Baffling War of Three Peaks Kerfuffle

700 wc

People on Twitter seem to be freaking out about paying $20 for some new thing in Lord of the Rings Online. I am baffled.

I don’t currently play LotRO, but I’ve always wanted to finish the Epic Story before they shut down the game. It’s just that it’s an Epic Chore to do so. But I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ll probably never finish the whole thing before the game ends.

Anyway, there seems to be a public perception that Standing Stone Games is rolling in tons of money, milking the players for precious riches that they don’t need, dancing amid piles of gold in their vaults of treasure, because they’re somehow in the same corporate league as Activision/Blizzard. I am baffled.

Personally I’ve always viewed them as a bare bones indie studio.

It wasn’t that long ago when Standing Stone Games was hastily formed to maintain Lord of the Rings Online. Reading between the lines, it was pretty obvious to me that Turbine had made a behind-the-scenes decision to shut the game down, along with Asheron’s Call, presumably because it wasn’t very profitable, but a group of daring employees in the company stepped in to try to save it. Presumably, they had a couple years of projects in the pipeline that they didn’t want to just throw in the trash bin. At the time I thought it was a very courageous (and, to be perfectly honest, inevitably futile) move.

They probably thought to themselves, “We think people will pay to continue playing this game that we love making and so many people love playing.”

Apparently, they were wrong.

Ergo, by the laws of pragmatism and my own personal history in software development, Lord of the Rings Online will inevitably shut down, probably before the end of 2021. Maybe even before the end of 2020, if this War of Three Peaks thing doesn’t go well. They have undoubtedly run out of large-scale content from the Turbine days, and now have nothing left but whatever they can scrape together from a handful of minimum-wage die-hards who still hope the game has a future and for whatever reason don’t want to look for new jobs with prosperous forward-thinking game companies.

I’m not saying that paying $20 for some quests is a great idea or a great value. I’m saying if you enjoy the game, you gripe about it but then you suck it up and you pay for it anyway, because you have no choice if you want to keep playing the game. You’re essentially making a donation to the “Keep LotRO Running” fund. Otherwise you accept that the game is over and you move on with your life.

Remember RIFT? I recall that they literally told us in plain simple English that not enough people were paying for the game. (Naturally I can’t find any citations.) Now Trion Worlds is gone, and RIFT is gone, for all intents and purposes.

It’s a really simple math equation. When customers don’t pay for the game, the game shuts down. For some baffling reasons, people don’t seem to understand that it costs a lot of money to run an MMO. It’s not like hosting a web site.

People also seem to be upset that SSG keeps going back to their player base for more and more money. Firstly, being a long-time player doesn’t exempt you from having to pay for new things. Secondly, who else are they going to charge money? I don’t know this for a fact, and I’ve not seen SSG’s records or anything, but I feel very confident in saying there isn’t a constant stream of new players coming into Lord of the Rings Online in 2020.

The only other alternative is to put a bunch of advertising billboards inside the game. There are tons of roads in Middle Earth, actually, and tons of travel time. Lots of opportunity for selling ad space. Imagine all the Fortnite and Among Us ads they could fit on the road to Bree.

I guess I’m just baffled that everyone automatically jumps to “corporate greed” when all the evidence actually points to a desperate attempt to keep the game running. It’s just baffling.

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