Dual-Wielding MMOs

October 26, 2008

And yes, that title is mostly so I can post a sweet John Woo picture. Two guns! One dude! Many bullets!

In the middle of the recent WoW Dev-vs-WAR Dev fracas (that is, actually, the first time I’ve ever written that word in my life), Mark Jacobs said to Games Industry, “One of the things about MMOs is that people play multiple games… people may play WoW and they’ll play WAR and maybe even a third game at the same time.”

This struck not just a few people as odd. The MMO genre is unique in that it’s designed for a “monogameous player” (as Tobold put it), because profits largely stem from ongoing subscription fees. MMO companies don’t sit down at their weekly meetings and go, “Let’s make a game that people only want to play three hours of a week and be satisfied that they’re getting their money’s worth and exploring all the content.” No, MMO companies pay contractors such as drug dealers and the makers of Little Debbie snack cakes to come in and spill all they know about getting people addicted so that they never want to give it up — and never want to go elsewhere for their supply.

MMOs reinforce single-game loyalty with features such as guilds (you don’t want to leave your buddies, now do you?), rewards that favor sizable time investment (raids, city capture, grinds) and even so-called veteran programs (where you get free goodies based on how long you’ve been subscribed). The longer you play a game, the deeper your “roots” become, and the more you invest in your characters — time investments that even game-weary players are reluctant to relinquish (which makes it difficult to move on to a new title). Players are also conscious — or so I’d like to think — of the price tag of each month’s play. Getting 60 hours of good gameplay a month for $15 seems like a pretty good deal, especially when compared to paying $50 for a single-player game that nets you 20 hours of gameplay. Yet throw another subscription in the mix with the same available play time, and suddenly you’re paying $30 a month for the same 60 hours. Not as good of a deal.

So is it realistic or silly or downright nuts to assume that players will dual-wield MMOs as easy as splitting their time between any other hobbies? My instinct, born of experience, is to say no… but a no with a “perhaps” attached. I guess it depends what demographics and types of players you’re looking at. Mark’s in the game industry, and from talks I’ve had with devs, they absolutely delight in playing games all over the place (and have no problem dual- or triple-wielding MMOs). Your average high school or college student or unemployed/work from home guy with time and money to burn? No problem. Why not enjoy the company of a few games? Some of the MMO bloggers you read are downright proud of how many titles they tackle simultaneously, which sort of puts me in a state of awe and fear when I read their articles. For the rest of us, it’s a stickier proposition, but not impossible… just tougher.

There are quite a few upshots to being subscribed to multiple titles at once. As Mark was alluding to, it means you don’t have to choose between vanilla and chocolate — you can have both. You do have choice every night — get a little burned out with one title, and immediately switch to another. You can feel the smug sense of satisfaction that you’ve risen above petty pedestrian fanboy struggles to appreciate the wide palette of gaming discovery that lies on the horizon.

Some MMO companies, like Sony, even actively encourage multiple-MMO subscriptions… so long as they’re all to the titles under their roof, as with their Station Pass. In a year or two, if EA decides to go this route and offer a simultaneous subscription to UO/WAR/SWTOR for one price, you can bet your sweet booty that I won’t be alone in sampling this product.

Personally, I’ve always had a difficult time dividing my attention between more than one MMO. I like being loyal to a title (sometimes resulting in fanboyism), I enjoy hanging with my guildies regularly, I feel like I get a good deal for my dollar, and I’m not pulled between titles on a given night — or burdened with guilt that I’m not getting things done in Game A when I’m partying down in Game B. I think it requires a more casual attitude toward these games to be able to flip between them, and yet ironically demands more of a hardcore gamer attitude that you’d WANT to play more than one.

That said, I’ve dual-wielded MMOs in the past and probably will again in the future. There’s no shame in it, and I’m devoted to sticking with WAR for a good long while, even if I double-dip into Champions Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic (huzzah!) or even (gasp) World of Warcraft. Maybe the fact that I’m less hardcore about my gaming time than I used to be has matured me into a player that’s satisfied with not being the best, the first or the coolest, but just a guy who likes to adventure wherever the gaming is good.



