About 6 years ago, when I managed to get my hands on Anarchy Online for the first time, after I had seen Dark Age of Camelot and Asheron’s Call, I came to the conclusion that the future belonged to MMOs. The evolution potential that this genre had was way greater than that of any other type of game, except maybe the FPSs that were playable online.
What I hadn’t anticipated was the actual trajectory this MMO evolution would take, more precisely, the World of Warcraft decade. I have played WoW, like many others, starting with the US open beta, 4 years ago, until I got to the point of understanding the sadness of a situation not very beneficial for the MMO industry.
What WoW did was fill a massive gap. That of highly accessible MMOs, easy to play even by someone who doesn’t know English at all (I have a friend whose 6 years old child is barely able to read, but he plays WoW). Blizzard has this talent of absorbing technology; they’re like the Borg of MMOs.
They take and improve ideas from other MMOs and this makes World of Warcraft exactly the place you want to be in, because all the other games of its type that are out there are either trying to copy what WoW already copied or bring in good ideas that are later absorbed and introduced in a perfected version in World of Warcraft.
In my opinion, WoW has become a plague for other MMOs, because of its aggressive marketing and because it doesn’t leave space for other games of the genre to expand. On the other hand, other producers have barely started to wake up and face the reality that, maybe it is time for them to give up the dream of “stealing” WoW’s players, because that ’s unlikely to happen. It’s impossible to launch an MMO with the content and design quality World of Warcraft attained in 4 years of “assimilation”. Because nobody else, until now, thought about changing the recipe…
A launch’s graph
Not too long ago, Mr. Mike Morhaim, CEO Blizzard Entertainment, was talking about the fact that, generally speaking, companies underestimate the logistics of an MMO launch on the market. And he is right, because I remember how sad the release of World of Warcraft was. At least from my point of view, the first 2 months of playing, although interesting, were awful in terms of technical problems. Huge bugs, server lag, the almost complete lack of support, etc. And after 3 months of play, by the time you would have already reached level 60, there was nothing else to do, due to the lack of high-level content.
Despite that, Blizzard was very lucky, because there was no other fantasy MMO to compete with, mainly because no other game out there was so well done, so addictive for casual gamers. Some other “big” titles were launched during the following years – Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online and the “content-free” Age of Conan. From these, however, people had a place to run to… the eternal and unrivalled WoW.
Getting back to Warhammer, after I read some articles in the international press, I was speculating that this game will be nothing more than an advanced WoW clone. Even so, I was quite enthusiastic about it, willing to accept the odds Mythic game would have to survive, mainly because Warhammer is a universe based on a 30 year-old license that has quite a big community behind it and has the advantage of being already widely known. As a side comment, some are saying that the inspiration for the Warcraft universe originally came from a botched collaboration between Blizzard and Games Workshop that had already spawned the Warhammer universe. Or so the story goes.
Still, an interesting and solid lore is not enough, as proven Age of Conan’s terrible example. Something more is needed, so I watched the WAR launch very carefully, which in the end turned out to be one of the most successful launches the MMO has seen yet.
The game worked perfectly from the start, very few problems arose in the following days, and the bugs that still “escaped” were solved impressively fast. Watching the game since the closed beta, I was impressed with how well Mythic understood that the players’ opinions are extremely important for the well-being of an MMO.