(This article was originally published at the Examiner.com on May 5, 2010, shortly after I started writing gaming articles. Some of the references to games like Aion and Warhammer are a little dated, but the gist of the article is still true, especially the sixth and final reason. All you MMO gamers will agree with that one, I think. FYI, I live just outside of DC; thus the reference.)
Washington, DC, is surrounded by water. In addition to the well-known Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, there are rivers and lakes throughout the region. And with all this water there are plenty of people who love sailing.
Some say sailing is like standing in a cold shower and tearing up dollar bills. It can be a miserable and money draining experience. So you have to ask, why would anyone want to sail?
In the same vein, why does anyone play an old massively mulitplayer online (MMO) game?
Why does anyone endure the clunky, Diablo-style graphics of Ultima Online or the tiresome quests of Everquest? Haven’t people exhausted all there is to do in Guild Wars? Isn’t World of Warcraft (WoW) old and tired, now? Why do people keep paying monthly fees for these games? Isn’t this somewhat akin to standing in a cold shower and tearing up dollar bills?
With all the jazzy, slick new MMOs people could play, why would gamers keep playing these clunkers?
1. It’s what you know.
It’s the allure of what you know. It’s not just a comfort issue. Few in the MMO community are scared of trying a new MMO in the sense your grandma is scared of the Internet. This is different. It takes a long time to learn all the ins-and-outs of most MMOs. You know, where the good loot is. What skills work best in what situations. That kind of thing.
Sometimes people just don’t want to be bothered with learning a whole new MMO, so they stick with what they know.
2. It’s cheap.
It’s always about the money with you, isn’t it?
There’s little doubt, the old batch of MMOs are cheaper. GuildWars has no on-going costs. You just buy the game and you can play forever.
Many of the original games usually cost much less than the releases of new games. For instance, you can purchase the GuildWars Trilogy from GameStop for $29.99. That’s the original game, plus expansions, plus a month of game time. Compared to $49.99 for a new MMO like Star Trek, that’s a bargain.
WoW is now $14.99 a month, as are many of the the old games, but it’s just $19.99 for the original game which includes a month of play time.
(Is the new, standard ongoing-rate of $14.99 a month contributing to the speedy decline of some MMOs? Would subscribers have been more patient with Champions or Warhammer if the monthly fee was $9.99 instead of $14.99?)
3. All your friends are still playing that game.
Let’s face it, a MMO isn’t as much fun without your friends. The grinding in Everquest or the cartoony graphics of WoW fade to insignificance when you’re playing with your buds. Why would you want to play Aion or Star Trek, if none of your friends are playing?
4. There is no other MMO like it.
Some people play an MMO because they enjoy that particular MMO’s lore and universe. There’s probably no better example of this than Warhammer Online. Warhammer has lost most of its original player community since its release. It has gone from over two dozen servers to four. Yet, people will always play Warhammer.
Why? Because it has a built-in following. People love the Warhammer world. They love the board games and the video games and the books, so they want to play the MMO.
5. You are uber.
Is this why so many people stick with WoW ? About a billion players in WoW have uber, overpowered gear. They rarely die. They slay lich kings and dragons and demons. Oh, and they own all the noobs.
That’s really it, isn’t it? They own all the noobs. Everyone they duel or fight in the arena falls to them and their uber gear. Why would they want to go to another MMO where they’re just one of the sheep, again?
There’s actually a sixth reason.
What is it?
You probably already know. It’s the same reason people like to sail, in spite of the cold water and expense.
The sixth reason is that moment. As with sailing, there are moments in MMOs that are sublime. All of a sudden, the wind and the seas, the raiding party and the dungeon, they all come together to create a wonderful moment you can’t get anywhere else and you won’t get, again. Never, ever in the same way. And that’s beautiful.
Those moments are more likely to occur in an MMO you’ve been playing awhile. You know how to navigate the waters and trim the sails in just the right way to maximize your chance of having another one of those beautiful moments with you friends in your old, geezer MMO.
That’s why you keep playing.