Kern: MMO noob zones cost about $430K per gameplay hour

Sunday, 7 July 2013 23:52 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Veteran MMO developer and Red 5 boss Mark Kern has said MMO developers spend huge amounts of money on content that most players will rush through, never to return.

Writing for, Kern noted that most veteran MMORPG players won’t spend more than a few evenings in each beginner zone.

“Mature MMOs (those out for six months or so) only use 10%-20% of the content to serve the plurality of players at any given time,” he said. “The other 80-90% is wasted once played through by voracious players.

“This is why lower levels zones in an MMO often feel like a ghost town,” he added.

Kern said that zone creation is about 70% of the cost of an MMOs development, so for a typical MMO budget of $100 million with a 20 zone game, each costs about $3.5 million to create.

“Coming back to spending two four-hour nights in a zone, that’s about $437,500 per hour of gameplay. No wonder MMOs are struggling,” he said.

“You simply can’t keep up with that number and deliver enough content to players expecting hundreds of hours of gameplay.”

Kern argued that developers ought to be finding ways to have players use whole game worlds, or to reuse early zones, but instead continue trying to make end-game content at the same cost.

“If you are World of Warcraft, you can afford this strategy. If you’re anyone else – well, good luck with that,” he said.

With Firefall, Red 5’s shooter MMO, Kern hopes to have solved the problems without resorting to down-levelling. His team’s solutions include more horizontal progression and dynamic content tailored to individual players.

“It’s more than cost savings, its making richer, more believable worlds,” he added.

“The goal is to have the whole world get richer and more entertaining over time, building and adding value to the whole system for all players at all levels. If it works, it could open up a whole new type of MMO to players.”

Thanks, Massively.