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General: Editorial: Timing the Market

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

Staff Writer Garrett Fuller discusses MMO release dates and the way MMOs are launched in general in this new editorial from Every day, we try to bring you opinion, as well as news and features, to cover the MMO industry.

Readers on this site often have a lot to say about games and how they are played. I've written many editorials on that very topic. What I wanted to discuss here this week is games and how they are launched. If you are a member on this website and check updates weekly chances are you know the pulse of the MMO world. Also if you are a gamer, you check out other websites for console game news and features on what games are coming out when. The way the market is moving it seems like every video game development company in the world right now is thinking of an MMO as one of their games. Somewhere on the drawing boards of game studios are the next MMOs waiting to be launched. is currently tracking over seventy five games for launch in the next few years. Those are the ones we know about. Many have yet to be announced, and some major companies such as Green Monster Games and Bioware have yet to show us what is on their drawing boards. Needless to say the MMO world is growing fast and we're all caught up in it. Now, I was not a marketing major in college, but I want to try to talk about the MMO market that we're in and why games come out when they do.

The full article is here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios


  • AnofalyeAnofalye Quebec, QCPosts: 7,433Member

    Well, some companies still think that online sells isn't a viable solution for a game, so the idea to release a MMO is not on every board!  image  Most successfull MMOs also have a strong selling and advertising with a box, in stores.


    Can't wait for BioWare's MMO, it will change our lives, nothing less!  image


    A MMO has 2 advantages a non-MMO doesn't have.  1- Someone who experience a MMO in the past usually prefer a MMO over a similar non-MMO alternative (some would even be rude and jerk about even comparing it...).  2- Monthly fees.  MMOs are addictives, but it is easier to break free from such addiction then any real addictive product.


    A MMO also has many flaws: 1- Timing release and publicity are vitals, 2- Massive games with lot of work, we ain't talking of just making a game, we are talking about making a game that can entertain a player for at least 300 hours, if not a LOT more.  3- Franchises often clash with what been's a MMO is, and only competent devs can work around this...just look at the last DDO banner advertising PvP...that is the best example I could provide for this point.  Most companies can't afford to make such a heavy game or the "timing release/publicity"...or both...and to respect a franchise legacy, just look at Turbines and you know that not everyone can.

    - "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - Ren

  • RyowulfRyowulf Greensburg, PAPosts: 668Member Uncommon
    I think we are just starting to enter into the 'golden age' of mmos. As
    such they still have a lot to learn. Still I would rather the game be
    late and down right, rather than be buggy and on time. A lot of games
    did shoot for an end of 06 release date, but they couldn't do it.

    As more companies make engines and code to be used in mmo's, its likely
    the devs will be able to hold tighter to when they went to go live.
    Games like lotro will be able to come out while the moives are still
    being made.

  • _Shadowmage_Shadowmage MelbournePosts: 1,459Member

    As the previous poster said its better the game be stable at release than delivered at a particular time.

    Its probably better to miss the silly season when all the other games come out and release a few months later when those games have been played and relegated to the shelves.

    And since playing the game requires monthly payment (for most) its better to land the games when people finances have had a chance to recover from the silly season.

  • xmojo1xmojo1 AucklandPosts: 52Member

    Originally posted by _Shadowmage
    As the previous poster said its better the game be stable at release than delivered at a particular time.

    Correct. I think a lot of MMORPG developers lose sight of that important fact and release their games well before the time they're ready to go live. The best time to capture your market share of the gaming public is at your game's release; first impressions do make all the difference between holding onto your customers and losing them through disillusion.
  • Holyavenger1Holyavenger1 Montreal, QCPosts: 443Member Uncommon
    Very interesting topic ! Many questions in there are questions I've been asking myself, too, over the last few months, over the various released news regarding the launch of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes image

    However, this editorial mainly does just that: ask question, open a topic, put the table on for a discussion. Now, if you guys at were able to pull a few people from the industry out their office and in here to have them give their insight on it, that would be huge !

    Maybe someone as Raph Koster, who's not now in a position with an soon-to-be-launched MMO ?

    Fyrr Deerdan - HolyAvenger - The Sci-Fi Sandbox.

  • CymekCymek thisboardsux, RIPosts: 340Member

    Originally posted by Settingsun
    I think we are just starting to enter into the 'golden age' of mmos. As
    such they still have a lot to learn.

    Totally agree. Some are learning, others are stagnant as a result of the corporate culture that births games.

  • delateurdelateur Spokane, WAPosts: 156Member

    I have noticed a couple of things regarding MMO releases: 1) The games that seem to be aiming for a certain release date, rather than "when it's ready" are often released in a very buggy state. 2) The games that are released when they are truly ready don't often conform to the "best" marketing dates. The driving force behind both of these scenarios is of course money. Games get rushed because funds are running low, and are pushed to consumers in a desperate attempt to start bringing in funds for further development. Games that are released when they are ready, rather than waiting a few months for the prime marketing opportunities, also do this to bring in funds as soon as possible. There really is no wrong time to release a MMORPG, if you are ready to scale up the number of servers based on demand. It would be difficult to predict a perfect time to release a MMOG, since an individual's readiness would be based not only on freetime or seasons, but also the number of other games the person is trying to complete, hobbies, necessary computer upgrades, etc.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on how games are developed and released.

