And this brings a dangerous factor into the mix: the negative feedback loop. A MMO that is rapidly losing subscribers is also rapidly losing the revenue it takes to bring out more content. Being forced to limit the amount of new content causes even more subscribers to leave, which in turn amounts to an even greater loss in revenue.
Of course, there are some ways to end a negative feedback loop. Turbine is a company that figured out the best way to save a dying MMO is by offering free subscriptions. Both Dungeons and Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online have had very healthy revenue increases after switching to a free-to-play model with a micro-transaction store built in. But even if the general MMO market begins to swing toward a free-to-play model (and it's quite possible that it will), too many MMOs will cause the fan base to get stretched too thin.
Compounding this problem is the popularity of World of Warcraft (WoW). WoW boasts that it has over twelve million subscribers, and this number continues to increase. WoW has unified the MMO fan base in a way no other game has been able to, and this is a problem for every other MMO on the market.
Look at it this way: in order to survive its first year, every new MMO must do one of two things.
1. Steal a healthy chunk of WoW subscribers.
2. Reach players that WoW is unable to.
What ends up happening too often is that MMOs shoot for option number one. This means that a good portion of MMOs are fighting over the same subscribers. In a genre that requires constant growth for survival, MMOs are busy trying to pick each other off one at a time.
Even the rare MMOs that jump on option number two will often – but not always – wind up finding out that people who aren't playing WoW are generally not going to play MMOs of any sort, no matter how un-WoW-like they may be.
And this simply puts the MMORPG in a difficult spot. Oversaturation of the MMO market must eventually lead to the demise of the MMO. It simply cannot continue the growth that is fundamentally required to sustain it.
My prediction: the MMO will crush itself under its own weight. Perhaps WoW will remain, rising from the ashes of its competitors, declaring itself victor in this bloody battle for world dominance. But enjoy the others while you can; they are most likely enjoying a fleeting existence destined to be choked out when the beast that is the MMO crashes to the ground.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*