, 12:26 PM
Forgive my Christmas Eve briefness, but allow me to play the advocate of the devil on the player's shoulder.
Allow me to play devil's advocate for a minute and step into the shoes of a businessman at EA. SWTOR has attracted, for various reasons, the 3 distinct groups I identified in my last post. The development budget, I think we can all assume at this point, is not high enough to go after all 3 groups and probably not even 2 of them. The question now becomes "Which group of players do we pursue in order to create a sustainable income and stable subscription numbers at minimal cost?" So, with that in mind, I will try to look at all 3 groups in terms of longevity of subscription and cost to develop content aimed at them.
Cost - Initially, it would be quite high. The game has few to none of of the requisite features. Once these are in place, however, the cost to maintain becomes quite low.
Benefit - High. they'll keep on replaying minigames and grind out decorations for houses so long as there's enough like-minded players around.
Cost - High. Story content is by far the most expensive aspect of this game and takes the longest to develop.
Benefit - Low. The replayability just isn't there when compared to social or MMO content. After you go through it once or twice, that's it. These guys are not likely to stick around for repeatable content.
Cost - Moderate. These guys need frequent updates of decent cost. It's cheaper and faster to develop than story content, but more expensive over the long haul than social content.
Benefit - High. Like the SWG Crowd, these guys will stick around and continue to subscribe for repeatable content provided it is fun and challenging.
So, to answer our question, which group of players do we pursue in order to create a sustainable income and stable subscription numbers at minimal cost? For starters, we can rule out the KOTOR crowd. An MMO just does not lend itself to this play style, hence the high cost and low benefit. Also, this game does not really have the investment capital to develop social content right now. That leaves the MMO guys. There's no initial investment required and has the potential for high returns. This is really just the decision that makes the most business sense at the moment.
Firstly, the SW:G crowd is extremely niche, given how broad the market is today. They're vocal, sure. Particular on a game which many of them view to be the successor to their failed game. But these kinds of players, those willing to create their own content (and I count myself among them) are extremely rare, particularly in this business climate. Catering to this type of crowd would be high investment, I agree. But as SW:G so aptly demonstrated, it just isn't sustainable.
As for the MMO crowd, I ask a simple question - why are they here instead of WoW, Rift, Aion or dozens of other MMOs out there that do the exact same thing SW:TOR does, and usually better? The answer is your second point - story and setting. That is what sets SW:TOR apart from the rest of the genre. That is BioWare's strength. And that is what they have long since stopped playing to.
I'm not here to raid. I'm not here to grind dailies in any form. I'm not here to play out the exact same, repetitive and very often one-sided PvP matches day in and day out. Don't get me wrong - I'll partake in those activities. But they're simply filler. Needed filler, but filler nonetheless. There are other MMOs that do exactly what SW:TOR is apparently striving for with its endgame, with more polish and general quality. I tolerate these tropes of the genre because I am ultimately here for the story.
Is is feasible for development to focus on story, entirely? Of course not. That's not sustainable. But neither is catering exclusively to players that are playing other games already. Heck, even the most significant piece of post-release story that has actually materialized is simply content that was held back during beta - HK-51 and his questline has been around in the game files since the middle of closed beta. Story doesn't need to be the only part, but it needs to be a visible part of development going forward.
It hasn't been.
That needs to change.