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The first factor either consciously or subconsciously weighed when deciding what MMORPG to play is which one features the most players. The inherent attraction to the genre, as specified in the very name of it, is the fact of a vast amount of players in a virtual world: a feature fundamentally desired by people playing these games. Whether as a solo, more casual player, or as a grouped, more party-oriented player, it follows that the game which appears the most fundamentally attractive is the MMORPG that is the most massively multiplayer.
Therefore, initially, you are more likely to play a game with more players, than you are a game with less players.
Then, the various technical wants and interests of a given player are added into the equation. Some prefer combat as their main interest; some prefer crafting; some prefer solving puzzles in the form of taking down bosses; some prefer completing a story. And yet even if a game has these features desired by you, if it fails to have the most players, it is not a successful game. It is for these reasons that Mortal Online is not flooding the main page; Darkfall; Asheron's Call; Ultima Online. All of these games are able to be played, and some were previously successful. Now, all of them have low populations, and we no longer conceive of them as presently successful.
If they were successful, then they would continue to attract more players. Presently, World of Warcraft has the most players. Since this is the case, and since World of Warcraft keeps gaining new players, it remains successful throughout time, while causing other MMOs to fail. Even if your interests in an MMO don't coincide with what is found in World of Warcraft, you neither deny that it is successful, nor that its population is the factor causing its success to be the case.
A new game is unable to initially have the most players, because it is new; but if it retrospectively exists with enough potential that it eventually comes to be the most successful game, then, theoretically, it was always more successful than all other games considered successful which existed prior to its becoming a success, and until new games came to supplant it in popularity. But you do not consider games that we come to view as successful as successful until they have the most players, and are popular.
Seeing that World of Warcraft is the most successful game presently, but you are not playing it, it means that your net total of desire to play the game is inferior to your actual disillusionment from it. It also follows that since the MMORPG we consider to be successful is the one the most populated, and that you aren't playing that one, this means that the longevity of your playing any other MMORPG will last only as long your delusion that you don't want to play the most successful game will last. If the game in question retrospectively existed with enough potential to actually become the most successful game (i.e. it did become the most successful game at some point, even if in a time future to now), then it follows your longetivity of playing it would be maximum; if the game in question retrospectively didn't exist with this same potential, then your longevity of playing it would be minimal.
If it wasn't the case that your longevity was minimal of playing a game that retrospectively did not exist with the potential to be successful, then it follows that that game would not only not be losing players, and/or not remain stagnant, but it would also actively be gaining more players than it is losing, and it would go on to become successful.
When a game has a stagnant population, if we actually consider it successful, then it will continue to be considered thus as long as it remains stagnant and has a greater population than all other games; when a game has a stagnant population, and if we do not consider it successful, it follows that some players delude themselves into believing it is successful, while most do not. For example, many people play EVE and consider it to be successful, but as it does not have the greatest population, this means that most players do not consider it to be successful.
In conclusion, at all times, the best MMORPG to make is that which seems to have the potential to become the most successful, i.e. the most popular, because insofar as it exists and isn't the most popular, it means that it is only being played as long as players can delude themselves into believing the most important aspect of an MMORPG isn't its popularity in comparison to all others; it also means that the mechanics of a game, whether they are liked by you or not, can only affect your playing or not playing a game as long as you can maintain the delusion mentioned. If you are presently not playing MMORPGs even though you recognize what the most popular MMORPG is and do not want to play it, then it follows both that the force of your disillusionment from the most popular MMORPG exceeds your net total desire to play MMORPGs in the first place, and also that the only MMORPG you will ever enjoy is that which is neither the present most successful one nor one which succeeds to produce more disillusionment in you than desire to play, i.e. it is only another future release which will come to either supplant the present most successful game in popularity, or which retrospectively existed at the time of your deciding to play it with enough potential to actually become the most successful game in the future, that will ever garner your maximum interest to play it & the most longevity of doing so.
Originally posted by grimgryphon
I think people are confusing "success" and "value" in their arguments here. One is based on factual criteria, the other based on opinion. Is American Idol a success? Yes (viewer data supports it). Does it provide value to television entertainment? No, it's a jackass gameshow knockoff (IMO). Is GW2 a success? Yes (sales support it). Does it provide value to the MMO genre? No, it's just another themepark knockoff (IMO). So yes, population can be a criterion of success.