Take-Two: MMOs don't work in the US

Strauss Zelnick says MMOs are generally unprofitable in US; "A couple of our competitors have found out that through very, very expensive lessons."

Grand Theft Auto and Max Payne parent publisher Take-Two Interactive is investing in massively multiplayer online games, but not in the United States. That's because, according to CEO Strauss Zelnick, they just "don't work" in the region compared to Asia.

"We're actively investing in online MMOs; we're not doing it in the US. Why? Because MMOs don't work here," Zenick said today at the Cowen Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference in New York.

Zelnick said though many MMOs have attempted to gain footing in the United States, only two--World of Warcraft and EverQuest--have ever been truly successful in the region.

As evidence of the difficulty of getting an MMO off the ground in the US, Zelnick pointed to Blizzard Entertainment's recent announcement of a significant overhaul to its next-gen MMO Titan.

"A couple of our competitors have found out that through very, very expensive lessons--one of our competitors just recently announced they're restarting an MMO project in the US," Zelnick said. "We look at it and say 'How many MMOs have ever been successful in the US?' Two. World of Warcraft and EverQuest. That's kind of a bad slugging percentage."

Zelnick explained that for these reasons, Take-Two has decided to invest in MMOs in Asia. The company recently partnered with Tencent for NBA 2K Online and is also working on a Civilization MMO for the region.

"We've stayed away from that market and instead we went to Asia where at any given time ten or twenty are successful in China generating lots of revenue," Zelnick said. "And we figured, we don't really know China very well, so we partnered with the best company in China: Tencent. They taught us the business, we taught them something about sports game development and we've launched NBA 2K Online with virtually no economic risk and a straight shot to the upside."

Bethesda and Zenimax Online Studios will release The Elder Scrolls Online later this year, though a pricing model for the game has yet to be announced.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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351 comments
Double_Wide
Double_Wide

Am I the only one tired of someone else reporting what I do or don't like?

Philly04
Philly04

Never got into a MMO. Was Looking forward to Final Fantasy 14... but we know that story and how S-E is still trying wash off that mess in there pants. I would love a Mass Effect MMO but I guess I will settle with my anticipation of Blade & Soul.

Saketume
Saketume

If by MMO you mean "real money shop where you can buy 1000 useless things for your characters" then yes. I'll pass.

I don't like any of the hundreds of crappy F2P cash grab WoW wannabes

Other than that I really like MMOs.

Wildstar looks very interesting.

Not sure if Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen will be MMOs but they'll definitely be multiplayer online games and they both look promising.

Edwin_3D
Edwin_3D

I disagree with article. "The Infinite Black" is a very successful and totally awesome MMO game in the US.

jhayden2000
jhayden2000

1. mmos in US arent successful because investors keep pushing for the same old mmos like WOW.  American gamers don't like doing the same things over and over for 10 years 

JBo796
JBo796

its because pc gaming sucks.  release mmo for next gen consoles and it will be aweeesome.  plus, fantasy stuff sucks.  make a sci-fi one

tdr2009
tdr2009

There is also EVE Online, which has also been successful.

Deadpool-n
Deadpool-n

Star Wars is the best mmo out. I don't like WoW at all. A Starcraft mmo would be really cool though if done right.

MatrixGamer78
MatrixGamer78

WoW is really such a great MMO but i dont agree EQ. SWTOR is best after WoW because it is the only one which is not WoW clone.

eddieham13
eddieham13

Stop trying to school everyone Take-Two.

The new elder scrolls MMO looks absolutely amazing and is no wow clone. I can't wait for it. It definitely won't be as disappointing as Guild Wars 2 was.

Caldrin
Caldrin

They are totally wrong...

WOW clones dont work.. They are like fake Nike trainers or somthing.. people think the real thing are better and they are right..


Devs need to realise that MMOS dont have to be wow clones and they also need to realise that the numbers of users that WOW has is knid of a 1 off.. All good MMOs before wow and after sit around the 200k to 500k stable user mark and devs/publishers need to aim for those kind of numbers..

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

I have never been able to get into MMO's, nor have ever felt like devoting the time for one.

junglist101
junglist101

I guess the only things that are profitable are tired ass franchises that developers keep releasing year after year...

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

He's not entirely wrong. League of Legends is an mmo I'd add to his list, but yea, he's right.  There's a good amount of mmos that try to make a buck in the western or global market. It just doesn't work. Action mmos and traditional ones alike, as well as other more unorthodox offerings. All of them get dashed into the ground and discontinued. It's a shame, but he's mostly right. Just like the zombie article...

