A wonderfully informative post about the results of the Newbie Blogger Initiative was published over at the Ancient Gaming Noob. In it, TAGN polled the survivors over the past year and posted a survival rate (meaning currently active) of 27%. That means 73% of new bloggers are no longer at their blogs and/or have been silent for over 6 months. But what does this really mean?

Defining MMOGs

This genre has become much more muddled over the years than perhaps any other. The world of online games wants to include every game which is played online and which has multiplayer to be named an MMOG, but this simply isn’t a fair criteria. Given the history of MMOGs and the trends in modern games, MMOGs are far fewer than generic charts and polls would have us believe.

MMOData.net has it’s own criteria for defining MMOs which are inline with my own observations and it can be summed up as follows.

  • A persistent online virtual world
  • 500+ concurrent users who can interaction simultaneously
  • Use of a persistent avatar which “lives” in said virtual world

Multiplayer online games have always had lobbies and the ability to enter individual matches with friends and our favorite enemy players. They’ve never been labeled MMOGs either and there doesn’t seem any practical reasons to do so now.

MMOG Growth Chart

MMORPG.com has a large hog-pog of games labeled as MMOs, but it also doesn’t require the listed games to meet the above criteria. To emphasize this point, League of Legends is listed as an MMO so these numbers lack precision. However, they still help to paint a general picture of the growth trend of online gaming. The community and industry have been trying for over a year (the pressure intensified with Diablo 3) to get any multiplayer online experience lumped into the MMOG genre. Almost none have an explanation for why games like Diablo 2 are suddenly MMOGs.

The above chart represents hundreds of (mostly) MMOGs released over the years and many are no longer with us. Just between 2007 and 2012 I can think of a couple dozen of major MMORPGs off the top of my head. Just as the industry has grown the genre, so the community too was a reflection of this growth. It’s was a the peak era of MMO blogging just as it was (and still is) the peak era of MMO gaming.

MMOG Communities

Times have changed and they keep on a’changin’. The landscape of the MMO community is mostly a desolate wasteland with shining oases and walled off strongholds of members. The blogging community has become much more of a gated community while game forums are largely holding on by the graces of Reddit and Tumblr. vlogging and Youtube/Twitch are the new community platforms; reading is so 20th century. All the rest are Dens of Evil (the Kotaku comments for example) or else lifeless camps (say, the SA forums) strewn about a thoroughly exploited landscape with little worth rallying for.

I call us bloggers much more gated because of the conservatism that’s apparent in our community. I don’t mean to imply we don’t talk about progressive issues, but rather that the format in which we do so is largely unchanged for the diehards. Very few bloggers have welcomed and embraced the new social media as a genuine extension of their blogging service. That includes me. Part of the dilemma in this new pressure technology has brought to bear on the community is we haven’t all quite figured out how to take advantage of all this new stuff in meaningful ways.

The way MMO development has trended seems to have had a great impact on the community we see today. When bloggers begin to fear that MMO blogging is drying up, what they might be experiencing is the fracturing and thinning out of gamer ranks. Partially to thank are the dozens of online games which come out annually, the introduction of F2P, the proliferation of multiplayer online games, and, probably most importantly, the introduction of mobile gaming. Mobile gaming alone has completely changed game community dynamics.

To put this in perspective, consider that at the height of MMO gaming (2007-2010 I’d guesstimate), most MMOers played the same game or sometimes same couple of games. This made it a lot easier to have cross blog dialogue because the community was having fairly uniform experiences to write about. The WoW community has been the center from which anything exciting in MMOs emanated. It was the inspiration for thousands of websites, databases, wikis, news sites, and community events. That kind of cohesion can only be maintained from consistently similar experiences amongst gamers and it was with this boom that the gaming blogosphere as we know it today was born. With the introduction of more games into this climate, you get bloggers having less awareness of each others experiences; becoming less able to relate and to remark on what’s happening in other games, since everyone plays more different games. One result has been that it became increasingly fractured, less shared experience …less interesting.

There’s also something significant to be said for blogging about a genre or game that is largely unchanged (gameplay wise) from 10 years ago. Really, how much more is there to blog about?

Add to this how easily mobile gaming has crept into our pockets. When gaming from a phone, people turn to social media sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, Youtube, or Facebook to share their experiences. Few are reading/following blogs and even fewer are creating them. Micro-blogging is all the rage (Twitter) and it’s where the current generation of gamers embed their communities.

I began MMOs with Star Wars Galaxies, peaked with World of Warcraft, loved Tabula Rasa (never forget the T.R. in T.R. Red Skies) and dabbled in Age of Conan, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EVE Online, Warhammer Online, Vanguard Saga of Heroes, and many more which I probably don’t even remember at this point. At the height of it all within the blogging community, every gamer I knew who had a blog, blogged about WoW and had a guild who owned a website/forum. That’s no longer true. I don’t think it a coincidence either that MMO blogs in general have seen a slight decline along the same timeline as WoW. That game was like¬† a star that went supernova just a few years ago. We’re all sorta floating in the remnant its left behind.

We’re Not Dying

MMO blogging or rather game blogging in general isn’t dying. Not even close. It’s becoming more communal in my opinion, more niche. I’m sort of developing a reputation for saying this, but that is the nature of strong communities. They retreat into smaller circles in order to share and enjoy, to live unique experiences. It’s looking like blogging isn’t exempt from this.

I would personally like to see some revitalization in the community. Some innovation on blogging. In my silence so far this year I’ve chewed over more than a couple of ideas to expand the Red Skies community and to reinvigorate the blogging scene. I’m just not sure which way I’ll go with it yet!

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