NCsoft director Thomas Bidaux, speaking in advance of the London Games Festival, outlined what he described as four fundamental aspects of MMOGs that must be tapped for any successful venture.
"Firstly you have access to the client, so you can make your game evolve, and patch it. You have multiplayer, so you have people connecting with one another, you have co-op, PvP, and so on. You have persistence, so you have the data on the server, and you can leverage this data and have things happen in real time. And the fourth thing is the business model - you have access to the credit card of the user, in theory, or SMS or whatever."
Delving into more detail, Bidaux noted that the previous business model centered on "the box" and being "tied to the need to sell a box."
Now, with MMOG consumers tied to the game via credit card, and tied to the product via digital download and patches, different approaches are needed to garner and maintain interest.
Bidaux, pointing to text MUDs, noted the hardcore origins of MMOGs and said there was a need to "break as many barriers as possible" in terms of accessibility.
But, he added, there will always be a mix of sandbox vs. theme-park style gameplay for different titles.
"Ultimately, you need a bit of both in all the games if you want to be sustainable in the long term," he said, adding that preference for hand-holding over free-roaming was a matter of individual taste.