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The Trap that is Scarlet Blade
Sex sells. So do robots. Alien invasions, while cliché, have proven to be tried and tested selling points for movies and video games alike. So if you put these three factors together, you should have the formula for a blockbuster MMORPG, right?
This is what Aeria Games seems to be thinking with their new upcoming F2P “Mature” MMORPG title called Scarlet Blade. Scarlet Blade is chockfull of sexualized, beautiful heroines with enough firepower and weapons acumen to conquer a small country. And of course, they’re dressed in dubiously skimpy armor most of the time. In South Korea, the game is called Queen’s Blade Online– any anime enthusiast would know what that title means. The Queen’s Blade anime is not for the faint of heart.
The game’s storyline is set in a future where an alien invasion force has all but destroyed our home and our last hope is a force of genetically modified babes – hence the superior physique and fighting prowess, probably. That’s it as far as the plot goes. It’s like Dead Or Alive meets Metroid meets Halo, and it’s an MMORPG. So, “where’s the depth?” one might ask.
The good news is that Aeria is throwing in a lot of PvP goodness with the game – from 1v1 to 6v6 to even 80v80 epic clashes between factions, or between different factions and game bosses, and there’s all the standard dropped loot fun MMO players always crave. The depth, it would seem, will focus on the technicalities of the gameplay. This, however, is offset by the reality that in higher levels, the technicality decreases dramatically. We’ll see how Aeria deals with this inherent MMO challenge when the time comes (the game is currently accepting requests for inclusion in its beta). But Scarlet Blade’s got everything covered right – sexy women, overpowered and overhyped battles, cool robots, and bad aliens?
While we’ve seen all of this before, we also know that despite how overly used these same elements are, they always sell. The bigger question, however, is how bankable this sort of MMORPG is in the long run. Research on MMO loyalty indicates that a mere 5% increase in retention can boost profits up to 95%. Is the market segment targeted by Scarlet Blade the sort that stays loyal? Here’s an idea of the bigger picture: the average gamer is 30 years old. How many 30-year old gamers would most likely stay loyal to this MMO?
Of course, games like Lollipop Chainsaw have had their fair share of success – even with older gamers. But games like Lollipop Chainsaw do not share the challenge of a persistent-state-world where massive numbers of players are required to keep the game running. The success of the MMO model rests upon the requisite requirement of massive numbers of players and a story that basically never ends. Then again, Scarlet Blade will undoubtedly attract a slew of younger, particularly male, gamers who spend hours on end on games like WoW. The droves of players that may flock to Scarlet Blade, however, may underlie a more serious dilemma. Every so often games like Spore, Minecraft, and Portal come in to show us that gaming is changing for the better. Even standard shooters and RPGs like Battlefield 3 and Skyrim are developing and showing us something new to play with and wonder about – we’re moving forward. With each small step and the occasional leap, we’re steadily making gaming more than just the sum of its shallow elements. And then Scarlet Blade comes along.
The MMO plays on elements that always sell, but while these aspects are a constant lure for new gamers, how long can they retain the interest and loyalty of existing ones? How long until the majority of these gamers tire of the pretty faces, the ubiquitous moves, the tiring grinding, and the same old plot? And perhaps a bigger question is: does the game offer anything that can help the gaming industry as a whole move forward in terms of gameplay, immersion, design, and plot?