Vague Patch Notes: There’s nothing wrong with being a niche MMO

Absolutely a niche.

So Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen doesn’t wish to be seen as a niche recreation. Visionary Realms’ current interview saying so was clearly bewildering to a lot of MMO gamers, however perhaps it shouldn’t have been. The recreation’s design has all the time sought to please two masters: the backers who search a group-oriented EverQuest/Vanguard throwback, and everybody else. That’s been evident within the studio’s candid dev blogs and accessibility overtures for years. But the hardcore backers are however anticipating a design philosophy that has largely been left behind by the business – the very definition of a niche recreation.

The extra vital query, at the least to me, is why an MMO studio would push in opposition to the thought within the first place.

I don’t imply that to indicate that there’s no conceivable different cause to take action; for one factor, should you’re attempting to draw unbiased traders, you wish to downplay the concept that your recreation is by some means a minor niche title since which means the traders aren’t going to be making a lot of cash both approach. But I feel that prompts the query of how issues work as niche MMOs within the first place and what which means for the style as a complete.


The factor about small indie crowdfunding MMOs is, effectively, they ought to be niche MMOs. That’s simply the fact of economics and what goes into making video games within the first place. MMOs are costly video games to make, and crowdfunded video games are normally being made with a a lot smaller finances than even what’s a common finances for these titles within the first place.

Look at Crowfall, if you’d like an instance. That recreation really made it from crowdfunding to launch, attracted a variety of traders, and was nonetheless cheaper than your common MMO to launch… and it’s additionally indisputably a niche product. You can argue whether or not or not it belongs on a listing of success tales (though at this level a crowdfunded recreation attending to launch in any respect is a success story), nevertheless it undoubtedly began and has all the time been billed as a niche product.

And that’s type of the good place to be with your recreation anyway as a result of the mainstream viewers is fairly effectively served.

Yes, I'm aware of the disconnect of using this as an example, just move past it.


Consider what we are saying repeatedly concerning the “big five.” The thought is that there are 5 MMOs on the market that appear to have notably excessive profiles, excessive earnings, and sizable footprints. These are the video games which have various levels of mainstream attraction and both provide a extensive number of gameplay types for gamers to interact in (4 out of the 5) or had such a enormous cultural footprint at one level that almost everybody has fond reminiscences that may cowl for missing areas (World of Warcraft). Almost by definition, all the pieces else within the style naturally falls into the “other” class.

There is nothing wrong with this reality. At least certainly one of my favourite MMOs of all time is in that “other” class, as are a number of others I fairly get pleasure from or titles that I feel are fairly compelling and neat on their very own. But the factor about being within the “other” class is that simply by way of finances and attain, you aren’t going to do all the pieces that the massive 5 do with the identical gusto and effectivity.

Crowfall isn’t going to compete with WoW by way of breadth of content material or quantity. It merely can’t try this. Not solely does WoW have practically 20 years of a head begin, it additionally has way more finances and employees and attraction to start out with. So what Crowfall can do successfully is attempt to compete with WoW by being actually good at one thing that WoW is at greatest first rate at doing, to offer a distinctive gameplay expertise.

A niche title doesn’t imply that the sport is worse than a recreation with a broader attraction; it implies that the sport is extra specialised. That is a affordable and good place to be. If you possibly can’t be fairly good at all the pieces, you might be superb at a very particular slice of issues to be able to attraction to the individuals who actually like that particular slice.


For that matter, why would you wish to compete with an business titan when you may have solely a thousandth of the finances and identify recognition? It’s like attempting to select an impromptu fistfight with a boxer; it’s going to harm a lot and nobody goes to care should you technically win. Being a niche title isn’t simply a survival technique however a content material deployment one.

Of course, there are two catches to being seen as a niche title. And the primary is the place I believe the Pantheon staff’s protestations make sense: Sometimes the issue is just the scale of that niche.


There are completely individuals who need what quantities to an EverQuest or Vanguard throwback with aggressive social dependency and social friction, simply as there are individuals who genuinely need the unique days of Ultima Online with rampant participant predation to return again. The downside is that a few of these issues require individuals who aren’t serious about having these items again to take part. If your recreation relies solely on attempting to resurrect that feeling of ganking individuals who didn’t wish to PvP, you’re operating into a downside whereby that niche is just composed of the gankers, not the victims. Not each niche can assist a viable participant inhabitants.

In the case of Pantheon, this is perhaps one of many issues the builders are a bit anxious about even past traders. There’s undoubtedly a inhabitants of gamers who need this recreation. Is it a large enough inhabitants to maintain the sport by itself, or does it want individuals who aren’t the viewers to maintain it going? Hard to make certain, nevertheless it’s a actual concern simply the identical.

The different factor to concentrate on relating to niche video games is that it’s doable for the niche to turn out to be oversaturated with too many titles for the people who find themselves really in that niche. Usually, in these situations one recreation emerges because the clear winner and that’s the place folks gravitate to enjoying. There’s solely a lot time in a day, in any case, and by definition you’re enjoying an MMO and presumably need different folks round.

I touched upon that one when speaking concerning the numerous would-be successors to City of Heroes, noting that the scale of the niche goes to affect whether or not or not a new recreation really has gamers to achieve within the first place. That situation looms massive over any kind of niche title, particularly when a lot of older video games have already got a still-entrenched inhabitants. Sure, EverQuest has undoubtedly modified through the years, however the individuals who nonetheless love the sport are already enjoying it… and it’s additionally the sport the place these gamers already keep all of their stuff.

Ultimately, although, I feel we have to work on dismantling any stigma round a recreation being a niche title. It’s not a dangerous factor; it’s simply a assertion of reality. Some video games have a smaller niche than others. And it’s a little suspect when a transparently niche recreation is attempting to say it’s not a niche recreation as a result of… effectively, you’re not going to dethrone the massive video games with a plucky perspective and a tune in your coronary heart. Or with denial.

Sometimes you understand precisely what’s happening with the MMO style, and typically all you may have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that one thing, someplace, has in all probability been modified. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these kinds of notes and likewise imprecise parts of the style as a complete. The efficiency of this evaluation could also be adjusted underneath sure circumstances.


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