Via Michael Zenke's great Massive Update on 1up project I found three posts from Van Hemlock on Auto Assault: Introduction, an essay on why nobody plays it, and a final review. Van Hemlock has one of those blogs I'd like to read more, but rarely get around to it, although it is really well written. And since my own Auto Assault coverage was cut short by video game motion sickness, I can only recommend reading what Van Hemlock has to say about it.
He reports that there is only one server, and that on that server there are only about 100 concurrent users, including the free trials. I'm not quite sure, but he said he got there via a European free trial, so it is possible that there is another Auto Assault server for the US out there, with maybe some more players. But that would still suggest that Auto Assault is a flop, and I can't really understand why. Okay, so the game caused me nausea and I couldn't play it, but I doubt that is the reason why everybody else isn't playing. Auto Assault isn't that bad a game, it's actually quite fun if you like the fast and furious version of fun. Van Hemlock mentions an effect I usually call the negative network effect, people aren't playing Auto Assault because nobody is playing Auto Assault.
Nevertheless, the lack of success of Auto Assault makes you wonder. The same company, NCSoft, is about to bring out a new game, Tabula Rasa, which has some things in common with Auto Assault: fast and furious gun-shooting in a Sci Fi setting. And I really wish them success with that one. But if Tabula Rasa tanks as well, they'll have to ask themselves which part of that formula isn't working. With other non-fantasy games doing well enough (EVE, City of Heroes), I don't think that this means only the fantasy genre is viable for MMORPGs. But I could imagine that somehow the shooter gameplay isn't really appealing to the same sort of people who like the character development gameplay of a MMORPG. Or to say it even harsher, the average age of MMORPG players is well above the average age of the fans of the first-person shooter genre. I have no problems admitting that I'm simply too slow for a FPS, but is that a general problem? Are fast and furious shooters incompatible with MMORPGs? With quite a number of "faster" MMORPGs announced, not only shooters but also faster versions of sword-fighting fantasy, is the genre heading into a cul-de-sac?