At the "The State of the MMO" panel at Comic-Con, five massively-multiplayer devs weighed in on the positive changes coming to the genre, lacing as much marketing into their answers as humanly possible.
At a development conference their answers might have been different, but this is Comic-Con, and this distinguished panel of guests from BioWare, Gazillion, Sony Online Entertainment, Turbine, and Nexon America know full well that the majority of the audience are simply folks who showed to save seats for the Star Wars panel coming up afterwards. The key here, in most cases, seemed to be mentioning their games as often as possible in the hopes that the folks in the audience who weren't members of the press would remember them.
Let's start with Gazillion's Dave Brevik, who is currently working on the Marvel Comic MMO he cannot really talk about. Dave could only speak in generalities throughout most of the panel, and he seemed to struggle with the question of change in the MMO industry more than most, as he isn't allowed to tell us what he's changing. Only that "something different" is coming, and that something different will reflect a positive change in the industry.
Next up was BioWare's Leo Olebe. As BioWare is working on Star Wars: The Old Republic, his example of positive genre change is, of course, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Specifically the fully-voiced NPCs and player characters in the game, which he claimed would spoil players for all other massively-multiplayer titles. I'm not sure that actually counts as a positive change though. Look guys, now you're going to have to spend several million dollars on voice work every time you create a new online game!
The saddest thing? He's probably right about that. It'll be the same feeling you get when starting a console RPG and realizing that all the dialog is simply text-based.
SOE head honcho John Smedley took the opportunity to answer the question by hyping up the upcoming DC Universe Online, stating that delivering action-packed combat "We want you to be able to throw a bus on your PC and have your friend catch it on his PS3. That's the level of gameplay and interactivity we're looking at."
Cross-platform bus throwing is the way of the future.
Nexon's Min Kim gave what was perhaps the most genuine answer to the question, though he had already mentioned Combat Arms five or six times during the panel and was probably feeling a little spent.
"Access is gonna change... the price point is going to drop to free for a lot of these games...but access is going to change. Traditionally when you get a new PC game you have to worry about whether your hardware can run it. Developers are going to realise that it isn't about building the flashiest experience, but making sure the game is accessible to the widest audience."
And then he mentioned Combat Arms again.
That covers four of the five panelists, with Turbine's Henrik Strandberg speaking far too quietly for anyone to really hear him, which is a problem Turbine's been dealing with for quite some time.