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One of gaming's more recent gee-whiz-it's-probably-magic trends comes with a pretty thick string attached: your saves, your character, your mountain of collectable doodads for that precious achievement – all of them are imprisoned inside a server on a desert island or in space or something. You're playing a high-stakes game of rental roulette, and everything you've worked so hard to build could go poof in the blink of an eye. What trend am I referring to? Did you say, “cloud gaming”? Private Obvious, I'm sure your Captain is beaming with pride right now. However, while your answer's technically correct, I'm talking about MMOs.
It's interesting, too, because gamers have been largely a-okay with this aspect of MMOs for years – at least, so long as their game of choice hasn't met an untimely end. But should we be? After all, cloud gaming's certainly risky in that we don't physically own our games, but in MMOs, we don't own the experience.
Timely evidence light-speed-jumped its way into the public eye with recent alterations to both Eve Online and Star Wars Galaxies. In a nutshell, Eve's bucking its trend of bucking trends and embracing one in particular: microtransactions. Meanwhile, Galaxies is, er, dying horribly. In both cases, irate players have protested with everything from canceled subscriptions to class-action lawsuits.
Eve's trials and tribulations, especially, have escalated as of late, with the game's very own developer-comissioned, player-elected Council of Stellar Management putting its foot down and stomping all over CCP's well-laid plans. “We will not stand idly by as an alliance while our subscription money goes to waste, watching the game we pay to play spiraling into entropy due to the folly and neglect of CCP’s management. It is not yet time to start a fire, but get your gasoline ready,” said CSM head and GoonSwarm boss “The Mittani” of CCP's plans to expand Eve's universe into other, less-focused games like Dust 514 and World of Darkness.
These types of feelings, of course, are completely understandable. Many players practically live in these worlds. They're homes far, far away from home, and that creates certain expectations. Just as you don't suddenly replace the family cat with its weight in scorpions, tinkering with the core of an MMO is an unspoken no-no. And – paradoxically, given the Eve playerbase's shifting, Marauder's Map-like list of priorities – failing to do so can be just as bad. Point is, this isn't just “some game” to its devotees. It's a collection of places, people, and experiences that players – at least, in their minds – own. In that sense, these games move beyond the “mere” whims of their creators.