Most of the people I know are from the MMORPG fraternity and these people come from all walks of life, as befots a global market of perhaps 20m-30m people for this genre. Notably there are a wealth of cultural differences from different parts of the world, which many have already commented upon - one was particularly interesting was that players in one part of the world wanted their character to fit in and be similar to others, where people in another part of the world were extremely keen that their character could be customised to the nth degree. Many people will also have heard of the Bartle Test, where you can determine, which type of player you are - Explorer, Achiever, Socialiser and Killer, or any combination or balance of these.
The Bartle Test is really quite important in my analysis and can be found here:
http://www.guildcafe.com/bartle.php. Here are my scores:
Breakdown: Achiever 46.67%, Explorer 80.00%, Killer 6.67%, Socializer 66.67%
ESAK players often see the game world as a great stage, full of things to see and people to meet. They love teaming up with people to get to the hard-to-see places, and they relish unique experiences.
Look at the description there and - bearing in mind that this description is largely comparative (compared to a SEAK or an EKAS, for example) - decide whether you know anyone who would fit that description very closely.
Chances are you do. But of course they won't be someone who plays MMORPGs at all. I would suggest that 90%+ of them have never heard of an MMORPG and would never ever entertain the idea of participating in one. If you explained it to them, then their response would likely be one of the following:
a) No, I'm too busy for that type of thing
b) No, but my 10yo might enjoy it; I grew out of those things a long while ago
c) No, you have to pay to play in those?
d) No, my computer isn't powerful enough
e) No, I have REAL friends
f) No, I don't want to get addicted to them
g) No, I think they are a social evil, which stop people from dealing with reality
h) No, I'd like to, but my wife won't let me
I won't get carried away, but there are plenty of reasons.
One of the largest groups of people you would meet would be (b). Basically, "I don't touch games, with a barge pole". Now, I'm not going to argue or analyse the merits or otherwise of this point of view, simply to say that it exists and it will be VERY HARD to persuade people to participate in an on-line game, with this perspective. This same group will often be those that enjoy "entertainment" more pertaining to their adult status, such as opera, eating in or out or concertgoing, so I don't personally feel the idea of having an on-line avatar who does all these things would be so far-fetched for this group of people. The issue is mainly that MMORPG has a "P" and a "G" in it. The word "play" and the word "game" makes many people feel awkward or embarrassed or indeed they simply reject it as not part of thier lifestyle.
You can see perhaps why restyling "play" as "participant" and "Game" as "on-line environment" is so critical for the development of the genre. Brent at Virginworlds recent podcast talked about Sony On-line Entertainment's new "Front screen" being far more functional than before. Clearly, it's going to turn into a marketing tool for Sony products from all areas of entertainment and quite rightly so. Bringing the mountain to Mohammed as well as Mohammed to the mountain is going to raise the awareness of Sony products and artists to MMORPG players, as well as include multiplayer gaming as a realistic entertainment option for that huge market out there that buys music from Sony artists. Having said that I'm not sure how many would install a 17Gb game onto their PCs.....
The clever bit about this is that suddenly MMORPGs move into the mainstream, by association. And in the mainstream, some of the (b)'s above suddenly become a lot less awkward about their involvement...
Well that wraps things up for today. I'll be back sometime later on in the week.