According to Jeff Strain, co-founder or Guild Wars developer ArenaNet, basing an MMO on an existing film, TV or book franchise wonât lead to success in the genre.
"Even the big two [franchises] haven't lived up to their expectations," he said in a Games Convention Developers Conference session, and went on to point out that the top two MMOs are based on original worlds, unrestricted by the linear nature of products designed for other media.
He went on to add that most games fail because of the social nature of the genre, and because gamers rarely commit to more than one at a time.
"The primary factor that determines whether an MMO lives or dies is the active player base," said Strain. "There's a sweet spot, and those that donât reach that threshold tend to die within a short time."
While there's a myriad of reasons that players will migrate away from any MMO, according to Strain, signs that there may be problems can be seen even before release.
"Releasing an MMO before everybody on the development team is absolutely proud of it is walking away from every dime you've invested in it."
Strain also talked about the impact that Blizzardâs World of Warcraft game has had on the industry, but warned against trying to follow the companyâs methods too closely.
"The best-placed people to create World of Warcraft's successor, it's the World of Warcraft team. Let's all do our own thing, and be good at it."
"It's not the most innovate product on the market, but it has a tremendous amount of content in it, and it's exceptionally polished. It was in development for five years, and probably cost well in excess of USD 40 million to bring to market."
Finally he took a swipe at the notion that subscription models are the only payment solution for MMOs. "Don't count on subscriptions. The subscription model is not the future of the games industry."
"Gamers donât buy the argument that an MMO has to charge a subscription fee to cover the ongoing cost of servers and development. We know it, and they know it."