Massively OP mused about this question recently… and since it’s a question, of course my brain started trying to answer it for myself. Star Trek Online was mentioned right in the beginning of their article as that’s where the question originated from. I haven’t played STO for a long time, but I do know that I wouldn’t have looked at it if it hadn’t been the Star Trek IP. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my cup of tea. It certainly has some good things going, but I would want a Star Trek game with a bigger focus on exploration and diplomacy in it.
Anyway, what MMOs am I playing? When I do get some gaming time in for an MMO, I am currently mostly playing WoW Burning Crusade and Guild Wars 2 again. Before that, it was Elder Scrolls Online. And there is always Lord of the Rings Online. With the exception of LotRO, none are based on pre-existing book of movie IPs. But all of them belong to IPs that existed before the MMO got released!
For World of Warcraft, it is really easy: I didn’t know Warcraft at all. So playing World of Warcraft was all about figuring out what an MMORPG was and not about the Warcraft lore at all. If the game now lost its lore and switched to a different one, I probably wouldn’t mind much at all. I know there are big stories behind it, but when it comes to WoW, I admit I don’t care about the story much. At least, not about any of the new bits (new for me would be everything since Cataclysm as I stopped paying attention to it then).
I know I would have been interested in Guild Wars 2 even if I hadn’t played Guild Wars before. But here, two aspects got me really excited about the game: Knowing ArenaNet from Guild Wars gave me high hopes for GW2. At the same time, I really loved the world Guild Wars was set in and I couldn’t wait to see its sequel! Let’s say GW2 hadn’t been set in the same world, but in a completely new one – then yes, I would have been just as excited, because, as I said, I trusted ArenaNet to come up with a really good game! It is hard to imagine Guild Wars 2 without its IP now, though, because they set such a big focus on the living world and the game’s story. But I wouldn’t mind not having to kill any more dragons by now…
The third one with a pre-existing IP is Elder Scrolls Online. I never really got into the older Elder Scrolls titles, but I did play Skyrim. Because of this, ESO got my attention. However, just as with Guild Wars 2, I would have been interested either way. Less so because I trusted the developers behind it, but more because it came at a time where I was interested in trying out a new MMO and it looked good… well, at least, after they fixed the initial issues of it not feeling like an MMO (being phased away from people in your party even). The fact that it belongs to the Elder Scrolls IP isn’t important to me at all here.
Which leads me to the last MMO on my list: Lord of the Rings Online. The only one with a non-gaming IP behind it that I’m playing. I admit, I have not ever read the books! I knew of them, of course. Who doesn’t? But only after watching the movies and after playing LotRO, did I start reading the books. I didn’t get far, though, which is not because I dislike them. I got them in a single-book edition and I like reading in bed before falling asleep. This book is simply too big and heavy! I need to get it on my ebook-reader… Anyway, I digress. If it hadn’t been about the LotRO lore, I know I wouldn’t have tried out the game at all. LotRO came when I was fully invested in playing WoW. Even Guild Wars had a very difficult time back then to convince me, but since it was buy-to-play and very different from MMORPGs by letting you go into the maps on your own, it felt different enough to play it. I remember playing LotRO during a beta event and thinking that yes, it did seem interesting, but as it cost a monthly fee, I wasn’t interested. I would have had to leave WoW where I had friends playing, after all as I wouldn’t have been able to afford both MMOs. But if it hadn’t had the Lord of the Rings IP, then I definitely wouldn’t even have given the game a try. I clearly remember creating a hobbit simply because I loved the hobbits in the movies. So there you go! Without hobbits, I wouldn’t have been that interested. And if this game didn’t have its IP anymore… I don’t know. I guess here, it would hurt the game the most. I like seeing how they transform what Tolkien wrote into this playable environment and quite a lot of the game’s charme comes from the IP, if you ask me.
To sum it up, I basically wouldn’t mind much if the developers switched to a different IP with most of the MMOs I’m playing. It is just difficult to imagine what the games would feel like if that happened! One big exception is Lord of the Rings Online, though. I want my hobbits!