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MMOGs and media cross-overs

July 7, 2007 Comments off

Is taking the lore and story lines from other media and adapting it to the MMOG sphere a successful approach?

There has been a few attempts so far – Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online and Lord of the Ring Online comes to mind. The two former mainly coming from the movie business and the latter from fantasy litterature.

The Star Wars and Matrix efforts have probably less than the expected playerbase today. Lord of the Ring Online seem to be do fairly good at least, but I think it is still to early to judge.

There are some more coming up, like Marvel Universe Online, Star Trek Online and Stargate Worlds and probably a few more which I do not know about of have forgotten. Then we have some that might fall somewhere in between, like God & Heroes which is based on perhaps primarilyRoman mythology but likely have used some creative freedom in adjusting the stories to adapt to the gameplay.

Where am I going with this? I must say that I am a bit sceptic when it comes to media cross-overs like this, in particular when there is a strong control factor in favour of the non-MMOG medias. I think this has been the case with Star Wars Galaxies and is a situation that Turbine faces with Lord of the Ring Online as well.

Just as most movie adaptations of books often tend to be a bit of a disappointment for readers, this can probably happen when moving to MMOG space from other media as well. A key here I think is when moving story lines and lore to MMOG space is to continue to develop the lore in that space, together with the previous media. The MMOGs cannot just adapt to fit within the frames of the existing lore from the other media, it must be developed further in MMOG space.

Lucas have a quite strong control element in what happens with the Star Wars brand and I am not quite sure they have been that interested in moving the lore and developing it in the MMOG space. This is by far not the only problem SWG have had, but I think this has been a contributing factor to the troubles the game have had.

For Matrix Online I think there was an effort to develop the lore within the MMOG space as well and that game has still not been doing well. But the lore cross-over factor is just one factor.

I think the longevity of LotrO might potentially be a problem as well. JRR is not around to help develop the story line and while there is much material to work from, Turbine is still restricted in fitting it in the existing litterature. It may last for a while, but I think it may have trouble sticking around for as long as other games with original lore. Ultima Online has been around for 10 years, Anarchy Online for 6 years and Everquest falls in between. All of these games will likely be around for a couple years more. If they are shut down it is not because of the lore, but for other reasons (outdated graphics and game mechanics comes to mind).

Of the later coming games it seems that at least Stargate Worlds and Marvel Universe Online are going in the direction of developing the lore within the MMOG space, which I think is a good thing and that these games may end up successful also in the long run.

Will this be different for different markets also? In the Western hemisphere PvE and lore focused gameplay have had more success, while it is more PvP oriented in the East and possibly also less focus on the lore. Going for existing players/customers, the cross-ver development is probably being more important in the West. But will it be for future potential players/customers as well?

What do you think?

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