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

Steve Jackson's Car Wars as a racer/shooter MMO would die out rather quickly.  However, when you add the Autoduel (RPG) stuff to it, and you build the corporations in the game, the manufacturers, the convoys, the *world*, people tend to stay, because they get to live a story, and not just crush their competitors.  You have to make the world BIG, then you have to keep expanding it, or people will say "seen it all" and leave.  I hate MMOs because:  1)  Network issues, 2)  I can't play the game after the servers get permanently shut down, 3)  the price tag (big MMOs are usually subscription-based), 4) I don't care for PvP at all, and most of all, 5)  I prefer to play by myself - I find most players distracting from the storyline (they don't role-play at all).  I'd prefer a game like GTA: San Andreas, TES: Oblivion, or Final Fantasy 6 - 10.  They have big enough worlds to explore for 80+ hours, and I don't have to worry about MMO issues.  The big developers have forgotten that story (escape from your reality into another reality) is king in the video game industry.  Without story, you have nothing.  What do I remember about Diablo 3's story?  Not much, it was a throwaway for that game.  What do I remember about Final Fantasy 7?  You really want the full plot synopsis here?  I'll give it to you...  :)

Vince21C
Vince21C

It's all marketing really, you may have heard of crouching tigers and hidden dragons but you wouldn't find any hidden gems unless you knew where to look.

http://youtu.be/dgTPeVP6MqI

Someone deleted my earlier comment.

Vince21C
Vince21C

It's all marketing really, you may have heard of crouching tigers and hidden dragons but you wouldn't find any hidden gems unless you knew where to look.

http://youtu.be/dgTPeVP6MqI

jumalan75
jumalan75

SWTOR, Age of Conan, Blah blah blah blah blah... WoW was it for a long time for an actual benchmark let's face the music.  I hate admitting it more than anyone because that game like any other MMO and probably just video games in general has actual stolen reality from me.  (Still love video games vs most vices don't get me wrong.)

I'm worried about Elder Scrolls Online...  I wasn't going to play it anyway because I prefer not playing with people most of the time and being able to stop whenever the hell I please without people depending on me because that is what my actual job is for.  For some reasons developers think we all want to be as social as possible?!  When will the forced achievement and sharing with your friends online ever stop?! :::Rant Over::: but...  I still wanted it to do well.

Greyfeld
Greyfeld

When the wide majority of MMOs that come out just rip the same stale mechanics that WoW has been using for 8.5 years, you can bet your ass the genre is going to die out.  It's the same crap that happened with the Adventure genre; you get a bunch of companies trying to pump out some half-assed garbage that gives a superficial impression of the things that made the biggest games in the genre the major blockbusters that they were, and when they don't sell, the genre dies because everybody just assumes that it was all a fluke.

The MMO genre is in very sore need of new ideas.  New ideas, and a willingness to appeal to specific niches.  Because I tell you what, EVE sure as hell didn't get to be where it is by appealing to the mass market and making everything as casual and homogenized as possible.

And for the record, just because you have hundreds of thousands of gold sellers banging away at your game month after month doesn't mean that your game is a success.

hippiesanta
hippiesanta

Playstation Home is succesfull in usa

Ringx55
Ringx55

Yeah I have to agree, you will not see another WoW or Everquest MMO in awhile. This is purely in terms of sales and market domination.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

Asian MMOs emerged with huge breadth. F2P, microtransactions, brower-based, non-RPG MMO--they all became mass market in Asia long before the US. One of the unintended problems of being the birthplace of MMO is that for the longest time, when you mention MMO in the US, people assumed you are talking about subscription based MMORPG. F2P and microtransactions didn't lose their stigma until recently, and the freedom to pay by the hour is even today unheard of here. So yeah, the US isn't a great market for emerging MMO makers, but that is thanks in no small part to those devs themselves who refused to embrace diversity of content and business model. But that's changing, as more players bleed out of WoW seeking alternative experiences, and as the definition of MMO changes, the US market will become healthier.

Oh, and Take-Two really shouldn't justify publishing NBA 2K Online and Civilization MMO in China by claiming the US market is bad. I think they are terrible premises for MMO. Aren't a ton of sports games in the US already playable online? And as a decades-long Civilization player, I cannot even imagine what a Civlization MMO would look like and still be a Civilization game. Take-Two has really released some irksome statements today... Is someone over there high?

Alkanzel
Alkanzel

@Edwin_3D You're kidding right? This game looks like it was made in Flash. You can't compare what amounts to a browser game on your phone to World of Warcraft.

reanor2
reanor2

@jhayden2000 You are right though, and people are just being sarcastic about CoD. Its not an MMO of course even though we have multiple CoDs and each of them has same multiplayer.

McGregor
McGregor

@JBo796 You must not own a PC. PC gaming is far from, "sucks". I will agree that an MMO on a console would work...Then again, Final fantasy online/mmo/whatever it's called. was on a console...

fiendless7
fiendless7

@Deadpool-n 

uh yeah... in SWTOR you have to PAY for extra action bars to put your skills. that alone killed it for me.

McGregor
McGregor

@eddieham13 Neverwinter is good as well. Also TERA has got my attention at the moment, even if it's a few years old. It just went F2P and seems to be doing better.

