It seems to me that ever since the release of World of Warcraft back in 2004/05 it had almost immediate success; success that made the curing of small pox seem trivial. 99% of game houses out there have had one clear and common goal: be the WoW-killer.
I have two thoughts on this subject, the first is that there is only one game that can be the WoW-killer. Second is that being the WoW-killer shouldn’t be the goal, it shouldn’t even be a factor.
A little context.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have never been a fan of WoW. In fact, back at the launch I was quite an outspoken opponent to its very existence, but this was more to do with the way it made people blind to anything but the game rather than the game itself. I have attempted playing it on three separate occasions, each for about a week, but was unable to get gripped by the game.
So who is the WoW-killer?
From where I sit there is only one game that has any chance to be the WoW Killer; nay, there is one title that is undoubtedly 100% going to be responsible for the death of WoW. That title is World of Warcraft
I don’t think it is going to be any time soon, at its shortest time frame I would call five years, but more realistically its going to hit 2020 with ease. The reason why the game will kill itself is because WoW has hit a plateau where it is nigh on impossible for another title to knock it off. As such, all that is left is update after update, like so many games. The devs are going to try and keep things fresh, but as time goes by this gets harder and harder, and the innovations need to get bigger and bigger to keep the player base subscribing. Eventually, the balancing act fails.
It may sound a lot of doom and gloom but the truth is it is a long, long way off, and if Blizzard are smart, which they are, then they will already have a sequel or another franchise in place to take over at least part of the base by then.
That was the veg, now for the meat
Simply put, the future of MMO’s lies in ignoring WoW- pretending it was never made, pretending any clone of it was never made- and building a ground-upwards MMO based on new ideas, not recycled ones belonging to Blizzard (or whomever they are paying an homage to with the idea). Like a few before me, I am going to put my view on the line: the next huge success in the genre is going to be from an independent company, or a development crew with more balls than FIFA.
I don’t think this next huge thing needs to be particularly innovative either, if I were in charge my priority would be this: isolate among the first generation of games what it was that set the genre up in the first place. Those aspects of community, epic adventure and of course time expenditure, and use those in conjunction with the lore you have created to start building. Never at any point ask, “does this seem like what WoW would do?” In fact, I would have a standing rule that any mention of WoW would result in the offender having to buy his section of the team lunch that day.
Having casually known a couple of the Devs from 38 Studios, I had high hopes that Copernicus was headed down this route, they certainly had the talent to create a world without even thinking of WoW, unfortunately it is doubtful we will ever know.
And now… South Park…
At the height of my now-recognised bigotry against WoW, I created a radio drop/jingle for Online Gaming Radio (I believe I was part of the RaveCast crew at the time), taking on WoW. And here it is…
[jwplayer config=”Audio Only” mediaid=”321″]