Jon Wood, Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, posted an interesting article this week – in broadly discussing a game I said I’d stop talking about, he stated that linking Sony Online Entertainment to the Star Wars Galaxies New Game Experience (NGE) was unfair in today’s market. His three key points behind this were:
- It’s been five years already, SOE is a different company with different people.
- SOE President John Smedley has apologised and said it won’t happen again.
- Linking SOE and the NGE in every thread for the past 5 years is just getting boring.
He misses a fairly big point here.
… Should Ever Be Forgot
Putting aside the who and the why, the SWG NGE should be a massive warning to every MMO player that their favourite title is exactly one patch away from being unrecognisable. That’s the Parable of the New Game Experience – that a development studio can (and will try) to cast aside their current players if they think dramatic game changes will result in a bigger slice of the pie… and what the fallout will be if they try.
MMOs are virtual entities, so that someone can spend years of their life and hundreds of dollars on something they have nothing material to show at the end. Permanence only exists on the whim of developers who can, with a few clicks of a mouse (or: several hundred man hours of coding, but that makes game development sound like work), erase your virtual possessions, virtual character and virtually everything you’ve invested in a title. All it takes is one patch. So players need to trust that the devs won’t do that.
That SOE is still linked to the NGE is because – duh! – they were the ones who tried it first. It should be still talked about today just to remind devs that players remember these things – you break that trust, you just bought a severe and long-term PR hit. Some people do take it too far and bash SOE with the NGE-club every opportunity they can. But if Wood is suggesting that the MMO industry limit its collective memory to 5 years because lord, aren’t those old topics old and boring? then developers are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.
(End Note: Regarding the term ‘NGE’ itself, it originally stood for New Game Enhancements, but over time New Game Experience has been used interchangeably when discussing the same topic. Wood used “New Game Experience” in his article, which is why I’ve used it above instead of the technically correct term.)