The future of MMOs in the balance between microtransactions and lack of content - editorial

The future of MMOs in the balance between microtransactions and lack of content - editorial

Deep night. In the silence of our homes, a single sound echoes, that of a 56k modem, almost as irritating as a chalk on the blackboard. Only free moment to be able to open the doors to something unique, the game on the net, without having to fight with the rest of the family to use the phone. Inviting friends over to one's home wasn't always possible; school, work, family became obstacles that over the years turned into insurmountable walls. LAN parties were always a possibility, but they often required much anticipated planning and logistical organization typical of military ventures at Desert Storm.

Then, Ultima Online. The game that perhaps changed our interpersonal relationships forever, opening the doors to a world that was still absolutely unexplored at the time, a world that timidly tried to connect people from every corner of the globe, while remaining comfortably seated on our IKEA leather irritating mesh.

A game that historically defined the MMO genre, becoming the patriarch that many in the following years tried to imitate with few successes and many, many failuresBut what was so special about it? An experience that went beyond graphics that seem archaic to the modern eye, an almost delusional lag and many, many bugs. But for the first time we were able to role-play and make friends, often lasting over time, that went beyond the walls of our homes. We could create our own adventures, live a collective story building experience, in a world created in a masterly way from the eight previous titles set in the world of Britannia.

Ultima Online. The overpopulation of the various game areas put a strain on our PCs and modem connections, but it was truly epic! But perhaps most important of all, no one or almost no one complained about the slowness of our character's progression, of the almost infinite grind; no ingame stores selling cosmetics or "quality of life" boosts.

So what has changed? How we have gone from games with monthly subscriptions with tons of content and hours of play, to titles that are released one piece, with a paywall to unlock the entire game and a ton of purchases for superfluous things, in the luckiest of cases, or game-breaking leading to pay-to win?

The recent scandal of New World, the Amazon title coming to our PCs at the end of the summer, has put all the spotlight on a practice that slowly but surely is it has crept into numerous titles both new and old; publish a game with features and options deliberately disabled, in order to sell the solution to players. We are not talking here about emotes, skins and cosmetic items, but real features that deliberately make the game in question almost unplayable without purchases in the in-game store.

In the case of New World, the presence of a store that even before the publication of the title, promised, in a very ambiguous PR language, the presence of boosts not only for the player's experience but also for the various crafting skills, fundamental for the progression of our hero. This NDA-infringing leak generated a devastating hype, leading the studio to publish some sort of denial adding that such purchases would not have been possible at launch. An even more meaningless explanation.

Dark Age of Camelot was the first true 3D MMO, opening the doors to a world in which to spend hours and hours. Offering a boost, to skip the game content and almost immediately get to the end game leads us to think that the gaming experience offered is something not worth playing. This option, advertised as a way for those who have a few hours a week to play to keep up with friends and still enjoy the title, makes us understand how the target for these games has changed, or perhaps on the contrary leads us to think how much the devs of this game have taken the wrong approach in their market research.

In the first case, perhaps the most terrible, MMO fans have mutated into a genetically attracted species to instant gratification, where all that is wait at the end of the journey must be accelerated and obtained as soon as possible; no more hours of grind to increase our skills, but a Willy Wonka golden ticket, which allows us to see the end, only to then, inexorably, complain about the lack of content, protesting as a Sunday keyboard warrior against devs. who have created a boring and incentive-free game.

This scenario has been seen and experienced in many titles, including the aforementioned New World, Black Desert Online (which literally guarantees pay to win in the store) and great old World Of Warcraft. Why yes, being on the crest of the wave for over 16 years does not guarantee immunity from this lethal virus that spreads like wildfire to contaminate everything.

The collector edition of Burning Crusade Classic. An exorbitant cost package that offers level 58 boosts, mounts and pets for both versions of the game. WoW started slowly, quietly, adding mounts and pets, in its store, with unique design and not present in the game, only to add services, such as change of name, server, race, faction that if on the one hand can be justified from physical costs, on the other hand prohibitive prices have been defined as the main cause of the decline of the stock. And the recent scandal of paid boosts for the re-release of Burning Crusade Classic, has thrown fuel on what is now no longer a bonfire, but an entire forest on fire.

The problem is not one-way only; Boosts can be seen as unethical, but as long as there are users who buy them, this phenomenon will never end. Gradually the games will become increasingly lacking in features, all obtainable separately, with the global price for each title exceeding 70/80 euros, and with the lack of valid alternatives, we will all be queuing up to buy titles with 12 season passes. , and paid options also to use the chat in game.

Only veterans will be able to remember, almost with joy, the hours spent behind their character, or in the Dark Age Of Camelot Realm vs Realm clashes, when the A player's prowess was not measured by the number of cosmetics purchased.

New World. Will the players be able to forgive Amazon for the inclusion of the store even before the launch, or can we already talk about a flop at launch? Most Read Now

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Games like DAoC and Ultima Online are just memories now. Beautiful memories of a time when video games meant getting lost in a world, being absorbed in it. We will never have such titles again, and this is perhaps the saddest of truths. Buying a finished game will be the exception and no longer the norm, and the lack of alternatives will normalize this practice.

Games will be created around the store, and how many services can be sold to users; no more gripping stories, or character designs with deep stories. What we have now is a one-way ticket to the finale, with a summary of what happened, and a gift package with our new flaming gear, fresh out of the blacksmith, perfect in every spot, with no dents or bumps.

Armor and weapons that have never seen battle. Give us the grind back. Give us back the real games.

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