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Will MMORPGs take over the world?

Will MMORPGs take over the world?

This article [via kottke.org] thinks so, noting that the population of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game-ers has doubled every two years while showing no signs of slowing down. It's a compelling argument, especially when you consider some of the gaudy numbers thrown out by the author. To wit: "There are more people playing World of Warcraft in the U.S. today (two million) than had indoor plumbing 100 years ago." And since most everyone has indoor plumbing today, it makes sense to assume that in a matter of decades we'll all be hammer-wielding paladins with animal companions and magical shields.

Well, wait a minute. While it's a credit to Blizzard, ArenaNet, and Cryptic Studios that World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, and City of Heroes provide such immersively persistent gaming experiences, it would be folly not to admit that the genre's explosive progress is largely tied to advances in hardware. Now, before you flame, I know that MUDs have existed longer than I have; I, too, have racked up hundred-dollar phone bills while combing the text-only dungeons of Gemstone III. But these days, mainstream gamers demand immersive graphics, which require cutting-edge hardware, which in turn requires disposable income. And there's the rub: while there's no doubting that the PlayStation 3 will offer jaw-dropping visuals, its rumored $400-level price tag may prevent it from achieving household ubiquity. And while I'd like to believe, as this article's author states, that one day "there will be a branch of government to rule the virtual world," my guess is that the rising cost of gaming hardware will cap the genre's growth before we need a Department of Azerothian Security.

What do you think? Am I merely dismissing the inevitable? Hit me with your talkbacks.