MMO Gamer Demographics

I was finishing up a post on who Aion was specifically marketing for when, after reviewing it, I realized that mmo gamer demographics is not really a topic often discussed enough to provide meaningful commentary. I began dividing up the communities in my mind and realized there is a possibility for a very in-depth discussion which I thought might be fun to tap. That and the original post really wasn’t written as well as it could have been (maybe I’ll get to it later).

The way I see it there are 5 distinct mmo gamer communities spread across three generations off mmo’s. Lets first look at the generations I outlined in a previous post.

 – 1st Gen (1995 -> late 2001) MUD to pre-EQ:Shadows of Luclin

 The granddaddy mmo’s are included here as they layed the foundation for a number of play styles still in use today. These mmo’s were rough and unpolished but had a worldly cohesion to them since they were based highly on table top D&D worlds. Everything was dangerous and unruly, even rats. In EQ for example, even the UI could kill if mishandled when talking to a “friendly” guard. This is sometimes refered to as the golden age.

Gamers from this generation have two distinct qualities. Much like an old man who compares everything to the “good old days”, this generation is never satisfiedwith the current crop of mmo’s. Each game released is either too grindy, not grindy enough, not hardcore enough (what does that even mean anymore), not difficult enough or when they run out of options on a message board they say (one of my favorites) “the game lacks the magic that made EQ what it was”.

Their other trait is they are mmo vagabonds. They never stick with an mmo for long and most have already given up on the genre. If they are still playing, expect to find them in an early thrid generation mmo like EQ2 or WoW, or still playing their original first love. (note they are the first ones to jump in on a legacy server conversation)


– 2nd Gen (2002->late 2004) Post EQ:Kunark to WoW Beta

This includes those people who started their career with DaoC, Shadowbane, Lineage 2, SWG, FFXI and Ragnarok. Probably the most interesting of all the generations of mmos due to the great variation in play styles. A lot of great experimentation and enhancements to the genre occurred during this time period as little was still known about what the large scale market was looking for.

Generally these mmo’s were still “hardcore”, if you want to use that term, yet slowly explored new ways providing things to do for the gamer outside of grinding for levels. DoAC and Shadowbane had deep world pvp systems, FFXI was storyline and a case could be made as it being the originator of instanced combat (though at the time was barely used), and SWG had an immense amount of world building and RP elements. Heck you could be a dancer… in a bar… that was about it for that class at release. Still many call this the renaissance age of sorts.

Gamers from this generation, much like the generation they represent, are very progressive and have a “show me something new” attitude. By in large this group of gamers are always looking for the next great mmo to be different from the norm; ussually they find a new mmo and stick with it to endgame before moving on.

They are your bloggers, your reporters and your reviewers. They’re  experienced enough to see the makings of a good game when it comes along, but are blind enough in hype, fandom or even just hope that they don’t see the problems as clearly as they should.Many of these gamers are playing two mmo’s – their original mmo along with a flavor of the month mmo that promises to be “different”.


– 3rd Gen (2005 -> now)  WoW through the present

Though some contend this should be divided yet again into smaller, more focused groups, really since WoW’s release (with the exception of a successful few outliers, EvE I’m pretty much only looking at you) each game since has taken a template from a previous game and tried to overlay it with the WoW model for success. The mantra for this generation is “easy to play, hard to master”which, at it’s root, what all gamer’s are looking for though oppinions differ as to if it applies to mmorpgs.

The problem as I see it with this generation is that originality was lost along the way, and I don’t even blame Blizzard for this. Games became too expensive to fail, and gamer expectations became too high. Oddly though this generation has the highest failure rate of any of the three which as we discuss the different player bases, reasons should become crystal clear.

It’s my belief that gamers from this generation are the most interesting. I’m personally from the 2nd generation as I came into EQ right in the middle of SoL before jumping to FFXI and DAoC, but to me this generation is the purest and in a way the most consistent of all three.

Gamers from the 3rd generation by in large know nothing different then the WoW, EQ2, LotRO, or free Koren mmo they started on, and as such have certain levels of expectations for each release there after. They are the first to enter a flame war but are equally likely to valiantly defend that same mmo minutes later. They are usually the first to leave a new mmo but that said, are very very loyal to their original (though they won’t openly state it).

Many call this the “instant gratification” generation, and while to an extent I agree, I think it has more to do with the developers then the gamers. If your thirsty and people around only ever give you beer – you’ll be happy but never satisfied and you won’t know the difference.

Next time I’ll examine the player bases.


One Response to “MMO Gamer Demographics”

  1. mmorpg…

    […]MMO Gamer Demographics « The Aphelion[…]…

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