It’s not uncommon for the latest and greatest Hollywood blockbuster to begin circulating around gamer forums and blogs as a backdrop for the next great MMO. This tendency comes from the premise that most great MMOs are based on movies, despite the fact that they really aren’t.
In fact, the only current MMO that is doing really well and that came from a movie (actually, a series of movies) is Star Wars: The Old Republic. SWTOR, however, hasn’t been around long enough to show whether or not it really is a great MMO RPG that will stand the test of time. Several other MMOs before it bore the Star Wars name and they have all had mediocre success and then disappeared. Galaxies being the latest.
No, most of the great MMOs we all know and love (or have loved) were based on either books or older, PC/console-based games. Lord of the Rings Online is based on the books of J.R.R. Tolkien – not the movies, though the films definitely did a lot to boost the game’s popularity and were likely the impetus for LOTRO’s introduction as a new MMO RPG. World of Warcraft is based on an old PC game that many of us remember fondly and some of us (I confess) still have the original boxes and CDs for.
Most other phenomenally successful MMOs are based on their own story worlds created specifically for gaming in. EverQuest (and EQ II and the upcoming Everquest Next) are all based on a game universe created by John Smedley as a game experience.
In fact, the list of MMOs based on movies that epically failed is long. Let’s look at a couple of big examples of this phenomenon:
The fact is, most movies are probably not a good backdrop for an MMO. Like it or not, an MMO is a lot more involved than a 2 hour Hollywood production in terms of detail and background. Most movies that aren’t based on books will have relatively minimal background and are actually character-driven. The vast majority of books, in fact, are the same. Characters do not make for great MMOs, storyline and world-building do.
For that reason, the majority of movies will never become good MMOs. When we watch movies like The Matrix or Star Trek, we’re connecting with the characters in them, not the back story or the world they occupy.
Yes, The Matrix is “cool” in its premise, but honestly, how much do you really think could be made out of the backdrop provided by the films? For most of us, the idea of what you could do were you Neo fuels hours of daydreams, but in the end.. it’s Neo you really like, not the backdrop. When it boils down, what we really liked about Star Trek are the characters portrayed, like Spok and Kirk and Picard and Data.
For that reason, unless the movie is based on a book series, it’s probably not fueled by enough background to create an MMO out of. Someone will, of course, since studios and franchise holders love squeezing more dimes out of their ownership, but most will not get far.