On backing MMO raiders and PvPers

I left LoTRO even before Riders of Rohan hit the scene, so I wasn’t around when Sapience made the statement Sean quotes in his post at Contains Moderate Peril. But some way or other, I must have seen it, because it sounds dreadfully familiar. As does the old argument that raiders and PvPers need love and care because they are the important minority.

Ostensibly, that importance stems from the fact that, by virtue of their interests, they are more dedicated to a game and more likely to stick around longer. Corollaries include increased revenue and a healthier playerbase foundation.

I see a couple of issues with this. Yes, I’m all too aware of my own position as a hardcore carebear who is also traditionally barred from raids due to the ‘XP only’ vicious cycle. But that won’t sway my thinking… I hope.

What do you bring to the table?

Ah, the dreaded interview question – right up there with the ‘5-year plan’ and the classic ‘name a weakness’. But yes. The aforementioned argument is predicated on the notion that raiders and PvPers make significant contributions to a game community: not just in-game, but on the forums and knowledge bases as well. In short, they are more driven than your average MMO dilettante to help others progress, which boosts the playerbase.

But I cannot help but think this marginalizes the contributions of the PvE and RP crowds. Using mentorship as an example, if we take raid progression and PvP matches as a game’s only measures of enjoyment, then this argument makes complete sense. But I have read enough player-authored guides on PvE builds, small instances, and roleplaying to beg to differ. And that’s not even counting the guilds that exist to help newbies and promote RP.

It really comes down to the game itself, and by extension the nature of a given playerbase. An MMO built for PvP and endgame PvE would naturally derive little benefit from RP advocates (look at Defiance, or Neverwinter).

Why are you at the table?

Further to this, players’ reasons for choosing an MMO must also be considered. As Sean pointed out, LoTRO attracts even non-gamers solely on their love for the IP.

If players’ only yardstick for a place worth putting down roots in is an active playerbase (and for the majority, it probably is), then the argument has some merit. Nobody’s denying raiders and PvPers do make a game lively.

But it does not follow that if you don’t raid or PvP, you are a solo quester – and therefore not invested in the game. There are so many other players, motivated by so many other different things, and they are not too few to pay attention to, because raiders and PvPers are ‘less than 10%’ of the crowd.

Devs, this is the age of F2P. Your raison d’être is no longer getting folks to pay – it is fostering an environment that encourages people to stay. Stayers beget stayers, and hence the probability of more payers.

If you really want to throw your support behind raiders and PvPers, why not add global content gated behind major raids or leaderboard progress? (Does any such MMO exist?) Don’t force the change. Give it a reason to sprout.

But before you do, consider that while you can’t appeal to everyone, putting any one subset of the playerbase on a pedestal can be as detrimental as spitting on the same.

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