In an interview back in May, CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Petursson wanted to know what is up with all of the fantasy genre MMOs. He wants to see the MMO-esphere expand beyond fantasy. According to him, even some more SciFi massive games out there to help expand the market, which he sees as providing more opportunities for CCP’s EVE Online. You can read the interview here. It is short, so go take a look.
He certainly brings up a good point. I have three gut level responses to the big question in this interview.
First is that “fantasy” is a pretty wide net to cast when it comes to genres. I mean, I went over to Wikipedia where they, of course, have a list of sub-genres to fantasy. I knew there were a few, but I did not know there were so many. We have a lot of ground to cover before the fantasy genre runs dry. Yes, we have probably gone to the high fantasy well too often, but there are other worlds to conquer. Conan, for example, is not high fantasy. His world is, clearly, not the nice, clean battle between good and evil. Conan’s world has a lot of shades of grey.
Second, fantasy, especially high fantasy, tends to be prime for conversion to the massive gaming environment. Fantasy tends to have both the space and limitations that make for good massive gaming. A good high fantasy IP will already have defined world along with the lore to make a massive game. Plus, fantasy tends to be in a more medieval setting, so you can get away with making people walk everywhere they need to go.
Other likely genres do not fit as nicely into the MMO scope. SciFi tends to be vast. Doesn’t EVE Online boast of being the largest MMO around when it comes to sheer volume of space? You think walking across Norrath or Azeroth takes time? You haven’t taken an epic space voyage in EVE then. Space is big. Technology is complex. It can be difficult to distill that down into a massive environment.
Horror, another possible avenue, tends to be too small. Frankly, as a genre, it has been made pretty clear that you do not need a world, or even a continent to scare the crap out of somebody. A small castle, a decrepit manor, or a village off the beaten path is about all the setting you require. There are some exceptions to this in horror, such as Cthulhu, but as a genre it is hard to beat fantasy as something that fits right into the massive mold as we experience it today.
Finally, fantasy has been the most successful genre for MMOs. World of Warcraft, and EverQuest before it, set the outer boundaries for success in the MMO space. That does not mean that other genres should not be explored, but this does seem to say something about our desire to take up the sword as opposed to the blaster.
And then, completely off topic, can you look at the picture at the top of that interview and not have the urge to shout, “Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance!”