Critical Mass

Friday, February 20, 2009

Many people argue WoW has reached critical mass and cannot be taken down from number one most populous MMO in the world. At 11.5 million players, that's over 20 times the average MMO. Is that really true? I don't know. I don't think there's any way to prove it hard and fast unless WoW actually does fall from number one.

So where does that leave other games like LOTRO? The rest of us are vying for the number two spot. Some games don't want to accept that. Some games are gung-ho for number two. The latter is the case for LOTRO. Executive Producer Jeffery Steefle has stated Turbine's goal for LOTRO is to be the number two MMO in the world. Are we there yet? Have we ever been there? Well, that depends on your definition of MMO, what games you included. Free to play? That'll drastically change the landscape of MMO rankings.

Does any of this really matter? Is critical mass that critical? Is vying for a particular place amongst the rest of the games necessary? Maybe. It's important that your product makes money. So you need to have certain numbers to do that. But those numbers are probably a lot smaller than many people think. I heard via the VanHemlock podcast that WoW makes up 37% of the profit for Activision Blizzard. Consider they have PS3, PS2, handheld, 360, and other PC games making up their profits as well, that's a huge relative percentage. No other MMO makes that much money. Not even by a long shot. But so many are running well and being regularly updated. Like LOTRO.

So LOTRO doesn't need critical mass. It doesn't need 11.5 million players. It doesn't need to be king of the hill. Sure, if LOTRO is the second MMO in the world, great - awesome status symbol. Otherwise, Turbine is doing an excellent job on regular updates and support. And clearly they have enough money to keep this game going. I vote they continue business as usual. If we get more population, great. If we get second place, great. If we get critical mass, that's great too. But the most prestegious position in my opinion is Turbine's efforts to continually improve this game and pursue the creation of a virtual Middle-Earth.

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