So, farewell then 38Studios. One of the bigger, more mysterious MMO projects of recent years crashed and burned in spectacular fashion this week, sending flaming shards of shrapnel across the blogosphere that ignited comment brushfires wherever they landed. I could link to them all but then I wouldn't have room for anything else. If you just can't get enough bad news Spinks has more links and Wolfshead has perhaps the best summary I've seen.
Rolled in with most reports of Curt Schilling's hubris were hand-wringings over the mass redundancies (lay-offs, lettings-go, call it what you will) at SW:ToR. Tobold stood pretty much alone with his immodest proposal that maybe the best way not to lose your game developer job is to be better at making games.
And let's not forget the closing of the doors at Dominus. (Although I note with curiosity that their web page is still up. Even the Beta Application button still works).
Is this a watershed for MMOs? Are we at the crossroads? Is it time to wake up and smell the cliches? Some industry analysts think so. So does tractor-lovin' Scott Jennings.
MMOs? So last decade, darling. Want more evidence? Remember those Kickstarter projects I mentioned a while back? Let's take a moment to catch up on how they're doing.
$23,254 pledged of $250,000 goal
$866 pledged of $50,000 goal
$7,938 pledged of $85,000 goal
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator 3 days ago.
Is this the end of the road for MMOs? A good run but now it's done? Will we all be watching Eurovision instead of kicking dragon butt this time next year? (Last night I did both simultaneously for the first time ever but I digress...).
I doubt it. Projects fail, MMOs don't get made or get made and flop all the time. Ultima Worlds Online, anyone? Asheron's Call 2? Dragon Empires?
There's an issue of scale in the latest debacles, it's true. When the dollars down the drain are measured not just in millions but tens or even hundreds of millions then it does seem alarming, leading to the question many are beginning to ask: "does it really take that much money to make an MMO?" If the relative commercial disappointment of TOR and the complete collapse of 38Studios leads to better-focused, better-managed, leaner MMO development then that's not such a bad legacy.
Let's end on a brighter note. Pathfinder's Kickstarter project is already funded. Double-funded, no less. It's "only" a tech demo, but that's a good thing. Baby steps, the way to go.
Still motoring along in development, as far as we know, are Wildstar, Otherlands, EQNext, Planetside2, ArchAge, City of Steam and Pirates101, just to name the ones I'm following. The Secret World, now looking like a solid bet, launches in
June July (curse you, Funcom and your inconvenient new launch date!).
The new elephant in pajamas, Guild Wars 2, will be out "when it's ready". It won't cure cancer, stop global warming or hold back the coming apocalypse but it will be a big, successful, profitable MMO.
Life will go on and so will MMOs. It may be a bumpy ride but just sit back and enjoy it. I plan to.