Mythic: Official Forums – too soon or too late?

Mythic, an MMORPG developer and subsidiary of Electronic Arts, has announced today a dramatic shift in its policy on Official Forums (OF). In this press release from the lead designer or Warhammer Online (WAR),  Mark Jacobs reflects on the role and the cost of an OF to support an MMO like WAR. Mythic is interesting position in the MMO market. WAR’s main competitor is World of Warcraft (WoW), an industry leader with millions of active customers (11 million and counting). WAR has the advantage over WoW in terms of game play (it’s fast, it’s fun and it’s competitive for all players at even the lowest levels but not unbalanced), however, it cannot compete in terms of the quality of content. With 750 000 subscribers, WAR is doing well and it can do a lot better: enter the forums.

Only a couple of days ago I was writing about the lack of forum support for WAR and here we are:

“I do think that right now we should have our own OFs because it will allow us to communicate with and better support the players of WAR.  I spent a long time thinking about this and then talking about with this with Rob and senior leadership at Mythic. It wasn’t an easy decision to make due to a host of factors, including the cost of running these forums properly but in the end we decided that it was the right thing to do. And I want to emphasize that one of the most important factors in running these forums was that we were going to spend a significant amount of money in order to run these forums properly.”

What a greae opportunity to think about the difference between official and unofficial forums. The unofficial WAR forum has been Warhammer Alliance but MMORPGs are part of the movement of Web 2.0 practices and technologies. From fan works to interface mods, screenshot collections and guild websites, gamers are active  social networkers and bloggers. Games are at the center of Web 2.0 and Mythic as a company – perhaps due to its close relationship with EA- has been slowly coming to terms with the power of the gamer, not purely as a consumer or subscriber, but as contributors:

“There will be a number of different account “levels” on these forums and players who show that they can contribute to the ongoing improvement of WAR, whether through suggestions, critical evaluation, user-generated content, peer-to-peer (in other words, contribution has its privileges) will be given greater access to private areas of the boards where Mythic developers (including myself and strike team leads) will be posting extensively, in addition to our posting in the public forums, and talking to these players about key issues/concerns.”

I’ll be following the development of this forum and it will be extremely interesting to see what effects this has on the player base and longevitiy of the game.

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