You are a massively successful gaming company, whose flagship title has defined the MMO landscape for fifteen years. People have been willingly, almost joyfully throwing money at you for as long as your virtual worlds have existed. Whatever ridiculous schemes have been invented to part players from their cash have worked. Money was never, ever a problem. People gave willingly.
The bigger the game became, however, the more problems were created. As designers came and went, each new generation was desperate to be the ones known for reviving the title back to its community-defined ‘days of glory.’ With that expectation came increasingly convoluted attempts to keep people from leaving in droves once content got ‘boring’ with the biggest issue being that was never the same definition for everybody.
Eventually, the true essence of what made the game great was so swamped under reiterations and reboots that the community itself fractured, schism whose consequences began to affect the other titles built from financial foundations this behemoth had provided. Somewhere between a glorious ten year anniversary and now, something happened that could never have been predicted by anybody.
The game began to self destruct without any external competition.
That oft-quoted game killer that had always been touted would be created by another company was in fact the success of your own financial aspirations; as fervour grew for more titles and quicker content updates, it became impossible to keep pace with demand. So, there were compromises considered, without the consequences of what that might mean to the people who cared most about your products.
There were some massive own goals too: that badly judged ‘part of the family’ mobile product launch at a convention that was never about such things. The removal of key management, re-alignment of company finances might have been acceptable had you not then laid off thousands of staff to make sure quarterly figures were sustainable. Nothing that you could do seemed to make your customers or the shareholders happy.
That was, until you realised you’d been looking at all of this the wrong way around.
The game that started it all had been lost, but is now found. You’ve realised that using its seductive ability to generate nostalgia whilst not detracting from the core values of the company is the most potent means of development that’s been previously and completely overlooked. You’ve realised just how much data you can generate from it, and how that could then subsequently be utilised to fix the current retail version.
Because there’s no way to reconcile the old and new, you have two options. You could scrap the current game as it stands and relaunch it completely, allowing long-term players to transfer all their goods and chattels from one to another, or you could find a way to put back into the current game what so many people miss from the old one. Either way, the six month window that rebooting everything allows is a welcome relief and a chance to regroup.
Most importantly of all, getting people to become their own marketing is the master stroke that never existed 15 years ago anywhere else than with bloggers. It doesn’t matter who is talking about you, as long as there’s talk. That’s all that matters. As long as you are in our client, playing our game, we don’t care what it is. The money is made. The job is done. Happiness stops being our concern.
Players define what drives the progression.
In the midst of all this, individuals have epiphanies. They are reminded what was lost and found. They recall the glories of the past, but don’t talk about the regrets. Regrets don’t drive metrics, or followers. Anger and grief aren’t how you sell a world of joyful optimism filled with polygon characters. Except, crucially, none of that stuff ever goes away. We just choose not to talk about it.
Then, if we do, others round on us. ‘You’re ruining our enjoyment. You are toxic. You are the problem.’ No, that’s your issue and not ours. If the discourse is civil, and the comment considered, there is every right to be critical of using the past to redefine the future, to alter history that was never that way to begin with. If you wilfully decide to see only what you wish, that’s your choice and not ours.
You are a massively successful gaming company, whose flagship title has defined the MMO landscape for fifteen years, and now you grasp that to make it to thirty years, an awful lot really needs to alter for good. Not just promises or empty assertions, but a decent redefinition of the entire landscape on which your franchise is based. Do it right, and money should again stop being a problem.
If people choose to play, that’s up to them.