Innovation is as often as not used as a blank check when asked why MMOs aren't as good as they could be. While the sentiment isn't constant, it's recurring: a vague sense that something isn't there that ought to be. Often, the answer thrown around is that we need innovative games -- but when the people hollering for them are asked to explain what they mean, usually they shuffle, stare at their feet, and reply "well, these would go to 11."
We want something new, but we're not sure what, and we're not sure why we aren't getting it.
Brian "Psychochild" Green
recently wrote up a post on the problems of innovation in MMOs
, as well as several reasons we don't tend to get a great deal of it. In short, there are two main reasons. Innovation is risky, which makes a company more and more wary of investing money in a game that might not make any of it back. It also goes directly against another virtue that we look for in our games: polish. By its very definition, an innovative game can't be polished, since there's not as much precedent for refining systems.
It's hard to summarize the full essay in a few sentences, however, as it covers a lot of ground and a wide variety of games. If you're interested in why it seems like there's little new under the MMO sun, you could do worse than reading the full thing through