No Bioshock MMO? No Kidding!

In order to explain why Take Two won’t be making a Bioshock MMO, Chairman Scott Zelnick does what CEOs do best, he spouts some popular wisdom:

“How many MMOs have worked in US market? WOW and Everquest.”

Scott is right. Take Two shouldn’t make a Bioshock MMO. But he’s all wrong as to the reasons why. First, let’s ask Mr. Letterman to bring up The Top 10 Games Scott Zelnick Forgot Existed:

  1. Ultima Online
  2. Asheron’s Call
  3. Dark Age of Camelot
  4. Star Wars Galaxies
  5. City of Heroes
  6. Dungeons & Dragons Online
  7. Lord of the Rings Online
  8. Eve
  9. EverQuest 2
  10. Guild Wars

All of these MMO games captured a fanbase, were profitable, and to one level or another, successful in fulfilling their design. I happened to work on a couple of them myself. Now, none of them were ever the most popular MMO (er, except for Ultima Online).

Nevertheless, I get Scott’s point. Making an MMO is a big money bet, and a lot of money was lost in the last decade in an effort to cash in on the MMO craze (now all that venture money is in social games, of course). Most of those MMOs never shipped. On the other hand, if we look at all those failure cases, most belong to unheard-of studios developing second-tier or third-tier IPs. And, um, Microsoft. Couldn’t we say the same thing of any game genre?

There are two real and sensible reasons not to make a BioShock MMO. First, it would be dumb to integrate persistent multiplayer into this franchise. I would expect to succeed about as well as, well, putting instanced multiplayer into the IP (hi, Bioshock 2!) And more importantly, the lesson of MMOs today could be that only the largest and most financially successful franchises will be made into MMOs. Big franchises have been turned into successful MMOs. Little ones, not so much. Bioshock is not a successful, big franchise. My personal like of the game and its outstanding ratings aside, Bioshock has never sold like a big franchise. And I’m pretty sure we can agree two years later that it is not as big as Star Wars.

So yeah, I agree with Scott’s conclusion. He shouldn’t invest the $75M+ into making a Bioshock MMO. But watch out for the Bioshock facebook ap.

Update: Scott Jennings has a different list, but he points out that Scott’s ignorance is just as absurd.

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