Pirates of the burning servers

POTBS shuts 7 servers:
I loved the idea of this game, but not the practice. did they drop the ball? or is this just early days for a new MMO?

The MMO space is mostly a hill of broken dreams that lays forever in the shadow of World of Warcraft. Which is not to say you can’t make a successful MMO that isn’t WoW, but it better cater to an entirely different market of potential players and not just be a different theme and/or have slightly different mechanics that appeal to the same existing base of players. Being the type of people whose brains quickly shut off when they see the number of digits in the number of Blizzard’s profits, publishers haven’t yet realized this and continue to make bad business decision after bad business decision, with POTBS (a fine game, a horrible business decision) being one of them.

FACT: Most people are only going to pay for one traditional MMO per month over the long term.

FACT: The amount of inertia WoW has generated means you have to create a game that is 5 times better than WoW to pull a significant amount of the population off.

FACT: No matter who you are, you aren’t 5 times better than Blizzard at creating a MMO, in fact you’re probably at least 5 times worse, and the more expansions Blizzard releases the bigger the gap between them and you (in their favor) is getting.

FACT: Coca Cola Zero firmly believes that in the year 2525 mankind will still be playing WoW as no other game will ever usurp Blizzard’s masterpiece.

WoW will eventually die out in some fashion, but any game developer who doesn’t recognize that WoW has become to traditional MMORPGs what Windows is to desktop operating systems does so at their own financial peril. For the foreseeable future you’re going to have to make a game that is amazingly great just to be the Apple or Linux with their relatively cruddy single-digit desktop marketshare. If you aren’t in the top 3, you ain’t shit and wasted your development time.

The odds of any game surpassing WoW’s numbers are slim to none in the near term, but that is hardly the measuring stick of success. LOTRO is doing quite well and it’s in the same genre as WoW.

I agree that WoW has inertia and that people who desire to play a fantasy MMO will be drawn to WoW as their friends may be playing it. However there are other games out there that appeal to different segments of the gaming population in a way unrelated to genre.

Eleven servers from the start was just silly. PotBS is one of those games (think Planetside) that simply require a minimum number of people to be online at all times for the whole process to work the way it’s supposed to. You can easily spend the first 3 weeks to 3 months of PotBS playing solo or in small groups building up your level, gaining new ships and building an economy. But once you hit 40 or so, you really need the RvR/PvP to keep things interesting. RvR simply is not possible without populations to sustain it, and eleven servers spreads that population very thin unless you’ve signed up 500,000+ subscribers.

I really enjoyed playing PotBS (in beta) and think it’s a great game. I’d be playing it in retail if I wasn’t feeding a wicked LotRO addiction. But it’s not a game that will ever attract 500,000 subscribers. It’s niche, and always will be. Just like Planetside, Vanguard and City of Heroes are niche. That works well as an offering on SOE Station Pass, but not 11 servers worth of well.

LOTRO is doing fine just like Apple is doing fine for now in the desktop OS space, but everyone who isn’t WoW but falls into the same space are fighting over the same table scraps and there is a limited amount of room to survive there comfortably. LOTRO’s limited success in the table-scrap area shouldn’t be cause for cheers from other MMO devs because that just means more of the limited not-WoW space is being locked up away from them by LOTRO.

My arguments aren’t meant to be pro-Blizzard here, simply to explain how and why the market for MMOs (being an on-going monthly charge) is different from single-pay games and why there is room for only so many games and why that room is shrinking, not growing.

FACT: PotBS isn’t much like WoW, and despite being a massively online game, is an entirely different genre. Hell, I wouldn’t even call it a genre – it’s a pretty tight niche.

Eve online is doing well, and still growing afaik. It’s very different to WoW and proves there is a market there.
for me, a potential MMO player with no current subscription, POTBS was potentially very interesting. For me, the inertia works AGAINST WoW. I don’t want to be the n00b when everyone is level 500 (or whatever).
I don’t think the idea or the business plan of potbs was bad. I just think the game was too bland. It’s a pity, and I hope some more new MMOs try again.

Right, but I think CCZ is making a larger argument here; basically that a game which carries a monthly fee and occupies your free time is essentially competing with WoW. POTBS might be different in execution or even genre, but it’s trying to occupy the same share of the market.

FACT: It doesn’t matter if the game has a different theme, genre or even if it has different mechanics. All that matters is the set of players it appeals to. If there is a large overlap between the set of people who would enjoy your game and players that are locked into an existing successful MMO you’re already running uphill with one leg.

I completely agree with you here. The thing about Eve is that not only is it in a different genre than WoW, but it is a whole different game style that just appeals to a different type of player as well. Which is not to say there aren’t some people who enjoy WoW and Eve, but there are large areas of non-overlap of those groups.

This is my take as well. Opening with 11 servers was a mistake. More traditional loot/xp grinding MMOs aren’t as dependent upon population density, but there just isn’t much to do in PotBS when there aren’t many people on. I was just a hair short of canceling before the merger (on Bonny), but post merger (on Antigua) I see there is already vastly most going on, enough that it seems like you might be able to get some good PvP whenever you feel like it.

Considering this, I’m not so sure this merger is a sign PotBS is doomed. I haven’t noticed populations shrink, so much as they weren’t dense enough to begin with. Obviously this is all anecdotal, and I’d love to see some actual numbers for subscribers.

By that over generalization any game competes directly with WoW, as they all occupy their free time, and have a monthly cost (the actual subscription cost of WoW is not even close to the primary cost).

I don’t think it’s at all clear that the audiences for WoW and PotBS are the same; e.g. I have never played WoW and have no desire to. Moreover, even if they are, it’s certainly due to a bit more than them both occupying free time and costing money.

I see your point. I just don’t think it’s healthy to compare every MMO that hits the market to WoW. Nobody is going to steal WoW’s marketshare but there are other markets to be captured. A game doesn’t necessarily have to be five times better than WoW, but it needs to do certain things WoW does right.

In my opinion the gaping maw in the MMO landscape is in Sci-fi. No game has managed to take the WoW type experience and translate it to that genre. That’s not to say there needs to be a WoW clone, but it needs to be a solid, bug free game that offers a good experience to all playstyles.

I agree. However, I don’t think it’s so clear the user bases overlap to the extent you suggest. The potential audience for WoW is no doubt larger, but that is a separate issue.

PotBS is more like Eve than WoW.

[Edit] Anyway, should PotBS fail, I don’t think it’ll have much to do with WoW, but rather the difficulty of slogging to the exciting (and un-WoW-like) PvP bits – i.e. that the design is essentially flawed. My personal opinion is that it currently is flawed; I hope they’re able to sort the PvP dynamics out in time. Also, I don’t believe the audience would be much bigger if WoW didn’t exist, so there’s no pain from that angle either.

surely thats star trek online!!!

I’d rather go back to DAoC than to WoW… Still I agree that WoW has killed the diku model dead almost forever. PoTBS might have been much better as a more “organic” and colorful EvE, but I found diku-like hairs in my pirate/trader/PvP soup and I’m glad this thread reminded me that I have to go cancel.

Star Trek Online: the Chinese Democracy of the MMO world.

Fact: Bears eat beets

Bears, beets.