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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