Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tech: The Churn-out Effect

Like the old "Twilight Zone" episode, I tend to believe that people are alike all over. Sometimes human nature manifests itself in the same way across very disparate fields...

Reality TV shows are a good example of the "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" mentality. While the first examples ("Survivor") might have been considered daring, the parade of reality competitions from literally every TV network on the air ("Bullrun," "Who Wants to be a Superhero?," etc.) and the fact that the viewership hasn't rebelled means that TV networks will keep churning them out for as long as possible. Rather than spend the money for the production of two or three hour-long dramas or half a dozen sitcoms, networks can and will always opt for the reality show as a much cheaper, easier, and proven alternative.

But this phenomenon can also be seen in the spread of MMORPGs, which basically take as much time to produce as a typical computer RPG but pull in ever-increasing revenues because players pay a monthly fee to access the servers. Anyone who's ever written a computer program knows that cutting and pasting code is the fastest way to complete an application, and, if the MMORPG network code is already there, why not create yet another profitable game out of it?

That's what makes me fear the date of May 19th, when software powerhouse Blizzard Entertainment will announce its next game. I'm hoping it will be Starcraft 2, a sequel to my favorite real-time strategy game, but my gut tells me it will be a Starcraft-themed MMORPG. The lure of easy money and easy production is as strong as it has ever been, whether it's pulling on American Idol or Blizzard.


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