Thursday, April 3, 2008

Married to World of Warcraft?

Why do married men cheat? Because it’s a different woman that makes it new and fresh and interesting. Certainly not every cheating man cheats for that reason, but most do. The woman might not even be better looking than the wife, she is simply different. At the most basic level, people get bored with what they have and start looking towards other things for variety. And while not everyone cheats, they do practice this basic behavior in other parts of their life. You might love spaghetti and meatballs, but how would you feel about it if that’s all you had to eat for several weeks?

To extend that analogy to WoW, Blizzard has to keep upping the ante with new content to keep things fresh and interesting. Without that infusion of content, players would find themselves with nothing to explore, get bored and then cancel their accounts in search of other entertainment. Of course, the problem is that, for many players, Wrath of the Lich King won’t be different enough and will lose its luster quickly. This puts pressure on the developers to break the mold. It’s not enough to simply add instances, gear and zones – you need to alter the way the game is played. Blizzard is already making strides in that direction by introducing “Inscriptions” that allow you to customize your abilities. However, the inherent problem is that Blizzard will always be confined to certain game defining characteristics that will always make the game look, feel and smell like World of Warcraft. I can add +5 yards to my Fireball, but it’s still just a Fireball.

WAR (or Warhammer Online) is the most talked about unreleased MMO on the internet because it offers what many people see as the next alternative to WoW. It is popular because it will be different from WoW. Will it be a better game? Well, that remains to be seen. But it will be at least moderately successful simply because it is different. From a design standpoint, they are operating from a position of strength. They can hold up WoW as a standard to measure themselves and blatantly borrow the best design elements of Warcraft. In turn, they can introduce their own style and influences to create something new.

Popcorn on Tolbold’s blog wrote: WAR may be as good as WoW, but for the people that don't see a huge improvement between the two, they will stay with their multiple 70s & online friends/guilds.

If WAR is even 80% as good as WoW, then a fairly substantial portion of the WoW population is going to migrate to WAR for something different. Then it will be up to WAR (not Blizzard) to ensure they have the staying power to keep people interested. WAR represents a huge threat to Blizzard. They have the opportunity to evolve the genre by borrowing ideas perfected by Blizzard and packaging it into something fresh. If they are to succeed in making the game remotely as fun as WoW, then a lot of players (including myself) would adopt it simply for the new experiences that a new game provides. There is some truth to sticking with friends, but there is no reason why entire Guilds couldn’t migrate over to WAR.

Of course, expectations are high for WAR. Really high. It’s the latest buzz, the latest thing, WAR will solve all our issues! In fact, I hear there are No Cats in WAR and the roads are paved with CHEESE!!

Needless to say, someone is going to be disappointed with WAR. The interesting thing to me is how successful is WAR going to be at converting all this pre-release hype into a successful launch. Because without a successful launch and beta, WAR will not be viewed as anything nearly as good as WoW. They’ll get the initial set of lookers desperate for a WoW alternative, but the masses will simply toss it to the side if they don’t deliver a solid product early. The MMO marketplace is littered with challengers that have failed to topple the MMO beast that is World of Warcraft.

After all, men rarely leave their wife for their new girlfriend.

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