Home > MMO Games > Should MMO publishers compete with the same games?

Should MMO publishers compete with the same games?

November 29, 2008

Today the different online game services we play are generally provided by one publisher for each game. If there are different publishers for one game they have generally split up the market into region, each one covering a certain territory.

But why should it be that way? What if the game developers instead let any number of publishers that fulfilled some conditions run the same game? Say that Blizzard let some other publishers run World of Warcraft as well and there would perhaps be 5-6 publishers in Europe, all serving all or most of the continent.

In this case the publishers would have to make them more attractive to get more customers – different payment models, bundles with other games they publish, bundles with other media, family specials, guild specials etc. If a customer does not like the services (or lack thereof) of a publisher, but still want to play the game they would switch.

Now, the switch would not work out in practice unless the game provided support to migrate a character or account to a different publisher and games would need to be better to support integrating with social network and game portal environments. Neither is a bad thing, but there is little incentive to provide such support at the moment.

We have so far at least come to the point where the game developer and the online game publisher are different companies in a number of cases. But so far each game publisher has pretty much had a monopoly on providing the game access. Markets have been more open or are opening up in a number of other service areas, why not online games?

Categories: MMO Games
  1. BiggDawg
    November 30, 2008 at 00:35

    The answer to your question is cartels. The game developers all work together to keep new one’s out of the market, and none of the members of the cartel would be dumb enough to break away as they know their fate would be the same as new competition. Just like all big industry I am sure that the game development market is controlled by cartels.

  2. December 12, 2008 at 21:29

    I think it’s more than that, BiggDawg. The sheer and simplest answer is that game developers have no serious financial incentive to do this, and would risk a massive amount, regardless of what players would feel about the option.

    Modern games thrive on critical mass, and live on the power law. From the most individual level, players don’t trust MMOs to last; the feeling of a lot of long-term large servers staring at them gives a certainty that the game will not disappear and other players will be available. Inside the game, players will stay if they run into someone they don’t want to disappoint, or who they ‘have’ to best, and the odds of that increase as more players are available. Externally, word of mouth is god. So is having that more money to make new content with; ten thousand subscribers use up the average content just as fast as a million, but the latter pays for new content a hell of a lot faster.

    There’s not much known gain involved. If there were N individuals that want to buy your game, all having Y publishers will do is split them up and add extra accounting and communications costs. The publishers aren’t any more interested; they know having a bunch of small games running just makes it harder to get a big critical mass of players involved, and having competition with the same good and the same market is no fun. The only real sure benefit is if the next publisher has a fresh market you can’t touch, and even there you’re not avoiding all the messes.

    I’m a moderator on the Perfect World International forums, one of those few games that does do competition with other localizations and Perfect World Multilingual Service. There’s a lot of potential for mess. We get players who register for our services and download a foreign localization’s client at least once a week on the forums, and I know for everyone that actually bothers chatting about the problem a bunch just give up. We get players spreading false rumors about the other people’s ‘great deals’ that do not and will not exist, and that’s a fun little challenge since we neither want them to fail nor want them to take our customers. The game wouldn’t exist for English-speaking people without these localizations, but the idea of this sort of thing going on for MMOs just for grins and giggles is not my idea of fun.

  3. Twanni
    December 13, 2008 at 16:36

    Ehm, a lot of the time it’s the Publisher that finances a lot of the development as most Studio’s can’t stay within their budget if their lifes depended on it and they need another investment round. Enter the Publisher. Sure we’ll fund your last develpoment cycle. We do want exclusive publishing rights though.

    Is there one developer who could play this otherwise? Yes, the already mentioned Blizzard. But no-one else has the clout. NCsoft did at one time, but they became a Publishing company as a reuslt.

  1. December 12, 2008 at 06:03
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