Quote of the Day – Defining a Successful MMO

“How many MMOs have been successful in the U.S.? Two. World of Warcraft and EverQuest. Kind of a bad slugging percentage.”

Take-Two Interactive chairman Strauss Zelnick, arguing that MMOs don’t work in the West

I am not sure what measure of success you would be using if you declared that the only two successful MMOs ever in the U.S. were EverQuest and World of Warcraft.

I guess if you don’t wildly exceed your initial expectations, you have failed.

14 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – Defining a Successful MMO

  1. TeshTesh

    Ah, the AAA mentality. Not too surprising coming from a chairman, though. It’s all about big numbers (growth especially) at a certain point on the corporate ladder.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Tesh – Indeed, another variation on the Wall Street view that if you are not growing fast enough, then you are dying. It is the Yahoo! problem. Yahoo! is still profitable, it just doesn’t make huge piles of money like a hot tech company any more.

    The last company I was hired to work for was acquired and merged several times, each time because we were not big enough to be able to compete going forward or were not growing fast enough to be considered viable.

    But we had a good and quite profitable product that was popular with our customers.

    Because of the latter, they could never get our customers to switch to the parallel product of the acquiring company (That was always the root cause of the merger despite what was else was said, they wanted to buy our customers.) even after years of neglect when our product was behind on tech. And because of the former, they couldn’t just discontinue our product. At numerous junctures, we were the most profitable product in our business group.

    If we had stayed our own company, slimmed the company down a bit, and stopped having delusions of grandeur, the company would have kept on, been profitable, and had an extremely competitive product.

    But that would not have been “success.”


  3. couillon

    Makes me wonder if his quote is “true” then what welfare plan is keeping all the other MMO’s afloat? On the other hand, there are issues with how large studios develop AAA MMO’s today…thinking of the recent comments from Scott Hartsman.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Couillon – Well, he alludes to SWTOR later on in the article as further proof that you cannot do MMOs in the West, which seemed to me to be akin to saying in 1912 that big ocean liners are totally not viable because of the Titanic, as opposed to considering that White Star Line might not have operated the ship correctly.

    I also infer from what he said that going F2P is a sign of failure, although he is going into Asia where that is the dominant revenue model. So it seemed like a load of propaganda to me. But he couldn’t just come out and say, “Take Two cannot compete in Western MMO market.”


  5. Matt

    Maybe the metric is “MMOs that a normal person might have heard of”, though that might include TOR. I do think pop culture breakthrough is more important than numbers in these cases, though obviously you can have both like WoW.

    If not, maybe the issue is that there is successful and then there is successful. WoW is so big that it skews the perception. WoW is so beyond the competition that it can measure its quarterly rises and drops in multiples of other games’ entire playerbases. Everquest would then get a mention for being the first of note, but really there is only WoW.

    Trying to meticulously define success is probably a fool’s errand though.


  6. kiantremayne

    Here’s the thing though – while TOR isn’t making the bucketloads of money that EA hoped for, I haven’t seen any reliable source that implies that it’s causing massive financial losses either. It seems to be chugging along in the slightly disappointing “well, we’re getting some return on our investment but it we’d be getting as much and be a lot safer if we had just dumped the lot into (non-Greek) government bonds”.

    To flip the question around – how many MMOs have failed in the U.S.? And by failed, I would mean have been shut down without repaying the investors their initial stake (never mind a reasonable return). Tabula Rasa for sure, Auto Assault probably, and Project Copernicus may or may not count depending on whether you include stillborn MMOs. How many others?


  7. Aufero

    What is it about CEOs of giant game publishing companies that compels them to make public statements that display astonishing ignorance about the games industry?

    Maybe it’s a form of one-upmanship?


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Aufero – I think it is a defect in the breed, as though what they say influences reality and brings things into being.

    @kiantremayne – That can be a tricky one.

    Does City of Heroes count? They said they were making money.
    Does Asheron’s Call 2 count? It closed, but is being revived.
    Does Darkfall count? It was closed to make way for Unholy Wars.
    Does EQOA count? The PS2 platform was out of date.
    Does SWG count? Killed to make room for SWTOR.

    Probably on the list:
    LEGO Universe
    Chronicles of Spellborne


  9. Aufero

    @Wilhelm – Ha! Good point.

    Still, the same could be said of Warren Buffet or Jeff Bezos, but you don’t see them making statements that cause people to boggle in disbelief every few months.

    Donald Trump, maybe…


  10. HarbingerZero

    EQOA wouldn’t count, it made its money back and even up until they shut it down they were breaking even in the cost department, at least from what was said on the official forums from the last remaining (part time) dev.

    Also, since T2I hasn’t made any MMOs (unless I’m missing one somewhere) and lost a pile of money last year, I’m not sure why they are talking about MMO’s in the first place. Interviewer setup question maybe?


  11. Asmiroth

    The Asian market supports dozens of MMOS in the business model they were launched in (F2P or sub) and require way less effort than a western game that has to include the kitchen sink in order to survive 3 months.

    A triple A MMO on this side of the ocean has a way higher bar for success than on the other. One of us has to be smoking something…

    He’s full of hyperbole but he has a valid point beneath the PR BS.


  12. Devilstower

    Ultima Online was a highly successful game before WOW was a glimmer in an Orc’s eye. And many games that might be viewed as niche, such as Dark Age of Camelot, have generated large communities (and not inconsierable wealth for their creators).


  13. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Asmiroth – But do Western MMOs have to put in everything including the kitchen sink to survive, or is spending all that time trying to cover all bases just killing them before they even start? His point seems to be based on the assumption that you have to have a budget like SWTOR to get into the Western market, and even then you will fail. Do we take that as read?

    Not that I deny that the Asian MMO market is different, and that MMOs are viewed in a different light there and played in a different way. Even the socio-economic nature of the societies over there… especially in China… make things different.

    @Devilstower – Sorry, this week the paradigm only appears to allow people to pick only two winners. This guy picked “EverQuest and WoW” based on being the biggest breakout successes in the genre, while another guy picked “EVE and WoW” based on growth over time.


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