More from GameSpy. So I'm reading the article called "Ten Reasons You Don't Want to Run a Massively Multiplayer Online Game which is about the difficulties involved in developing and maintaining this new type of application from the developer of Ultima and the Sims Online.
Item #6 on the list struck me as very prescient:
6: The Online Industry is Counter-Intuitive to Packaged-Goods Company Management
Publisher's today are instinctively familiar with the "packaged goods" model, where they set a price point, put a game on as many store shelves as possible, blow out a big ad campaign, and forget about the product after a few months as it sinks down to the bargain bin and disappears. But online persistent-world games are completely different animals. They require 24-hour operations, 365 days a year, with continuous customer support. The "launch" of an online game can take several months, and the lifecycle of a game will go on for several years - with new content being rolled out continuously.
Managing the community is very different, as well: It's a connected community. "And connected audiences cannot be fooled by marketing," Walton stresses. For example, if you have a problem with your telephone provider, there's no forum where you can instantly swap horror stories with a hundred thousand other customers of that provider. Not so with an online game; the connected audience shares its pain together, loudly and often. Serving this audience is an entirely different challenge, and it's a whole different mindset for publishers to wrap their heads around.
I added the stress above. See the connection between MMOGs and SmartMobs? It's very interesting because right now the only people that are connected in such a way are really the online gamers who can compare problems with EverQuest's system and raise hell about it en masse quite easily. But soon we're ALL going to be interconnected via our portable always-on devices and suddenly it's not just online marketing that can't be bullshit, it'll be all marketing.
This is a Cluetrain type concept that is being seen as a phenomenom first in MMOGs. When some part of the game doesn't work, everyone is already online and connected and able to express their opinions immediately. Once smartphones or their equivalents are prevalent, what's to stop people from doing the same about say a theater or shop or government agency? Well, maybe the government could care less - but smart busineses will learn to pay attention to these connected comments quickly...
Interesting... I wonder what more parallels and predictions can come out of analyzing MMOGs?