  • FergRedbeardFergRedbeard Springfield, MOPosts: 69Member

    That was a great article....It seems to me that companies are trying to put games out as fast as they can instead of waiting patiently and putting out a finished polished product during a specific set time to optimize market potential.


    I hate buggy games that need patches....nothing more anoying than having a game that doesn't run properly so I end up having to wait anyways...which is more frustrating because I can't play a game that is in my possession.  It is a heck of a lot easier to have to wait on a game that I have not yet touched.

  • AnofalyeAnofalye Quebec, QCPosts: 7,433Member

    Originally posted by FergRedbeard

    Sure...but ain't I waiting since I join this site basically?  (3 years and 4516 messages later, still waiting)  image


    I can wait for BioWare to do stuff rights, but I wouldn't mind trying something cool in the meanwhile, if such a MMO happen.  image

    - "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - Ren

  • NavraNavra Kitchener, ONPosts: 8Member

    As he mentioned, Garrett did not cover the beta process. Regardless of all the hype, most developers fail to realize that a lot of their initial income comes from the beta testers. Many do not understand that if the beta testers are not satisfied with what they see they will not subscribe.

    Although I have not tested a huge number of MMO's I have tested enough to be turned off by a common failing of almost every developer at beta. That is LAG! Many of my acquaintances have quit testing games because of the lag. If they cannot play properly, and are continually killed due to lag they either quit reporting bugs or quit the game entirely and do not come back at retail.

    If developers cannot or will not provide the necessary hardware or software fixes to cure the lag during beta it sends a message to the players that they are really not serious about their product. I do realize that in some cases, particularly where smaller companies are involved, the resources both financial and human are simply not available at beta. In many cases such companies are on ther verge of bankruptcy at this time and are despartate to get the game to retail and begin to generate some cash. However, in the case of the larger institutions, I find their reluctance to adequately support their game both during beta and at launch very perplexing. It amazes me that after 3 or more years of work they deliberately shoot themselves in the foot.


  • AntipathyAntipathy SouthamptonPosts: 1,362Member

    Games companies do try to consciously hit the Christmas season - it's just that in the MMO market schedules slip too often for us to notice the intended release date

    Exampls of games scheduled for this christmas season include:

    WoW - The burning crusade - slipped
    Everquest 2 - Echoes of Feydwer - released
    The Chronicles of Spellborn - slipped
    Phanstasy Star Universe - released

    As you can see - things are pretty hit and miss.

  • severiusseverius sacramento, CAPosts: 1,502Member Uncommon
    I'm sure every publisher would love to get their games out in time for the holiday shopping rush or just before it.  As you pointed out in the article alot of people go into a semi-hibernation state and like to stay indoors.  But the realities of mmo design and development make it very difficult to target a precise date for release until very late in the beta period.  Sure, a publisher could opt to delay the launch of their game... for example say a game was done in june, rather than release in july they could take the time to pack in more content, button down issues and fine tune the game for a release in october or november.  But that brings a bunch of new issues into the mix.  Beta testers might start getting burned out and be unable to find the enjoyment that would keep them around for an additional 18 months after launch while waiting for the first expansion.  The innovations and ideas that seperate them from the other games coming out might end up showing up in another game that releases in august.  Also, the beta tests and the like are not cheap by any means and publishers need to satisfy shareholders which can care less about the quality or innovation in games, they only care about the bottom line.

    As to advertising and the like, thats a touchy subject for me personally.  Game companies and publishers rarely know the current state of development, nor do they care.  They overly hype games as being innovative, they tout features that rarely make it in by launch (sometime launch features end up being an expansion that they charge for, SWG and space flight anyone?) and are NEVER held accoutable.  / rant on There are laws concerning truth in advertising but where mmo's are concerned the publishers constantly break those laws and are never held to task for the blatant lies and deceptions that they spew out of their evil mouths.  Most mmo's seem to rely on the gaming community and websites like this one for all of their advertising.  Not just but every gaming website seems to be on the payroll of publishers because they hype certain features and treat every interview with kit gloves.  Why should a publisher pay the money for an advertising campaign like microsoft's Gears of War campaign (fecking phenomenal commercial btw) when there are "reporters" for gamesites salivating for a "scoop"?  When they will not be asked the tough questions, and when the sites dont report specifically on the issues that they come across in the game.  /rant off. 


  • dadowndadown Tulsa, OKPosts: 199Member Uncommon
    I think the biggest mistake many companies make is letting their marketing department force a release before a game is ready for release.  Fortunately. companies like Blizzard are willing to forgo holliday sales when the game still need some work.  Sure they'll loose some sales, but for MMOs, its not how many boxes you sell on release that matters in the long run, but how many customers you retain.  If the game crashes, has lag problems and/or has annoying defects that spoil the player's experience, the player will drop the game and tell others to avoid it too.


    Program development nearly always takes longer than expected and if the company is trying something new (for them), it can sometimes take much longer than expected.  This pretty much throws long term target dates out the window.  Its sort of like making a weather forcast; the further ahead you try to predict it, the less accurate you will be.
  • VortigonVortigon PerthPosts: 723Member
    I wonder when we will see Prime-time TV commercials for MMOs?  it will happen, I also wonder why some of the big players havnt already done this?

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