MMOs getting shut down is never fun. Especially not if actual layoffs are involved in the process, like with Carbine Studios and WildStar recently. After a slow demise over months if not years, publisher NCsoft pulled the plug last week and also closed the studio behind the title, sending approximately 50 people packing. MMOs shutting down unfortunately is not a “story” per se. Many titles don’t survive the competitive market for too long, or don’t even get kickstarted. The case of WildStar however is particularly interesting as the title went from a super-hyped “WoW Killer” to barely making it all.
From Hero to Zero
So what happened? And what can we as Neverwintans learn from the mistakes that Carbine Studios made? I’ve admittedly not delved too deep into the demise and issues of the game, but did some basic research on the topic as I was interested in the reasons. So if you’ve played WildStar (I have not), feel free to correct me if I’m factually wrong.
What I definitely remember was a certain hype around the title in 2014. WildStar was the MMO of the year (alongside ESO?). It was cute, had swag, and was developed by a Western studio when the market got flooded with Asian imports. And while it didn’t reinvent the wheel, it felt different enough to give players a new and intriguing experience. Maybe even because it mirrored World of Warcraft in some key areas was what made people think that this could be a major contender for Blizzard.
How Hardcore Can It Get?
It obviously went south from there. Apparently the developers thought it was a great idea to give their cute MMO like the hardest raids in history. People that tested the content early dished out tons of warnings. They feared there would not be enough of an hardcore audience for that type of group play. And well, there never was. Turns out there’s a reason why nowadays plenty of “oldschool” MMOs have trouble getting funded, and why World of Warcraft moved away from 40-player raids.
Games work differently than they did ten years ago. But for whatever reason the WildStar team thought their game was perfectly suited to bring back that era. Even more amazing was that everyone saw the downfall coming. Not literally of course, but I definitely remember a bunch of people bitching early on about how WildStar was getting ruined and that nobody plays it any longer. The writing was surely on the wall. After the initial fail, there was not much the devs could do. Player numbers stagnated, the game went free-2-play way to slow, and then only got sparingly updated. The last year or so I’ve barely read anything about the title.
Maybe Listen to Your Players?
Look, stuff happens. Sometimes devs have the wrong ideas and can’t correct them fast enough. Sometimes a title looks promising, but then still struggles to find its market. But WildStar feels like a missed opportunity from top to bottom. The game won prizes, got praised like everywhere, and apparently was ruined for no good reason. You know, nobody forced the devs to build their endgame around brutally hard raids despite players warning them not to.
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Which brings us back to Neverwinter or MMO communication in general, because it definitely can’t hurt to give at least the longtime players a more prominent voice in the design process. Veterans for instance probably know what keeps/kept them interested. So why not use their knowledge to build a better game? Way to often the relationship between an MMO and its players is seller-buyer one anyway. My dream scenario would be more of a collaborative approach in which interested players and the devs have a platform to openly share ideas and thought processes. I get it’s completely unrealistic, but one can always dream.
Give the Community a More Prominent Voice
I don’t want to turn this into a “listen to your hardcore players” article however (especially since we around here usually lobby for more challenge instead of less). I believe Neverwinter, despite not offering everything I’d like to see from a MMO, is in a good state. And it’s not like we’re getting completely ignored. It just feels like it sometimes because the turnaround times from an idea to the live implementation are hilariously slow. WildStar however certainly is an interesting counter to all those that label the most dedicated players the “vocal minority” or generally feel like studios know best. No they don’t, because had Carbine listened to their players, the title might still be here.
What’s your take on this topic? Should studios, and Neverwinter, listen to their players more or follow their own ideas? Share your thoughts and experience on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit our message board!
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