Let’s say you have an MMO which includes a robust PvP element. The concept stated by the developers is that meaningful PvP will exist at all levels of the game. This of course makes the PvP gamers very happy. Already the boards for this game are full of gamers requesting that the developers make a fully skill based combat system where invested time means nothing against an opponent who knows when to hit a particular button. They are asking for equipment to have zero effect on combat outcomes. Essentially they are saying that character development and investment should not be deciding factors in a PvP encounter, only the player skill not the character attributes should determine the winner.
Now to me, MMQuake seems a poor model for a subscription based game, let alone one which has a rich backstory and many years of established lore behind it. However that being said there are a lot of content light MMOs which are doing quite well. Mostly though these revolve around way to allow players to carve out their own fiefdom and essentially create their own content – Eve and Guild Wars are the examples that come to mind here. Content then seems to be pretty much integral to an MMO, whether the players are intended to provide their own or the developers have laid it out for them in advance. Gameplay is not the same thing as content, there is a potentially infinite amount of gameplay in Tetris but there’s little actual content to it.
So can you and should you concentrate on game play over content and can you then charge a monthly fee for it successfully?