Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Played any good, new sandbox MMORPGs lately?

I thought I was stating some obvious facts, but apparently some people considered my remarks about sandbox games "troll bait". So in order to not derail a thread that was about something completely different, I'd like to discuss the current state of sandbox MMORPGs here, and give you all the opportunity to correct me if I am wrong.

What I believe the state of sandbox MMORPGs to be is the following:

1) The most successful MMORPG with a "sandbox" label is EVE Online. It came out in 2003, and grew steadily to now over 300k subscribed accounts (with players having multiple accounts being quite frequent). Nevertheless CCP stated that over 80% of the EVE players never leave safe empire space. And over the years there has been a lot of PvE content added to EVE. For me it isn't obvious that you can count all EVE players as "sandbox players", as obviously a good number of them is mostly engaged in activities like agent missions, which aren't fundamentally different from running quests in a themepark MMORPG.

2) Sandbox MMORPGs released after 2003 all have less than 100k subscribers, all together. Darkfall is estimated to have about 20k, Mortal Online has less. Furthermore there are about ten times more themepark MMORPGs released than sandbox MMORPGs. I'm calling that "unpopular". That doesn't mean that the people who like sandbox MMORPGs aren't feeling strongly about them, just the opposite. But it appears as if the sandbox MMORPG genre does attract a significantly smaller number of players than the themepark MMORPG genre.

3) I would not consider Minecraft to be a MMORPG, but it certainly is a sandbox game, and it certainly is successful, especially considering that it is a one-man operation and not a big budget game. That opens up a discussion of whether a sandbox MMORPG could be successful if it was more like Minecraft and less like Mortal Online.

Please, try to argue with facts, figures, and rational arguments. If your only argument is that you love sandbox MMORPGs and hate everybody who plays something else, and you just reply with a bunch of insults, your comment will be deleted. But if I made any factual errors, feel free to point them out, preferably with links to proof of the opposite. And I'd like to hear your ideas how a post-EVE popular sandbox MMORPG could look like, and why there isn't one yet.

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