Don’t errybudy freak out on me.

20 01 2012

I am not an expert. At times I wonder if even the experts are experts (with the exception of Warren Buffet who has a rep, as it were) but let’s eschew that for now. I did have the displeasure of a very brief stint working for (not “on”) Wall Street. Very, very briefly, I worked on software used in the “What can and what should we loan out?” from short sales leverage. The problem was a solved one (which was sad, as that was why I took the job in the first place…believing I’d be a part in solving it) and I ended up managing scripts for a few months until I found an actual research job. Anyway, the two crazy investor moguls that ran this consulting firm ran a pretty  thorough training regime which has stuck with me. I’d like to share one very solid anecdote now.

Anybody remember Netflix dropping a staggering amount back in October? No? Here. Something else about that article should stand out, and it’s a common pattern in any investment story. Don’t panic. 3% is a lot of money to a bloke like you or me (well, at least me) but these things often take years to resolve. It might plummet and die, and – while I wouldn’t mind watching EA go the way of the dodo – I would very much mind watching Bioware die. I’m a huge fan of every Bioware title I’ve played and – in case it wasn’t clear – I’m having a stupidly good time with SW:TOR. I’m with Werit; I’ll be sticking it out. And I imagine it’ll take more than than a bit of a stagger for investors to pull out too.

I can see where some people, such as the reputable Syncaine, may be over-eager to watch this project fail. There are those who aren’t concerned with the people who are involved with the project; the hard work, the sleeping under desks, and the impressive fruits of their labor are meaningless compared to a separate but very real and tangible issue. It’s an issue I sympathize with and haven’t given much mention to myself (as it gets a lot of air time elsewhere) but perhaps the time has come.

I believe the fear is this: when this much money is thrown at a massive title it sets a very high bar for the genre. If EA/Bioware can come along and throw late-game WoW levels of money at a new project, what does that mean for “the little guy”? Smaller studios and indie dev teams have this artificially inflated level of expectations to meet.

The funny thing here is that – while TOR and WoW get all the press – the little guys really aren’t in that bad of shape. There are a lot of options out there for MMOs. There are people that like these games, and they are no less devoted to or enamored their games than the SW aficionados are to TOR. A game in general doesn’t need untold millions of subscribers to succeed, so when a game happens along that kind of does, what does that mean for the little guys? Basically nothing. The little guys still have their player bases, still make a profit, and still produce an enjoyable game.

There’s room for errybudy, so don’t freak out. Sure, EA threw a ludicrous amount of money at TOR and it may not pan out. That doesn’t mean the little guys aren’t still going to make it. Consider the other side of it:

  • Would you really rather EA (or choose your own evil empire of a company) back those little guys? They’d just despoil them. Think back on Mythic.
  • Do those little guys really need any more money than they started with? I think the very clear evidence is no.

Day trading amounts to gambling. If you believed enough in a company to  invest in it to begin with, you’re not going to drop out at the first sign of trouble. Well, you may, I guess. But I won’t. I recommend you do not. Freak out, that is. Don’t freak out.

 

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6 responses

20 01 2012
SynCaine

“Do those little guys really need any more money than they started with? I think the very clear evidence is no.”

What do you base that on? Are you saying games like MO/DF/ATitD would not benefit from 1/10th of the cash that was dumped into SW? That the games would not improve in ways current and past players would appreciate?

Also, if VC did not have WoW to attempt to copy, are you saying none of that money would go towards other MMO projects?

20 01 2012
thade

What I’m saying is that those games have followings and those followings are respectable; there are people who like those games. In particular I was thinking of EVE, which doesn’t need a blockbuster budget and is turning a profit in spite of not having one. At least, it’s my impression it’s turning a profit. I have no inkling for the other games but I’m an optimistic kind of guy and I assume they’re not all deflating. Perhaps I’m mistaken? Would, in fact, bigger budgets have helped them make enough money to stay afloat?

I think most of them are staying afloat, despite not having ludicrous amounts of money to back them. Could they have leveraged more money for improvements? Of course. Was it necessary? I don’t think so.

As for whether big bad companies would seek huge alternatives to fund blockbuster-style, I think we might agree that they definitely would. They’re into blockbuster-style because that’s the kind of money (or, at least, the kind of promise about money) that dazzles their backers. That kind of stuff’s par for their course, no?

20 01 2012
SynCaine

EVE has a HUGE staff working on it, and the one time the game looked to be in trouble, it was when too many devs worked on stuff that was not core to EVE (flying in space).

DF, for all it’s promise and delivery three years ago, is hurting big-time right now due to lack of funds/devs. AV has said a lot of things, but it’s not hard to see they are having trouble getting enough people to actually get it done. And the players are not happy about it. Now, the fact that DF is still up and online after almost 3 years is notable, but IMO more funds would make it a much better game, yes.

The last part was in case you are one of those “If VC is not funding WoW-clones, they are not funding anything” types.

20 01 2012
thade

I am one of the “optimistic to a fault” types. I was a hopeless cynic, then I (seriously) had a near-death-experience, read The Art of Happiness by the Dalia Lama, and became a very strange pseudo-buddist-cynic. If it sounds rife with peaceful internal conflict, you heard me correctly.

I have a preference for modest budget, possibly because I grew up with Mode X and Future Crew and my expectations were low. Now, games are more like interactive movies than they are games, so games like Batman, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, etc., all have multiple sound teams, writers, voice and body actors, musicians, and impressively long credit listings. This same transformation is hitting the MMO scene only recently (in the form of TOR) and the reaction has staggered me. I’m enjoying it, but I also recently really enjoyed Rift which was completely devoid of this movie-feel. (That’s not to say it’s budget wasn’t blockbuster-style.)

I’m meandering. My point is that there’s this trend of escalation and perhaps the perception is that the bar is climbing. Could Darkfall have been a better game with a bigger budget? Of course. Are there still people playing it? There are, and they like it. They must, if they’ve stuck it out in-spite of their modest budget and smaller-than-they’d-like dev team. What I’m saying is that the bar isn’t real. If you want stupid numbers of players with massive numbers to impress your investors, you have to adhere to it…and that’s the only reason. Modest budgets can carry very good ideas to modest (and arguably more devoted) player-bases. What more could they need?

20 01 2012
Adventurer Historian

Man, this is the reason that I read blogs so much and write so little: other people say what I want to say, but much better than I could.

And the more I read your blog, the more convinced I am that you’d be an awesome wingman in TOR. What server are you on?

20 01 2012
PaulB

Agreed, I’ve read so much hysteria and doomongering about SWTOR and EA over the last few days.

It reminds me if the old days of following DDO and LoTRO forums for Codemaster EU service, so much panic over so many things (I’m not talking about the real fears over FTP conversion).

In the end I never wish ill of specific gaming companies, times are hard and peoples’ livelihoods are on the line, plus why should I be wishing to stop others from enjoying a game I personally don’t like? As you say, plenty of room for everyone!

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