Wednesday, July 9, 2008
My last post provoked a few comments about WoW vs. Warhammer Online (WAR). A lot of people are looking at WAR as some type of “WoW Killer” and are predicting the end of the World of Warcraft. First, this presumes that WAR will be a good game in the first place. I hope that it is, but if it’s not… well, this whole discussion is a moot point anyway.
We already KNOW that WoW is a good game and that the Wrath of the Lich King expansion will be a success as a result. I will buy the expansion, I will level to 80, I will play a Death Knight, I will try Lake Winterspring and I will try my hand at the 10-man raiding. AND – I’m not alone. Most current WoW subscribers will do this as well. So at a bare minimum, WoTLK buys WoW three to four months of my time with or without Warhammer Online being a success on it’s own.
The bigger question for WoW is what happens after everyone spends that three to four months playing Wrath and reaches that plateau where Blizzard expect players to grind things out. I wrote a month or so back that the real WoW Killer is not another game, but stagnation. One expansion every 2+ years is going to slowly strangle out the love people have for this game. We get focused on the competition for WoW being another game when in reality it is competing with all forms of alternate entertainment. How many people will leave WoW simply to spend more time with the family? Or to watch TV or read books instead?
In the MMO world, many people like me, will turn to WAR as an alternative and give it a chance to win them over. As a marketer, that is a BAD thing. A really BAD thing. You simply never want to give your competition the opportunity to take and hold market share. If WAR releases before WoW, then that opportunity is HUGE. I realize that this is stating the obvious, but getting Wrath released before WAR is absolutely essential for Blizzard in continuing to secure market share. If I am a Blizzard executive, I am telling my staff that it is simply unacceptable to allow this to happen. If it does happen, and WAR is a good game, I expect WAR to capture quite a bit of the WoW audience.
As Hudson points out in my comments, the segment most at risk of turning to WAR is the PvP demographic. Now I am defining PvPers here as people who play first and foremost because they like PvP. It remains to be seen whether or not WAR will actually be able to convert entire guilds or any of the PvE crowd. To me, I think that’s the big unanswered question. I personally think we will end up with WAR as the MMO PvP choice and WoW as the MMO PvE choice. If that PvP segment makes up only make up 30% of WoW’s player base, then that number could very well be incredibly staggering.
In response to Hudson, Kirk commented that “ Warhammer Online has computer requirements that are too high for a large number of current WoW players to meet. They may WANT to go to WH, but they are stuck playing WoW.” I would agree with Kirk if he were talking about Age of Conan. However, my understanding is that WAR will actually have fairly reasonable system requirements. There will certainly be a % of players unable to migrate, but I don’t believe that the technical limitations will be so high that it will exclude the greater majority of the WoW community. I would also argue that PvPers as a demographic are more bleeding edge than the average WoW player. That’s just a theory, but I base it on the fact that for years the most competitive PvP games (largely in the FPS genre) have always had incredibly demanding system requirements. The unspoken doctrine is that the better your computer, the more competitive advantage you have against other players.
One other thing to consider is that a game based on PvP as it’s central core does not face the same types of issues as a PvE centric game like WoW. For a PvE game, the game content is the game. Run out of content, and you run out of game. As a result, you need to have long boring grinds to pace your community through the content. In a PvP centric game, the content is the conflict with the other players. As long as that conflict exists and there are players to fight and things to fight over, then the game never really ends. In other words, the people generate the content simply by virtue of competing against one another in a competition that has no end.
Now compare that vision of PvP to the one depicted by Blizzard with Lake Winterspring and I think you’ll see what I am so disappointed in it. From all I have read on the subject, WAR appears to be the PvP game I want to play. The game that makes PvP meaningful and long lasting. That doesn’t mean that it WILL be a good game, but if it is… well, that’s definitely going to be a big chip out of the MMO rock that is World of Warcraft.