Image via WikipediaWe’ve heard it all before, MMORPG “X” will be the “WoW killer.” Warhammer, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars (Galaxies) are just some of the big names that have failed to live up to this billing, which reminds us just how dominate Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has become.
However, as the game approaches its 5 year anniversary, we’re also reminded that nothing lasts forever.
So, exactly how long can Blizzard keep subscribers interested in the game?
To avoid falling into the trap of “predicting” WoW’s downfall, let me first say that the only company or game that will be able to bring about the demise of WoW will be Blizzard and the games they generate themselves.
But, due to their handling of the game, Blizzard must be prepared to lose a substantial chunk of their hardcore player base.
Since its original version, WoW has become a drastically different game. The original version, known as “Vanilla” by many, required large amounts of dedication by the player. Players, if they wished to excel at the game, had to literally devote a full work week amount of time into the game.
To those that could meet these demands, they were rewarded by a great sense of achievement.
It is hard to describe the feelings players get when they finally defeat a boss that they and 39 others have spent days and weeks on. Joy, relief, and elation all seem to work, but none of them completely embodies the exact sensation.
In fact, there is nothing exactly like it in the gaming world.
However, after two expansions (The Burning Crusade and Wrath of The Lich King), it has become clear that Blizzard’s focus has been flipped upside down to coddle the casuals, which in effect, has eliminated this sense of achievement from the game.
Players can now dedicate a fraction amount of the time that was required in Vanilla and still achieve the same or similar results in Wrath of The Lich King.
Sensing that the game has lost all of its challenge, hardcore players have become alienated and some even feel betrayed by Blizzard’s “nerfs” to the game’s overall difficulty. Many, in my personal experience, are ready to call it quits.
This problem is not helped by the fact that Blizzard seems deaf to the cries and complaints coming from this hardcore perspective.
The upcoming 3.2 patch further intends to eliminate the lines between casuals and hardcore by allowing anyone to virtually get whatever piece of equipment they please.
Whatever incentive raiders may have had, will be easily destroyed by this unfortunate change.
As a result, an exodus of WoW players to other games like Aion and Star Wars: The Old Republic is now a very real possibility.
These new titles in the MMORPG genre offer some potentially challenging and exciting alternatives.
Aion: The Tower of Eternity, with its high system requirements, is a beautiful looking title, and due to these circumstances it likely will appeal to the specific category of dedicated gamers, and it may offer the challenge that is now lacking in WoW.
In addition, the game, which has Koren origins, intends to implement a mixture of aerial and ground combat that has been unseen in the MMORPG genre.
In the broader scope though, the new Star Wars title has all the ingredients necessary to become as big of a hit as WoW. If you are haunted by the memories of Galaxies, forget them now.
The game, although it won’t be released for a while, already has a significant following. Just by looking at the development team, it is immediately understandable why.
It is being developed by BioWare and LucasArts. BioWare, of course, is responsible for Mass Effect, but most importantly it was responsible for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which demonstrates the company’s ability to successfully adapt the franchise into a gaming format.
Furthermore, the lore and history behind the Star Wars franchise is as rich as any in the world. The always interesting clash between the Jedi and Sith has become a staple in mainstream culture. And if it can results in millions at the box office, why not a game?
Of course this is under the assumption that the game will turn out well, but with BioWare involved it seems unlikely the game will be a disaster.
These titles won’t be out any time soon, so Blizzard has a chance to turn things around. Whatever they decide to do, they must remember they ultimately control the fate of their game and its relevancy in the time to come.