There's been a bit of a discussion in the past week about whatever happened to the MMO blogging community and whether it's dying (a little). I tend to not participate in these far-reaching discussions much, but this one kind of tickled my fancy. From my point of view, what we're seeing happening to MMO blogging is basically a reflection of what has been happening to MMOs as a whole in the last couple of years. That is to say:
- As a whole, the genre is stagnating/declining a bit. It's still got its audience for sure, but it's not "en vogue" the way it was while WoW was still expanding for example. There's even a bit of a trend of game developers and publishers wanting to distance themselves from the MMO label.
- MMOs are not "what they used to be". There's been a lot of change. New games have been released, old ones shut down, payment models have changed, feature expectations have changed.
- The Western market has fragmented a lot. While WoW is still a behemoth, it does have considerably more solid competition these days. A lot of it is free to play too, which is more attractive to newcomers to the genre. If you took a random sample of MMO players and checked where they spend their time, they would likely be playing in a much larger selection of virtual worlds these days than say, five years ago.
- There's a lot of "tourism" going on, with people flitting from game to game depending on what's new and depending on their current mood. Many of these "tourists" (though not all of them) are also kind of disenchanted with the genre and will complain about everything they play, all the while hoping for some kind of revolution that will bring them a new game with exactly the features they personally want.
Translate this to blogging and you get:
- Less interest in MMOs as a whole means fewer people dedicated to the hobby to the point where they want to write about it.
- Online media aren't what they used to be either. As others have pointed out, people choose a lot of different avenues to express themselves online these days, not just blogs, whether it's social media or YouTube. (I have a hunch that SWTOR has a pretty decent following on Tumblr for example, based on one friend's Tumblr that I occasionally check out despite of not liking the format of the site.)
- As the market has fragmented, giving players different options in terms of what kind of virtual world to immerse themselves in, so has the writing. I was never a big player in the "MMO community" but I did have a decent following while I blogged about WoW. When I moved to writing about SWTOR instead, the vast majority of those readers didn't follow, because they didn't care to read about another game - which is totally fair. But while I effectively "vanished" from the community for these people, I'm still around and writing - just not about a game they personally want to read about. I'm pretty sure there are blogs about pretty much any given MMO out there, but unless you just happen to also be part of the niche that plays that particular game, why would you be involved?
- Just like there's a lot of "tourism", there are a lot of multi-MMO blogs that write about flitting from one game to the next all the time. Since they keep finding flaws with every new game they try, they have no interest in getting more invested in the community surrounding it either. Then they wonder why there is seemingly no community. (Ok, I may be sounding a little cynical here, but I do see a lot of these same thoughts expressed over and over again.)
In summary: I do suspect that the MMO blogging community is going through a process of contraction and fragmentation, but just like with the changes happening to MMOs in general, it's a matter of what you make of it. If you're willing to invest yourself, there's still a community out there; it's just not exactly the same as it used to be.