Detroit Motor City!
Okay, I didnít buy Motor City Online, either. But I did get a freebie press copy and I paid to play the game for nearly a year, courtesy of the occasional drunken desire to trick out an old Dodge Charger and dumbly missing the credit-card cutoff every month. Oh, itís the ninth again already? Damn, Iíll have to make a note and be sure and cancel by the eighth next month. Et cetera.
Anyhow, even though I stacked up at least a hundred bucks in user fees for the right to play Motor City Online for maybe 30 hours, I am not outraged that EA sent it to the wrecking yard. Yeah, it was a massive waste of money and time, but I sort of knew that from the very beginning. Spending any amount of money and time on any game, massively multiplayer or not, is a huge waste when you get right down to it. I canít get any more self-indignant about blowing cash on a game than I already am. EA took my money and ran. So what? I could say the same about every other game publisher happy to accept a donation from my meagre reservoir of credit-card supplied funds. Iím ripping myself off whenever I pay and play. The moneyís gone and the time is killed, no matter if the game goes down in my record books as good or bad. Sorry to get so bleak and philosophical, but Iíve been eating a lot of Chinese food lately and I think the fortune cookies are making me finally see that making things go bloop-bloop, bleep-bleep on the computer screen isnít condusive to ďbuilding a life with divine prosperity.Ē Itís either that or the MSG.
But I share Tomís worries about the pricing schemes, particularly as it could be applied to previously free services like Blizzardís Battle.net (especially in light of ominous developments like the recent resignations of four company founders, including vice-president Bill Roper, over supposed morale problems under Vivendi Universal management). Everyone who goes online to play any sort of game is being asked to shoulder an ever-increasing share of the development costs and ongoing maintenance fees through exorbitant up-front prices and skyrocketing monthly charges.
What bothers me most is that the products arenít getting any better. Theyíre just getting glitzier. That $15 theyíre charging per month for Star Wars Galaxies must be purely so George Lucas can afford to adopt more kids, as it sure isnít doing anything for playability. And of course this is just going to push other games to adopt the same lofty price structure, whether theyíve licensed a huge franchise or not. If Motor City Online launched tomorrow, itíd go for at least $12 a month, and all itíd have to offer would be burly avatars with mutton-chops and customized Hemi Cudas.
That alone makes me think that weíre a long way from the ďMMO winnowingĒ of Tomís dreams. The promise of making of quick buck from a few months of gullible subscribers who, like yours truly, are too stupid to immediately cancel their accounts when they realize that the game is crap, is too high at the moment. Star Wars Galaxies isnít finished. It doesnít feature landspeeders or TIE Fighters, let alone Jedi Knights. Itíll still debut at the top of the charts and make millions. The lesson? Crap sells if itís got a big license attached to it. That alone will keep the money-grubbing alive, at least through the coming launches of similar big-name MMOGs based on The Lord of the Rings and the Marvel Universe of superheroes. And it canít help but persuade those who control Blizzzardís purse strings that they should be getting a piece of the action. Things are going to get worse before they get better.