The Ever-Evolving Audience

Tobold and Syncaine are having a debate as to whether the great unannounced MMO from Blizzard will reach a million subs. Both make some interesting points, but of course neither will be proven correct for a long time.

I think both arguments are missing a key element, though.

Especially for those of us who have been playing MMOs for ten years now, we tend to think of the audience as being fairly static. As with most forms of entertainment, it isn’t.

If the success of the second Star Wars movie trilogy had been predicated on the response to those of us who grew up with the original three films, the newer movies would have been failures or modest successes (after all, many original fans were disappointed in them). On the contrary, the films were huge hits. Why? Because there was a whole new audience that embraced them–yes, even Jar Jar.

My friend and colleague Bob Salvatore has written a lot of books about dark elves. If his sales were confined to the same people buying every single one of them, he wouldn’t keep ending up on the New York Times best-seller list. He does. Why? Because new generations of readers are buying his books. While he also retains many readers, his audience is constantly renewed.

Blizzard’s next MMO project will be a huge success. Why? Because (unless something completely uncharacteristic happens) they will release a very polished game that is a lot of fun to play. Will the 11 million players of WoW buy it? It won’t matter–there will be a whole new generation of MMO players who will. Whether it’s future gamers who are kids now but won’t be in a few years, or those who feel WoW is too old and entrenched to be appealing, or those who just don’t care for the Warcraft franchise– there are a ton of people who will be ready to try something fresh and new.

This is the same reason why the fantasy Diku MMO still works. Jaded gamers on message boards may tire of them, but the genre’s proven appeal will continue to resonate with new gamers coming into the space.

It’s fashionable to complain about Hollywood or the games industry revisiting the same ideas time and again. But the truth is, there are new audience members entering the marketplace of ideas all the time, and what is well-tread ground to you is an open road to them.

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