienced from both of them crowfall And New world. Crowfall’s Shutdown speaks for itself. New world I really expected to come out with momentum. Instead, it didn’t hit any of the notes I wanted. Of course, from what I’ve read, it’s been gaining traction lately, which is great. But the hype I had for these games, alongside dozens of games before them, made me depressed and de-hyped.
Nowadays I still look forward to some games. HPWU is probably the first Blue log, and later maybe the new LOTR game. But I wouldn’t call it hype, just hope. I don’t push myself to the max only to be disappointed, I just hope they do well
Tyler Edwards (blog): I always think “vacuum” has two C’s for some reason.
Anyway, I don’t understand what he’s describing. I saw a lot of excitement Blue log, Dune: awakeningAnd Palia. Most of the other points mentioned are too remote to form a definite opinion on. An optimistic part of me wants to think that maybe people have learned to tone down their hype. The MMO community has a long history of over-hyping games and bracing for disappointment.