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Does every MMO that comes out absolutely need to have something in it that's never been done before? If a developer does their homework and really takes the time to investigate a demographic, find out what makes them tick and develops a game catered to that demographic using ideas that have already been proven. The developer does it in a way so the ideas have been refined. They improved on what works, while removing what doesn't work and really putting together something that will appeal to it's target group. Does that automatically constitute the term "clone" and in a derogatory way? Does it also mean the game will fail?
In my observations. New innovations to the genre seem to always come with a cost. The cost of initial development for a new idea is a gamble. It may not have the desired impact. It might be more cost prohibitive than it's worth. So large percentages of game budget are lost on developing something that has less of a return than implementing something tried and true. There is also the unseen dynamics that new innovations account for. Some are good, but not everything new innovations bring is. Some have many negative impacts that previous MMOs did not have. New innovations have trade offs and if there are too many at one time of if they are too big for a particular game, we may get something good, but we've lost other things we'd enjoyed previously. There is also the direction of the innovations. So many innovations have been added to the genre that speed up game play. Or that is, the developers have had to intentionally shorten the time it takes to do things like reach level cap in order to account for these new innovations thus shortening the life of the game. World of Warcraft has added many innovations over the years, yet most will agree that WoW has lost what made it a great game. Some of that is nostalgia, but a lot is that WoW went down the wrong developmental path.
I'm not against innovation. I do agree it's necessary in general. But It needs to be the right kind of innovation and at the right pace. Spending hundreds of millions on developing a single player experience in an MMORPG is the wrong kind of innovation. Innovation is necessary for the genre, but isn't necessary for each and every game to hit the market. But when new ideas are to be introduced, take what's there and improve on it slowly by refinement. Occasionally, you will see opportunities for a quantum leap, and they should be taken, but I think to try to force that with each new game has really hurt the state of MMORPGs.
In the end, I believe what we have now are developers who feel the need to develop a game called "Not-WoW Online" in order to be a success. They should be able to focus on creating their own game. Not focusing on reinventing the wheel to avoid being tagged as a clone. After high development costs and wasted resources, what they get is still round and still rolls.