John Smedley在GDC Online大会上发表题为《Free-to-play: Driving the Future of MMOs》的演讲时提到：
Smedley利用Google Trends搜索大量图表作为度量标准，以《魔兽世界》（游戏邦注：以下简称《魔兽》）在2005年的鼎盛时期为起点，追踪记录在线游戏市场的发展历程。《魔兽》至今仍是一款巨作，而《英雄联盟》、《DOTA 2》、《DC漫画英雄OL》和《军团要塞2》这些免费游戏在此时期依然是经典。
他继续提到：“当你开发一款同《魔兽》一样的大型游戏时，你需要不时地添加新内容，《魔兽》在这方面做得不错。但当该游戏已有7年历史，用户开始寻求和尝试其它事物时，《Mists of Pandaria》这一扩展内容就诞生了，它吸引玩家重新投入游戏，消化这些内容。这同2004年的形态大相径庭。”
Smedley指出，MMO游戏开发者同时面临的问题是，他们既要吸引玩家，又需快速构造游戏内容来留存他们。他表示：“我们不断受到内容困扰，许多内容耗费了我们过去体验订阅游戏所需的时间。现在我会在Reddit上投入一些时间……如果你留心《魔兽》，在《Mists of Pandaria》发布前，网站上有游戏每个任务的剧透贴。我们要投入这么多时间和费用制作内容，而用户却可以通过游戏网站和Reddit，更快地消耗掉这些内容。”
Emergent gameplay, F2P key for MMO user retention problems
by Patrick Miller
“The world is changing. People are eating through content at an alarming rate. I don’t believe that the content ecosystem that’s in games today — including our own — is sustainable. With free-to-play, we’re seeing this trend towards what we’re calling ‘emergent gameplay’.”
That’s how John Smedley opened his talk at GDC Online, titled “Free-to-play: Driving the Future of MMOs.”
Using Google Trends search volume graphs as a metric, Smedley traced the progress of the online games market from World of Warcraft’s peak in 2005, to the current era, where World of Warcraft is still the big dog but free-to-play games League of Legends, DOTA 2, DC Universe Online, and Team Fortress 2 are within striking range.
“I don’t think you’ll see games hit the heights that World of Warcraft hit [in 2005],” Smedley said, “Look at that peak. I think we’re starting to see a fractioning of the userbase that WoW built, where some of those players are moving over to free-to-play games. Why? Obviously one answer is that it’s free, but I think we need to look deeper than that.”
He continued, “When you work on something as large as WoW, it’s important to release content over time, and they’ve done a great job with that. But when you’ve got a game that’s seven-years old, people look for something else to do. Free-to-play means that people can try your game, and then go try something else, and try something else, and then Mists of Pandaria comes out, and pulls people back into your game and they eat that content up. This is very different from 2004.”
SOE’s own free-to-play transition caused significant growth in its subscription-based MMOs. DC Universe Online, EverQuest II, and EverQuest all went free-to-play; DCUO saw a 1000 percent increase in concurrent players and a 700 percent increase in daily revenue, EverQuest II saw a 40 percent increase in daily logins and a 300 percent increase in new players, and the original EverQuest saw a 150 percent increase in daily logins, a 125 percent boost in item sales, and a 250 percent increase in registrations.
MMOs and their content problems
MMO developers are simultaneously having problems competing for player eyeballs and building game content fast enough to keep players around, said Smedley. “We’re bombarded by content, and a lot of that content is eating the time we used to spend playing subscription games. Now I spend some of that time on Reddit … if you look at WoW, by the time Mists of Pandaria was released, there were spoiler posts on each quest. We spend all this money and time to produce this content, and people consume it faster because they’ve got game sites and Reddit to help each other.”
In order to continue developing MMOs, developers are going to have to adapt to a new games ecosystem that doesn’t rely solely on developers to build new content for players to consume “For us, the key to this is sustainable ecosystems,” Smedley said, “The ecosystem of games has changed rapidly; the new ecosystem has eSports, livecasting, users that make items to sell (and make money from it) — all of this is user-based marketing, and the foundation of it is emergent gameplay.”
Smedley offered three examples of emergent gameplay: SOE’s own FreeRealms and EverQuest II, as well as Mojang’s Minecraft. “I don’t know about you guys, but I sure as heck didn’t see Minecraft coming. It hit like a bolt of lightning. It showed how hungry people are for sandboxes — for building stuff. In FreeRealms, we offered the ability to make their own houses, and we’ve done the same thing in EverQuest II that lets users rate each others’ houses. The rating stuff aspect can be just as much of the emergent gameplay as the building — think about rating things on Amazon.com.”
Getting players to make (and sell) your MMO
Instead of trying to build MMO content faster than your players can play through it, SOE is trying to open its games up so the users can help build game content and promote it — and maybe make a few bucks along the way.
Smedley pointed to the player-created items in Valve’s Steam Workshop: “The user-created items in this are amazing — and that’s gameplay too. It’s not just playing the game, it’s being part of the game and the community, and making stuff for it. Players get to feel like they’re contributing to the game, and they’re profiting from it! This is the future — letting your players make the game, and be part of the direction and future of the game.”
Smedley also noted several different online channels for players to give your games more exposure — livecasting and eSports competitions on Twitch.TV, user-created wikis on Wikia and Crave, and unofficial community spaces on Reddit — as examples of how players could engage with your games outside the game itself, and thereby market your games for you.
“This is a trend to take notice of, because a year from now it’s going to look a lot bigger,” he said. “For us, we recognized this trend, so we built a Twitch.TV client into PlanetSide 2. … Your game doesn’t have to be an eSport, but it has to be entertaining to watch.”
Smedley concluded his talk by pointing out how PlanetSide 2′s development has been targeted towards this new games ecosystem: “PlanetSide 2 has been the culmination, for us, of focusing on emergent gameplay. We have thousands of players coordinating through voice and chat channels. Strategy matters because they want to know the best way to play, so we let users upload loadouts in PlanetSide 2. Then, dominance — we wanted to make players feel like they could own other people, dominate continents, and brag to their friends.”(source:gamasutra)