In this edition, we will examine the impact that WoW has had on the MMO market and on Warhammer Online’s future. Community is important; how will the Warcraft community affect WAR’s subscriber numbers? The title gives my predictions and below you will find my justification. Next time, we’ll examine how WAR can/will fight back and why all will be right in the world of WAR.

Over the past couple days, I’ve put a lot of thought into the impact that WoW has on the MMORPG community. There’s been some definite positives and stark negatives. If it wasn’t for WoW, WAR may not have ever made it to development. Then again, it may be because of WoW that WAR may not reach its full potential and achieve the subscriber base it deserves.

On one hand, WoW has opened up the market. Because of it, more people are involved in the MMO market than probably ever would have been. Investment in the genre is way up from where it was beforehand and, now, we have the hope of more and better games to fill our shelves for years to come. We should all be thankful to Blizzard for this.

On the other hand, WoW is the grand barrier preventing other games from achieving comparable success. The subscriber amounts alone cause many gamers to label other, lesser earning MMOs, failures. Somehow, a subscriber base of 50,000 people isn’t considered high anymore. There are many other reasons too, some of which I believe will have a direct impact on our yet to be released favorite game.

WoW players have been spoiled.

World of Warcraft was released in 2004. At that time, it was far from bug free; however, millions of players never experienced that version of the game. In fact, I’d bet that most of the current players have yet to experience more than a few bugs in their total playtime. Since WoW has opened up the genre so much, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s a lot of people’s first MMO. Because of this, when players come over to WAR, or any other game for that matter, they’ll expect to see a game at the same level of polish that WoW currently showcases. For these people, WoW is the standard other titles need to live up to. In the area of bugs, it would be amazing for any game to achieve this. Bugs are a fact of life; they are critters to be squashed over the lifespan of an MMO. You can bet your bottom dollar that when WAR launches, the World of Warcraft forums will be exploding with people screaming “it’s a bugfest! WAR FTL!” no matter how polished Mythic can get it beforehand. It’s unfortunate but almost certainly true. Which brings us to point number two…

A lot of WoW players are doom-callers.

Let’s face it: a certain portion of the WoW player base complains about everything. I’d imagine it’s like this for every game, actually, but I know WoW, and in WoW, whenever there’s a class change, it’s the end of the game. Whenever the servers go down, players are claiming to cancel their subscriptions. Whenever a developer sneezes, the world is irretrievably thrown into the void. Why is this? Well, people get attached to the game as they see it. For these people, when they come to WAR, if it doesn’t fit for any reason, they’ll taint the internet with their disdain. You’ll see these people all over the place shortly after launch, naming everything that makes the game wrong for them and applying it universally to anyone who might be interested in trying it out. That’s really a shame, in my opinion. Right now, a lot of WoW players have never even heard of WAR. The first time many of these people do, it will be on a WoW forum or fansite where they’re bashing it because WAR is not WoW. Starting a new MMO is a big decision. You’re usually giving up the one you’re playing at the time and making a leap of faith in purchasing and subscribing to a new product. Bitter players will keep others away.

WoW PvP has soured many people against the idea.

WoW started off as a PvE game and had PvP thrown in afterwards. As a result of this, they’ve had to make big changes to the way many classes work. Within the past year or so, they’ve been placing a heavy emphasis on Arena combat. They’ve even tossed in Arena rating requirements on gear. Many PvE’ers are feeling neglected as Blizzard pushes towards turning their combat system into an e-sport. What does this lead to? People having a bad taste left in their mouth towards PvP in general. This isn’t good for a game whose main appeal is RvR combat; however, that doesn’t mean Mythic is down and out. What it does mean though, is that Mythic has (and always has had) an uphill battle to pull these players away. Their plight is made even more difficult as many of those have turned heavily to PvE, alts, and raiding, as a result. Which segues us into point three…

WoW players will expect raid content.

The raiding treadmill has become the standard in World of Warcraft. Granted, many players are tired of this method of advancement and are happy to have an alternative; however, many others enjoy it. They dedicate hours and hours to research and practice until they take down their raid boss. To date, Mythic has focused mainly on the RvR aspect of their game. Now, RvR is awesome and leads to PvE in several different ways, but WoW has set the standard for what many players will expect to see at the endgame. WAR is breaking that standard. Now, in truth, I believe that if a raider took the time to get to 40th rank in WAR, they’d probably enjoy it and stick with it. These players will more than likely count it out before they even try it. It is true that only 1% of the hardcore raiders generally see the endgame raids in pre-nerf state; however, raids will still be expected by even casual dungeon crawlers. WAR is offering 6-man dungeons that are tuned to be quite challenging by maximum rank. Due to WoW, and other preceding games, anything less than 10-players will strike many players as non-raidlike. So we find yet another precedent at least reinforced by WoW that will prevent other players from looking further into WAR.

WoW plays dirty

WoW isn’t afraid to steal ideas. Allow me to rephrase, WoW isn’t afraid to take other’s ideas and “make them their own”… if by their own, they mean calling it something else. Perhaps I’m being rash, I mean great games are made by taking good ideas from other games and making them better, right? The only issue is, WoW isn’t a new game. Comparatively, it’s actually pretty old. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s doubtful they’ll be breaking any big barriers in MMO gaming. Likewise, I doubt they’ll change their general formula very much either. They have a new MMO in the works, so at this point, it’s about money. You have it and they want it. If you subscribe to another game, that’s money not in their pockets. So, at this point, when they’re implementing things such as achievements into their game, when competitors are offering something similar, it’s to crush the competition, and if fans happen to like it, even better. Let’s also not ignore that they’ve chosen to implement siege vehicles, destructible buildings, and zone-wide open pvp right at the time a competitor comes around offering the same things. It’s a deliberate attempt to devalue the efforts of others. WoW is a cash cow and Blizzard wants to keep it that way. They’ll be content to bar every other MMO from great success until they offer another of their own to continue the trend. WoW has no reason to be afraid of repackaging the ideas of others. It’s a means to an end and, heck, their whole IP is based on Warhammer. Originality is not their strong suit.

WoW has done great things for the MMO genre but its community and parent company are significant ties that will bind Mythic from the success it could reach. Do I think any of the reasons above will stop WAR from reaching one million players? No. Four million? No (Server populations are what matter, anyways, not overall population as per the enjoyability of a game like WAR). None of the above are brick walls to success. What they are, however, are hurdles. Make no mistake, this is a long race and Blizzard has a head start. Will Mythic be able to launch into first place right out of the gate? Certainly not. In time though, they could be a huge competitor that will give WoW a run for its money. In order to do that, they’ll need the support of the community to spread the word and they’ll need to market all aspects of the game. RvR is a big selling point but it shouldn’t be to the near exclusivity of their other amazing content; when they do that some players will undoubtedly read “niche game” between the lines. They’ll need to pull in people from all walks of RPGs, from the hardcore PvP’er to the hardcore PvE’er.

I honestly believe that they’ve got what it takes. Personally, I’d like to see the behemoth taken down a couple of notches. Not because I don’t think it’s a good game, though. In all honesty, despite my burnout and all of its failings, I still think that it’s a quality MMO; I’ve had a lot of fun with it. I’d like to see it drop down so that other games can really shine. It should never be a “one title rules all” market. If some of their subscribers populate WAR or any of the other MMOs out there, it can only be for the betterment of the genre as a whole.