This is spinning off from comments on Spinks’ thoughts about MMO target audiences
I think the reason that “theme park” MMOs are dominating the landscape is simple – the majority of people want to be entertained, not to actively create entertainment. More people read books than write them; many more people went to se The Lord of the Rings films than play pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons; watching YouTube is more popular than uploading your own videos. In a theme park MMO, you log on and can expect to be entertained – you will be guided towards the quests and events that the developers have scripted for you. A sandbox game hands the players tools and more control over their own destiny.
Now, not everyone in a sandbox game has to be a content creator. As Spinks points out, there are people who organise events and people who just show up and take part. But even being part of that “audience” has more barriers than a theme park game. You have to seek out the organisers and their events – and you have to decide for yourself which ones are good and worth following, because there’s no producer or QA team to do that for you. The end result is rather like spending your time checking out unsigned bands rather than just listening to whatever is topping the charts this week – more rewarding, but more demanding of your time and mental effort.
I can’t really blame people for opting for the easy option. After a long day at work, all I want to do is sit back and say “Entertain me!” too. Well, that and kill a few Mids or Defiants or whatever the other guys are in my current MMO. But you know what? You don’t get to bitch at the devs of your game for not providing enough content if you aren’t willing to step up and actually make some yourself. And bitching about content is just what the great MMO herd mentality seems to be doing these days.