There’s a bit of tense discussion over on LOTRO’s forum and wider blog community about the endgame and the shift away from raiding as the main challenging group content. This has been stirred up by Turbine staffer comments that raiders are a small minority of players in the game.It’s an interesting issue although not one that’s easy to answer in a simple blog post.
The comment does specify that this is a long-term issue, not a recent thing, so in theory the lack of raid-style content for over a year hasn’t caused a sudden collapse in the raid-going playerbase. So the issue behind this is should devs spend time to develop content for a minority of the players? I think there’s a danger in driving new content development solely on player activity metrics. MMORPGs as community gaming need a wide-set of activities and a varied playerbase to function. If the games over specialise I think they lose much of their appeal.
As a parallel but different example, take Blizzard dropping (heroic) dungeon development during the Mists expansion. For me over the years playing Warcraft the ‘endgame’, other than rolling a succession of characters to level, was playing dungeons with friends. Raiding isn’t the same experience at all I would argue so Blizzard’s decision to stop dungeon development in favour of “looking for raid” pug raiding was a really bad one in my opinion. It might be that I was part of a minority who preferred small group content to raiding lite but it still felt like the devs were snubbing me.
So although I’m not a raider I can well understand the frustration of LOTRO’s raiding community that the game they have played for years has veered off in a different direction, one where challenging multi-group content doesn’t feature anymore. In another parallel the promised housing update for LOTRO was delayed yet again – this is minority content but important to a segment of players.
How much do MMO developers need to cater to the various sub-communities in their games to keep the wider community intact and happily playing the game? Can an MMO prosper just producing majority content?