WoW: Expanding the MMO market, or destroying it?

I think it’s entirely possible to come up with an MMO that will draw players from WoW. I bought WoW on release day and, except for one three-month break, have been a subscriber ever since. But if there were another MMO as good as WoW, I would cancel my WoW sub. I would love to see something new and different, as long as it’s easy and fun to play like WoW is.

The problem is that nobody is even coming close, despite the fact that WoW is approaching the two-year mark. Take a look at the games you cited in your original post: Matrix Online, DDO, Auto Assault, CoV. I played DDO. It sucked HARD. I didn’t play CoV, but I did play CoH. It was fun for a while but you hit a leveling wall early on, and the content gets very repetitive, and it’s just not worth playing. I didn’t play Matrix Online but everyone said it was pretty crappy. And the best illustration: I was slavering for Auto Assault – until I started seeing beta reports that it was just WoW with cars. If that game had been Interstate 76 Online, I would have jumped at it and never looked back.

I still follow developing MMOs with hope in my heart. I hope Conan is good. I hope Warhammer is good. I like WoW a lot and it’s been a tremendous value, but I would jump ship if someone else put out an MMO that was easy to get into and consistently fun to play.

I missed this on my first pass through the thread. And this is the single most important thing. Nothing else trumps it. WoW was extremely easy to play and understand. A simple game with depth and complexity if you were willing to explore it.

I tried PSU over the weekend. I realized that without a very easy and encouraging learning curve, that MMOs are going to continue to chase people away. If I don’t know how to play your game, you have to tell me, you have to help me, and you have to slowly introduce me to the components. That’s what allowed WoW to hook so many people.

If WoW had been as unfriendly as many of the other MMOs out there, I guarantee it would not have been as huge as it is.

No, it’s because every one of those brought already something to the genre and then proceeded to stare, waiting for others passing through. Dev studios come to the genre only to come out with the bones broken. It’s like they come out exhausted instead of willingly to do more and push the genre forward.

What they achieved shouldn’t be scorned, but I doubt they have something else to say. Those are the dinosaurs. Every company drew a parabola. They came in, got popular and then slowly died because neither of them was able to capitalize and move forward. Instead they sat and waited for replacement.

Think to all that SOE could have achieved with 10+ years of activity and expertise in the genre. What we got? EQ2.

This just to say that Vanguard competitor isn’t WoW, it’s EQ2. Warhammer competitor is DAoC. The competitor of the new Marvel game that Cryptic is now developing is CoX, and so on. They are just cannibalizing each other and, often, themselves.

New masks for the same faces.

The “market” is in the EXACT same state it was pre-WoW. Those new games will still rabidly compete over the same 300-400k players there were before.

When WoW with “more depth” comes along then I’ll possibly jump ship. I like WoW for what it’s very good at more than I dislike what it’s not so good at such as:
Persistent world to the extreme, questing might be fun and all, but nothing seems to change. The flooble I rescued 2 months ago will still need rescuing in 6 months time. I don’t feel a part of the WoW world, it doesn’t feel like, even at a local level, all this questing is achieving anything. I rolled another Night Elf recently and they’re still bashing Rabid bears in Auberdine etc etc.

Crafting is essentially pointless, apart from a few items there’s nothing you can make at pretty much any level, in any craft that isn’t better than what you’ll get next time you smack a rat.

Apart from questing/grinding there isn’t actually much else you can do in Warcraft. Outside the banks/Auction houses and flightpaths cities are basically dead because outside of quests and the odd repair there’s no reason to go there.

Address issues like those whilst somehow retaining what WoW is still incredibly good at and I’d sign up tomorrow.

I’m still surprised at how dismally Auto Assault has performed. The game looks nice, is something different, and has destructible environment. I didn’t expect it to be a big hit, but I thought that by sheer virtue of being something fresh it would do better than it has. If just a minute percentage of bored WoW players or ex-players would have tried it, it would have tripled its numbers easily.

This may speak to how narrow the MMO market really is. There’s medieval fantasy and not much else.

I’ll love Blizzard forever if WoW manages to cripple the MMO genre.

I was originally hopeful for Auto Assault, especially as it killed Jumpgate to get developed, but again I guess I was hoping for an MMO I76 and when it became clear that wasn’t what AA was aiming to be I lost interest in it.

