While MMO players discuss the next generation of online games in terms of post-WoW era, innovative concepts, market saturation and whatnot, a rather striking occurrence has somewhat slipped under the radar: the great player age shift creating a completely new set of challenges for future developers. That’s right, we’re not just harder to please and more experienced, we’re plain older!
The MMO players of yesterday are grown up and “their kids” have joined the market. This is quite the precedent for this industry; yes, there used to be older players before, but not nearly in the same way as there are today. If we look at the age of when MMOs actually became widely popular, we cannot really talk of much longer a span than maybe 10-12 years. Mainstream? No more than 7 years.
That means, for the first time the MMO market faces an audience that has grown with them – and they still want to play MMOs! They’re the teens of yesterday, now joined by the kids of today. Slowly, we begin to realize just what this means, especially in terms of a whole new world of player variety and new expectations.
A relatively young, average audience is easy enough to manage; back when we were in our teens and early twens, we had loads of time. We had a high tolerance for repetition and grinds. We easily worked in teams and committed to regular guild runs. Not so a decade later. The young audience is still there, but so are we – and now, we have lives to run, checks to pay, families (and lazy cats) to look after who cannot so easily “fit around” other schedules and cannot be second priority to other people. And we need our sleep, regularly (darn…). So, we try to make the most of our time online, because it’s preciousss. Somehow, we realize that we cannot and should not quite achieve the same under such limited conditions – still we’d like to feel like we’re not missing out on too much. I still want to have the cake and eat it too.
How will the MMOs of the future deal with this changing, more mixed and demanding audience? Will they grow past us, leaving us behind or will they try and benefit from this huge opportunity to appeal to a wider circle of players? Might they even change their focus drastically in favor of this older generation?
P.S.: For the record, I’m still young – just so we cleared that up!