  1. I know some that do have more than one, and I know many that will keep it to one main one only. I happen to fall into the latter, trying to keep one MMO subscription at a time, which is why free or group rate would be of interest to me. If they work out some discount for TOR and WAR, it would increase my chances of playing TOR, which I might otherwise ignore.

    I think it’s one of the good things SOE has done, and that NCSoft has been stupid to not have done. Having a group rate for MMO’s just makes sense, and it’s probably one good reason why NCSoft has taken a pounding in their releases while SOE can keep older games alive, because of that package deal.

    Hopefully EA learns from SOE in this regard, but I won’t hold my breath. It is EA, after all. Intelligent moves don’t exactly radiant from the company, nor does putting customers first.

  2. I don’t know, I’ve played multiple MMOs quite often. I have a friend that has six different subscriptions because she has the time to play a bit of each every week. So many of the new games are so casual player centric that I can see playing many of them. I myself have a whole lot of free time to play games and end up getting bored playing only one game. (10+ hours of war every day is a bit much.)

    I figure, $15 a month is less than I’d spend going to the movies and as long as I play each game more than 2 hours a month I’m getting more entertainment than a trip to the movies as well. There are much, much more expensive hobbies.

  3. Also! SoE’s Station Pass kept me playing there games for a whole lot longer than I would otherwise, and also drove me to try games that I wouldn’t have. (Matrix Online, for example). As much as I dislike SoE, Station Pass is a freaking excellent idea and I wish more gaming companies would get with it. Especially if, as you suggested with SWTOR, EA does it. When SWTOR comes out if I’m still playing WAR I’ll likely quit. However, if they have a package deal I’ll just do that and continue to play WAR a bit on the side. Extra money from me that EA wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

  4. I’ve subscribed to WAR and have a lifetime sub for LotrO. For me it’s a good combination – they both stratch very different gaming itches. What’s helped is having my the some people in my LotrO guild also moving to WAR while maintaining a presence in LotrO meaning that I’m able to keep in touch and continue to game with people I know and like while experiencing very different content.
    Oh and the lifetime sub for LotrO really really helped in that. I don’t think I’d run two simultaneous subs.

  5. I dual wield MMOs. Heck if you count Guild Wars I triple wield though my time spent there is pretty limited. Being mostly a social gamer I tend to play what my friends play. I’m currently playing WAR (because my old DaOC guild plays there) and CoX (because my RL friends play there). When Champions Online drop I’ll likely play that in lieu of CoX unless it seriously bombs.

  6. I need to perfect my self-clonifier. Then I can work (to earn food & subs money) AND play 18 MMOs at once.

    /sounds of hammering ensue

  7. Except for myself, everyone I know who plays MMO’s plays more than one at a time. I, personally, get too wrapped up in one to even consider having another so I go through them one at a time.

  8. Mark Jacobs throws a lot of ideas around with his disclaimers that “everyone knows this is true” or the demeaning-to-retractors variation “everyone who’s intelligent knows this is true” or somesuch.

    Many of these Mark Jacobs truisms I find rather odd. Some are completely against the grain while others are close to it but missing key factors (he does seem to like his absolutes).

    This one is more off the wall than most.

  9. The thing is that WAR is a very specialized game. It is far more PvP focused than most games out there, and offers far more tools FOR PvP than most PvP centric games. But that’s all it has going for it, right now.

    WoW is big, it’s polished, it’s a juggernaut. Some complain about its PvP. That’s fine. Some complain about its playerbase. That’s fine. I happen to like it. I look forward to Wrath. I also think that WAR requires less of a timesink (once you’re max level) than Warcraft, since all there really is are city sieges. I will play both, when the time comes, and if I burn out on one, put it aside for a few months. simple as that.

  10. Having played MMOs for about a few years now, I have bounced back and forth playing multiple games at one time. Right now I am playing War and Wow, and hang out with friends. In the past, when I primarily played FPS games, I would play one title at a time, but would check out new games as they came out.