WoW was also in development for what, five years? And reportedly cost in the neighborhood of 50 million dollars? And they couldn’t be pressured, swayed, or intimidated by a publisher eager to boost its upcoming earnings report. You push Blizzard, and Blizzard can afford to take its bouncy ball to another playground. Not only did they take a long time and spend a ton of money, but they did it at their own pace. The length of the beta testing phase was unprecedented, and the alpha phase had begun months before that. They had the luxury to flex their creative muscle and design skills, and – who’d have thunk – something very polished and popular came out of that. WoW isn’t just a significant market outlier, it was a significant production outlier as well. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Nope. There’s good and bad execution and production value.

If Blizzard made Worlds of Starcraft instead of WoW we would talk about how much bigger is the sci-fi genre compared to the fantasy one by now.

I think there is plenty of room, conceptually, for different types of MMOs, with different areas of focus–PvP, non-combat conflict resolution, crafting and commerce, etc.–but the trick is few players want to play games that aren’t polished, professional, and accessible. Making an MMO that is polished, professional, and accessible, as well as good looking, costs money, and few publishers/developers are going to throw the necessary money at a project with niche appeal.

I respect and appreciate what Blizzard has done with WoW; the reason I’m not playing it anymore, and haven’t for a year, is mostly due to WoW’s implementation of PvP. Pure PvE games bore me, and so does battleground/arena-type PvP. If WoW had PvP servers with no BGs, or BGs that were recreational only with no rewards, and all PvP rewards came from World PvP, I’d seriously consider returning.

I mean, at this point in my MMO playing (and I’ve been playing online stuff for a long time), if I’m not looking over my shoulder all the time while leveling, if I don’t have to fight off gankers to complete quests, if I’m not always having to be aware that the “other side” might kill me, I don’t want to play. Ok, I’ll accept a DAOC style PvP world where you have a vast PvP region with its own rewards system that compensates for the absence of PvE+PvP that I like the best (Warhammer Online perhaps) but really, I want PvP in the world, and pretty much never, ever in arenas, battlegrounds, or other “sporting event” style venues.

I am going to have to disagree again. I think the sci-fi genre will never be as popular as the fantasy genre. I do not think a sci-fi version would have faired as well and I also think it is easier to apply fantasy settings and functions to PC gameplay.

PLus, people simply enjoy magic and elves more than lasers and weird, other-wordly creations that are not pre-existing in our minds like most of the fantasy figures and ideas used in games.

So very true. I tried PSU as well and even though I played PSO back in the day on the Dreamcast, I spent about 25 minutes running around some sort of mall with no idea what the fuck I was supposed to do to get to the good stuff… I quit and decided I will never buy the game.

I tend to agree. Ranged combat, the essential element in SciFi combat, is a real bear for a traditional MMO. Even a non-traditional game like Planetside struggled to really catch the feel of SciFi combat, and I don’t think even that model would work well with all the RPG elements a “real” MMO has to tote along. Galaxies? Erm, ugh.

Though I’d love to see a true MMO SciFi game, where combat felt like you were playing out Star Wars or Traveller or something. I still think a classic Battletech/Mechwarrior MMORPG would be to die for. If done right :)

Blizzard is a force of nature at this point. They are beyond genre. Any kind of game they put out is going to sell tons of copies. They could do WoWW – World of the Wild West and it would sell.

I guess it’s hard to say medieval fantasy is the most popular, though. There just aren’t enough data points. Thus far, medieval fantasy has been the most popular, but we haven’t had too many efforts in other genres. I think medieval fantasy lends itself well to games where players identify with their avatars, so it may have some built-in advantages. Fantasy tends to be optimistic in tone and sci-fi tends towards pessimism, and that probably helps fantasy too. I think fantasy appeals more to women as well.

But… but… Starcraft outsold each individual Warcraft game. Millions of Koreans can’t be wrong!

Oh it absolutely isn’t. But this is what studios need to recognize: To have any chance of making big bucks, you first have to spend them. You can’t make a super-successful MMO on the cheap. You might be able to break even, or even make some light profit, but you won’t be printing moneyhats unless somehow you luck out big time. Or alternately, have a game design that is just so fantastic that people sit up and take notice. Which, while not impossible, is still unlikely without a huge investment to, you know, make it work.

Company of Heroes does ranged combat right and isn’t “twitch”.

Not if they’re North Koreans!

Could it do it in a 40v40 battleground like Alterac Valley? That’s one of the unanswered questions about twitch games as MMOs – can they be lag-free enough to be enjoyable? I recall that Huxley at the 2006 E3 was getting slammed a bit for lag. Planetside resorted to cones of fire to help with lag.

Yep. It’s not about the setting at all. Heck, I’d rather they had gone with World of Starcraft just so we could get some more sci fi stuff. :)