DespVand
DespVand

@junglist101 Yepp! Give me Assassin's creed every six months and I'll be happy!!! HAHAHHAHAH!

Caldrin
Caldrin

@chipwithdip LoL is not an MMO. You play matches with a few other people nothing massive about that..

The reason why most MMORPGs fail is that they try and copy wow.. People will choose the real thing over a copy at the end of the day.

Adenosine
Adenosine

@Greyfeld Indeed, although having a lot of gold sellers in game might be a blurry gauge to see how popular a game is, gold sellers actually have negative impacts on mmo companies. The gamers who don't approve of gold buying/selling will immediately protest, complain, and basically give bad publicity about the game they're playing if no action is taken against gold sellers.

Aside from offending "clean" players, gold sellers can also cause instability to the servers, causing massive lag or even server crashes. Good examples of this often happen a few times a month on popular Nexon games like Mabinogi, Vindictus, Dragon Nest, Dungeon Fighter and others. As a player in those games some time ago, I've personally experienced how these gold sellers can make playing the game so unbearable. 

Unfortunately, the only thing mmo companies can do as of now when the servers are being abused by gold sellers (usually bots who pump out text message ads at a fast constant rate) is to perform a server restart. This usually takes out the stress caused by these ad bots in the game, at least until whoever runs these bots notices they've been disconnected and they put the bots online again.

Ayato_Kamina_1
Ayato_Kamina_1

@Ringx55 WoW can't go on forever, it can try, but eventually people will move away from it, and the friends they've made in WoW will dictate where they go. Basically you're looking at a user base of 12 million people potentially wanting something new and challenging. 

We've already seen that these people won't just hop onto the next wow clone because what's the point? They're waiting for a new and exciting game. 

EbenOlemaun
EbenOlemaun

@reanor2 @jhayden2000 I look at CoD like a new car. It is solidly built and fun to drive but it is almost the exact same car as last years model. Just because you change the appearance of the cupholders and make the upholstery different doesn't really make it a new car.

Deadpool-n
Deadpool-n

@fiendless7 @Deadpool-n  It is a subscription based mmo. Any of the free games aren't nearly as good. Sounds like mmos aren't for you if you aren't willing to pay a small fee of $15 a month.

Darion350
Darion350

@McGregor @eddieham13 Eh... I tried Neverwinter and didn't find it to be all that enjoyable.  Still needs a lot of work, IMO.  Plus, it doesn't feel like a D&D game to me.  It feels more like a Tera clone.  

chipwithdip
chipwithdip

@Caldrin @chipwithdip Ok, whatever, I'll give you that. But even then, I don't think people are straight copying WoW more than it's WoW that just did what it's doing the best, and everyone that does it too are just seen as carbon-copies. I mean, if I put the standard RPG classes in a game (Warrior, Thief/Rogue, Mage, Cleric), I automatically look like I'm copying WoW. If I'm using point-n-click commands, I'm copying WoW. WoW is HUGE at this point. They've done almost everything a point-n-click game can do, save making me a sandwich. It's hard to NOT do what they've already done.


But that still doesn't explain why Eastern countries are so much better for mmos. NBA 2k Online? Why not just buy the damn game on consoles and use online match-making? There's another factor about it that's hard to put a finger on.

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

@Adenosine If the bot is carefully written, it will notice the disconnect and attempt to reconnect by itself.  Reboots won't work.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

@VarietyMage That could be. If this statement is intended for Asia ahead of their MMO releases there, I would understand. If it's meant to pave the way for some non-MMO game in the US... I wish I actually found out what the game is. You wouldn't happen to know, would you?

Caldrin
Caldrin

@chipwithdip @Caldrin 

There is a lot that devs can do not to copy wow, but they choose to copy nearly all the features as close as possible as that's what they think got wow the amount of players it has... well that clearly is not the case so they need to start doing something different.

People in the east are obsessed with online games its crazy.. for a lot of people over there online gaming is their life and other things revolve around it.. in-fact its go so bad over there the governments have restricted playing time for people in some countries. its like an entire generation have just got addicted to gaming.. some actually end up dying at their desks that's how obsessed they are..

In the west we don't tend to be so obsessed, don't get me wrong there are a few but most people don't tend to get that obsessed.

Why they are like that in the east I don't know, maybe something in their genes that make them get addicted to stuff easier I don't know lol..

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

@VarietyMage If so, that would be unfortunate. GTA should be a source of pride for Take-Two. I know I applaud them for it. I don't think it's even that violent.

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

@Unfallen_Satan @VarietyMage ROFL...GTA5 rings a bell.  Publicity without waving the GTA flag and riling up the violence haters.  Violence haters...never thought I'd put those two words together in a sentence.  They're about as high as Lindsey Lohan stealing...she gets off light every time and keeps her name in the press for free.