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I have seen many people on this forum argue that the majority of players will never enjoy the sandbox experience, and that it is meant only for the "hardcore" niche. This argument would seem valid as subscriptions sure seem to corroborate it. Theme park MMORPGs have more subscriptions than sandbox MMORPGs ever did when taken as a whole.
But I think this argument is bunk. I think that the majority of players DO like a sandbox experience, and my case in point is single player games. Look at popular sandbox single player games, Red Dead Redemption, GTA series, Elder Scrolls series, Fallout series.
These games are EXTREMELY popular and what sets them apart is the fact that hey all offer a non-linear sandbox experience. Sure they all have stories, sometimes great stories, but that's not what makes the game truly great. If you removed the sandbox elements from these games, they would all just be mediocre linear mission games.
So if single player sandboxes are so popular, why have MMORPG sandboxes not done as well? Personally, I think one of the main reasons is accessibility and polish. The single player sandboxes are mentioned were all very easy to pick up and extremely polished. Anyone gamer could pick up a controller and play GTA with little difficulty. Sandbox MMORPGs on the other hand tend to be extremely inaccessible and unpolished. The UI is often terrible, and sometimes you have to do research on the internet just to find out how to do basic tasks.
Everything about sandbox MMORPGs screams hardcore simply because you need a significant investment in time just to learn to play the game. But it doesn't have to be that way! I really think that if someone made a polished, accessible sandbox MMORPG it could do well. If people like the non-linear sandbox experience in single-player then why can't they like it in multiplayer?
What do you guys think? Do you buy into the argument that sandbox MMORPGs are a way of the past? Or do you think a successful sandbox MMORPG could be made?
Are you team Azeroth, team Tyria, or team Jacob?