In a recent "Soapbox" editorial, Massively's Jef Reahard argues that ZeniMax Online's handling of PR for The Elder Scrolls Online is very similar to Star Wars: The Old Republic's, and that if the same thing is true for the design, it might not mean good things for the MMO set in Tamriel. Here's an excerpt:
ZeniMax is treading this same path with TESO, and while at first I chalked it up to tone-deaf developers, I've since realized that it's more like business-related common sense. I don't envy TESO's devs, let me tell you. As I've said before, the game probably seemed like a good idea back in 2007. Now, though, the reason it's being met with eyerolls, yawns, and outright hostility in the MMO community is because we've seen all this before, both the product and the marketing tactics.
The same was true of SWTOR, but most of us overlooked that because, you know, Star Wars. BioWare had a certain arrogance about it all through the lead-up to TOR's launch. We know what people want, the company intimated, and this was really code for "we have a can't-miss IP that will sell no matter what we do." And so the firm chose the easiest path and attempted to make that fact more palatable with voiceovers and multiple you-are-the-one storylines. ZeniMax is following suit, albeit with a bit more obstinance.
Witness Firor's "making an MMO is making an MMO" comments as well as his myopic we're-unapologetic-about-our-MMO refrain.
This is how you make one kind of MMO, certainly. As SWTOR is showing us, though, it's not necessarily how you make an MMO that has staying power. MMORPGs are in fact much more ambitious than quest grinders with 200-player PvP. MMORPGs are worlds. They have real economies. They grow and change based on player action (and by player action, I don't mean capture objectives that continually reset or get passed around more often than a hookah in a Big State University dorm room).
MMOs are home to millions of gamers who want something besides a single-player story ported over from a single-player franchise for the purposes of recurring revenue. They want something worth logging into for years at a time, not something they can already get in offline games that don't feature continual costs.