Monday, August 20, 2007

Demographics for a Star Trek MMORPG +

It looks like we're not going to see eye-to-eye on this one, so I won't belabor it. You did directly ask a few questions, though, and courtesy suggests that I offer at least brief responses. So here goes.

Originally Posted by CINC-UFPForces-Cardassia:
you should probably [provide] backup for this assertion that disposable income and wealth automatically increases in a linear and progressive fashion through life. There's certainly nothing that says that's universally or even necessarily true, and it doesn't account for increases and decreases of Americans considered to be under the poverty level, without jobs, in financial crisis, fixed incomes, etc.
I didn't say "through life," nor did I ever characterize it as "linear" -- I said, "30-somethings still have more money to spend than 20-somethings; 40-somethings still have more money to spend than 30-somethings; and so on for at least one or two more decade brackets."

If you truly find it impossible to believe that people who earn more money have more money to spend (even after taxes and necessity costs), please see this Catosphere report (in .PDF format).

Originally Posted by CINC-UFPForces-Cardassia:
The reason the counterarguments presented so far have been unsuccessful is that they don't actually address the substantiative point: that there are notable and significant barriers to drawing people across media, and particuarly to MMOs. Is it your contention that there are no such barriers, regardless of age group?
"Unsuccessful" to you -- let's let other people decide for themselves which argument they find more persuasive.

As to the specific question, here's what I said:

Originally Posted by Flatfingers:
I agree with the observation that passive entertainment (movies) will probably always be more popular in raw numbers than active/interactive entertainment (online games), so I'm definitely not saying that movie attendance numbers will translate directly to MMORPG subscription numbers.
So I've already agreed with you on that point. What I'm saying is that it's not the only point to consider when deciding how to design and market a game. Although no game developer should expect to capture everyone who likes a particular movie or book, it's not unreasonable to think that some can be persuaded to try a game based on the strength of the license... otherwise why pay a bunch of money to license any property to make a game out of it?

To me this leads to what seems like a perfectly unobjectionable conclusion that Star Trek Online needs to be designed and marketed beyond just current MMORPG players.

Originally Posted by CINC-UFPForces-Cardassia:
And specifically relating to age groups, if we're generally talking about a population that's mid-20s and older, where does the common conception of the MMO/game population as being in a teenaged-early 20s bracket originate from? Merely bad conventional wisdom? Are we all merely not paying attention?
I put it down to the enthusiasm of youth: They seem to dominate these games because they're the ones who are most vocal about them. We hear from them most often (and most energetically), so we tend to perceive them as the entire population. There's nothing about this that merits ridicule; it's a natural kind of shorthand we all engage in (myself included). I've just observed, talked to, and seen academic references to too many older gamers to unquestioningly accept the "all gamers are young" perception.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that 30+ gamers are a kind of "silent majority." (In fact, I definitely wouldn't say they're a majority of the gamer population -- not yet, anyway.) But I am persuaded that they now exist in such numbers as to make it commercially smart to design and market to them to some meaningful degree.

Originally Posted by CINC-UFPForces-Cardassia:
the alternative to the existence of a stigma is merely that nobody finds Trek particularly interesting anymore. Which is it?
I would say "an" alternative, not "the" alternative. People and society aren't so monolithic.

Another alternative is that Star Trek, including its nerdiness, is part of the mainstream culture now, and is subject to the same standards of entertainment quality as anything else. People can and do still enjoy Star Trek as a unique product while still holding to such standards as exist in entertainment, starting with good writing (the number one complaint I have seen and heard lodged against Berman & Co.).

Star Trek is still a valuable franchise with considerable goodwill among entertainment consumers, and CBS and at least a couple of game developers appear to agree with that assessment.