A Numbers Game

I run a casual 24-member Illuminati cabal in The Secret World, and there has been a noticable drop in member activity since Guild Wars 2 went live. That’s just the nature of the MMORPG beast. But a long-time member voiced some concerns last night that got me wondering. We’ll call him Bancroft.

Bancroft and another member were discussing how excited they are for the upcoming 10-man New York raid due out this fall when Bancroft added, “If we can even get 10 people online at the same time”. He explained that he’s noticed less and less people online during weekday evenings and that Guild Wars 2 was the reason. He’s right: Five of our members play, and four more have shown an interest in joining them.

He went on to lament that he’d been looking through Chronicle, The Secret World’s stat-tracking service which takes a page from World of WarCraft’s Armory, and found that almost every cabal he came across only had 20 – 30 members. Bancroft’s point was that he feels too few people play The Secret World. He’s considering making the jump to Guild Wars 2.

Bancroft’s perception is that numbers are dropping, and it’s probably a product of the recent stream of bad news surrounding FUNCOM. The Secret World didn’t sell as well as they’d hoped it would, and there have been some significant layoffs to include lead designer Matt Bruusgaard. As a result of the shake-up, Issue #2, the latest content update, has been pushed back. Does this affect the morale of the players? Most definitely.

But why is it that the enjoyment players get out of MMORPGs seems to scale with the number of people playing? I can understand how potential players might use this as a basis to judge the value and quality of a title, but for someone who has been playing since closed beta and who sang its praises all the while to lose interest? Why?

Not to mention that groups in The Secret World are capped at five players. I run Nightmare dungeons, the game’s challenging end-game content, for hours every weekend with cabal members. Even now, it’s very rare that we need a pick-up player to fill a spot. If there were only 20 players in the entire game, what would that matter if you always found four others to group with? And if a game has 20 million players, would that matter when you can only play with four of them at a time?

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3 thoughts on “A Numbers Game

  1. Actually, the whole argument for a playerbase seems kinda empty to me. If you look at it empirically, most players in 99% of MMOs don’t even interact with each other: they hack, slash, loot and the only meaningful interaction is when people team up for dungeons. And often that’s 3-8 players. IMHO It’s Massively, but the Massiveness isn’t being tapped. Most MMORPGs are basically a single-player experience with chatboxes.

    In a game like A Tale in the Desert, numbers would matter, because the gameplay actually revolves around people. If you can always find enough people to have fun, numbers don’t really matter at all.

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