    I don’t own any consoles, so I am a pc platform gamer. Last year I purchased Enemy Territory, Lord of the Rings, Half Life 2 and Team Fortress 2. The best bang for you buck with fps really is the Valve game system, where you can have one account, load multiple games, and when they release new titles, usually you can get the games for $19.99.

    I also played Dungeon Runners for a few months, a nice hack and slash alternative to questing, killing, or just farting around in the auction house.

    I love gaming, have been a guild leader for many years now, and recently joined the blogging community. I would like to see gamers given the incentive to hold multiple accounts for MMOs but the only company that I have seen do this for a great price was the City of Heroes/City of Villains NC Soft.

    The other alternative are free MMOs where someone can play the game for free while able to purchase in game money or items at a premium upgrade. Maple Story was a fun game to play, and I have tried a few others without really being impressed other than Dungeon Runners.

    I find my way back to WOW every time, playing with my buddies, who have only been playing under a year. With the Wrath of the Lich King expansion coming out in just a few weeks, I expect to play WOW a lot more in the upcoming months, at least until I start my MBA program.

    Great articles and keep up the good work.

  11. I’m currently playing WAR, WoW and Lotro. Just like I wouldn’t want to watch one tv show every night or the same movie every night I don’t want to play the same MMO every night.

  12. Quote: Maybe the fact that I’m less hardcore about my gaming time than I used to be has matured me into a player that’s satisfied with not being the best, the first or the coolest, but just a guy who likes to adventure wherever the gaming is good.

    I think this is where I’m at; I don’t have the time or the enthusiasm to be at the bleeding edge of content raiding 4-5 nights (or more a week) etc.

    So for me now, WAR is my main subscription, my WoW account is active (although pending WOTLK perhaps) and I’ve been splitting my free time between these games and other non-MMO titles such as Civ Rev for PS3, Colonization for PC etc.

    What’s different now for me is that I am happy to split my time between the games; it was never that way before as that desire to be at the bleeding edge of content was there.

    Side note – first comment but really enjoy the blog so far; keep it up!

  13. I have frequently, at the beginning of trying a new MMO, told myself that I would split my time between the two, but it never works out that way. Always one will have my interest more than the other, and the lesser will be forgotten.

  14. I have had active subscriptions to more than one game at a time but usually that’s just a crossover period when I have gotten bored of Game A and started playing Game B before my subscription ran out. I think it must be my innate fanboyism that stops me from dual-wielding MMO’s.

  15. Well I’ll admit to being unfaithful to my mmos. Up until recently I had WoW,EvE, lifetime LotRO, and a POtC going at the same time. Not to say I was playing them all consistantly though. But each one had something I liked but just didn’t have an all over appeal to make me commit and settle down with the one!

    I’ve cut it all down though and I’m only two timing WAR at the moment with Vanguard. VG has the open sandbox formula I like and a different style than WAR. But if something out comes (SWTOR)I’ll have no problems running two again.

  16. I like the idea of a central payment to play any EA MMO, It would mean i could sample each game and play what i want when i want to.

    I still pay for WoW (tho cancelling subscription) and WAR – both seem to excel in different areas (WoW=PVE/WAR=PVP) so depending on my mood i can play either quite happily with friends.

  17. WAR is what takes up my gaming time, but when the servers were down (rare that it happens now since BETA) I would then hop into City of Heroes to fight some crime and when they came up I’m back at WAR. But now that WAR is always going I just recently canceled my Sub to City of Heroes. Now if companies got together and for $25 you could play WAR and City of Heroes, I would probably jump on that.

  18. I consider myself a PC gamer, and dual wield MMO’s myself. If I get ‘MMO fatigue’, I play a good FPS like Thief 3, Half Life 2, Team Fortress 2 (for Bite sized chunks), STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl, or the wonderous FarCry 2 I bought on Friday. I think you need a different mechanic as well as a world sometimes…

    I bought WAR… I also have four level 70’s in WOW so I can play a lot when I want to. I also have a 6 year old EVE subscription with a single character and a bazillion skill points. I can train my EVE character up offline (genius), but in WOW/WAR I need to get in and gain experience and level my character online.

