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KotFE - Can BioWare Redefine How We View MMOs?

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As more information has finally been released regarding Knights of the Fallen Empire, a new and different direction for the game appears to have taken form. The development team at BioWare has decided to listen to feedback and gameplay data, focusing on the part of the game many people wanted from BioWare in the first place going forward:

A Single Player Game.

For those experienced in the genre of MMOs, the idea is unthinkable -"Isn't the whole point of MMOs group play? Aren't PvP and Raiding staples of any MMO? What is Bioware doing?"

However, I think in this case BioWare has read their metrics and is making a contraversial but correct call. The MMO genre is in a decline. Subscriber numbers are down across the board, including the juggernaught WoW (Source 1 | Source 2). There are more MMOs competing with each other now than ever before, and other forms of Massively Multiplayer games have emerged (like MOBAs and CARPG {Cooperative Action RPG}) culimating in lower individual MMO game populations across the board.

At the same time, BioWare is fortunate enough to continue using EA's Star Wars license, something that has helped keep them afloat where other MMOs may have stumbled or failed. With a new Star Wars movie soon to be released, The Old Republic appears poised for a revival of interest in the game. And the metrics don't lie - the #1 activity that players engage in, the one that is most requested at Cantina Tours, a primary reason why many players have left, has always been story (or lack thereof). PvP and Raiding might be MMO staples, but despite what some in the hard core might believe, the general population has always been story-oriented.

As such, we already know that gone are the days of new nightmare operations modes in KotFE. Story once again is the focus. Companions become relevant again. And BioWare can finally do what it has always been best at - making a single player game that players will want to play, even if it is in the wrapper of an MMO with unrealized potential.

If that sounds like a criticism; it's not. In fact, it's high priase. Because while the PvP and Raider crowds are very vocal (and I speak as one who has raided at high levels as part of teams), they still are the vocal minority. The majority belongs to the people who are more likely to play than talk - the casual player.

The Casual player is where the money is at, and to sate the appetite of the casual player, you must design an experience that one can easily jump into and out of. It's not something that has escaped the eye, for instance, of LionHead Studios, as they work on Fable Legends, which seeks the same theme that other games like Dungeons and Dragons Online have done before it by eschewing typical MMO staples for more casually-focused gameplay, albiet in different ways.

It is this agile shift that has me somewhat hopeful. At the very least, I think we will see a holding pattern with the subscriptions as newer blood overtakes older Raiders and PvPers who are ready to jump ship. And from there, I suspect the game will sell itself and start to slowly grow again. It will have been a missed opportunity to grow significantly in a short period of time, but I think a slow growth is inevitable as word of mouth spreads among "casuals." If Bioware can keep people coming back each week for the next chapter of the KotFE storyline, then perhaps their new player-retention strategy might just work.

BioWare is going in a bold direction, and those directions are not often universally praised. But praise is never an indicator of success; instead it can also be used to hide faults. Those who want success must fearlessly blaze their own path, even among criticism, backlash, or poor community interaction. People have long clamored for Knights of the Old Republic III, perhaps this is what Bioware wishes to deliver going forward.

I for one, wish them much success.

Zion's thought of the Month: Has anyone noticed that like clockwork, Bioware has released a deluge of information at precisely the 1 month mark before the launch of KotFE? This has been standard practice for BioWare when it comes to expansions. It would be nice, and do a lot for BioWare's image, if they just came forward and said this is their official policy, rather than repeatedly promising and never delivering the release of information since the game was announced until this point. Something for the community team to consider, even as the marketing department does everything it can to mis-manage the "hype" and hide away the hard work the developers in the trenches are doing to improve the game. I think it's better to set expectations and be transparent during development, rather than make vague statements or to say nothing at all.

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About the Author
Author: ZionHalcyon