    I don’t know much about any other MMO’s, but for me… it is WOW or WAR to fill the ‘mostly’ online slot…

    A casual ‘dual wielding’ character is going to struggle in both WOW and WAR, because they will get left behind in both. Perhaps this will not be so obvious at level 40 in WAR, but you have to get there in the first place…. so here lies my point.

    In WAR, there will be few players about in the lower chapters for a casual player. I think the Influence mechanic has caused some player behaviour that is ‘anti grouping’ because I have already seen this myself. Players tend to ignore group requests if they are soloing because it reduces their ‘influence’ points gained. They grind the ‘kill 100 of’ part and leave the area as phase 2 begins. I’d prefer the chance to get my hands on the chance of a ‘Vegas loot roll’, but if there are only 2 of you there I can see why, it halves your ‘Influence’ on what is basically a 100 or so mob grind. WOW is a lot less grindy because of this, and the rewards for the chapter are too enticing to ignore this grind.

    So WAR is great for a small guild, or in areas where there are lots of players, but won’t work for a casual player. Getting XP’s from scenarios may be a win, but try getting into a tier 1 on most Realms at them moment…..

    There is a similar story when comparing WOW’s instances, higher levels are likely to re-play a lower instance, but not at prime times or until they are well into their level 80 experience and are dusting off their alts.

    Essentially WoW players will need to play from go live to see the 70-79 instances without too much pain. The difference here is that you have to group for Instanced dungeons, and people cannot solo part of them and still get a decent reward.

    So do I solo grind, or Group up?.. No contest.

    For me WOW will get more of my dollars, and because my EVE character will never be maxed out, I’ll continue to dip in for some 0.0 pirate action.

    A brand new player will only have 40 levels for WAR ‘end game’, but 80 for WOW. So I’d recommend the former, but I’m far enough in to a nice polished game to continue, and WAR just didn’t habve enough to poach my online time.

    Maybe I’ll re-join the WAR party later on, but I suspect by the time I’ve worn out WOW’s WotLK content, there will be a new kid on the block…..

  19. I’m duel wielding right now. When I want my pvp fix I hit WAR up. When I want my PVE fix I hit WOW up. It actually kind of nice.

  20. Dual wielding within a competitive genre may be a bit rare but if you look at the patterns it is more common for dual wield changes of pace.

    But hell yes. I would jump on a WAR SWKOR bandwagon in a blind instant.

    Odd thing is while I was checking my reader I was digging out a card to sign up for another subscription (Eve) for the change of pace, scenery, general level of stress. (PvP is stressfull when you are on an Order weak server, counterbalanced by a good guild who talk a fine line of nonsense)


  21. I’m subbed to both WAR and WoW and plan to continue to do so. Yeah it slows me down in both but I don’t really care, I have fun in both.

    I don’t define myself by what MMO I play, or think of it as some kind of second life (pardon the pun), they’re just games. People really need to lighten up about the whole genre I think. It’s no different from playing 2 console games, going back and forth between the two when you’re tired of one or the other.

    I pay $15/month for the convenience of being able to play whenever I want.. as long as I’m enjoying it, it’s worth the money.

  22. Interesting this topic came up. I’ve been following this blog for a while now (even before WAR launched, etc.), but I’m not currently playing WAR, just WoW.

    I REALLY want to try WAR out, but my real life friends play WoW and we are planning to go heavy in PVE content when WotLK comes out.

    I’m in the uncertainity of getting WAR and play both games at the same time (which means I won’t have serious time in either of them), or wait to level my toon in WotLK and, once I’m level 80 and well established, play WAR (luckily, I’ll be able to play the empire tank by that time).

    But I’m still hanging on the balance. I don’t know what to do!

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