Wild, Steamy, Unrestrained Speculation!April 11, 2008
Ever since WAR’s 131st delay, announced last month, WARiors have nervously fidgeted and twitched thinking about the new release window — and the potential battle royale between the heavyweight champ (World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Little Kitty, er Lich King) and the plucky upstart backed by a multi-billion dollar corporation with plans for complete world domination via the Madden franchise. The very real worry of WAR not getting a clean start, but instead potentially being crushed by WoW’s installed fan base before WAR gets a chance to make it on its own, is founded in this chain of logic and naughty, kinky speculation:
1. WAR’s new release window is the ever-vague “Fall 2008”. This could be September 1st, it could be December 20th, it could be in the year 2525. We don’t know. We don’t even have a guarantee that Mythic won’t delay the release yet again — although there are higher-than-ever doubts about yet another pushback.
2. Blizzard is hard at work on a second WoW expansion. They’ve been hard at work on this expansion since gas was a more manageable $1.98 a gallon. Although Blizz’s president stated that they wanted expansions post-TBC to pop out at one a year or so, nobody, including the guy’s wife, took him seriously. Mold has migrated across entire states faster than Blizzard develops and releases products.
3. The end of 2008 will spell almost two complete years since WoW’s last expansion, and many people figure that two years is enough time to get what constitutes a handful of new zones, dungeons and one class out the door. Meanwhile, the mold is creeping ever further down the road.
4. Ergo, if WAR has a vague “fall 2008” release, and Wrath of the Lich King has a misty “sometime later this year, maybe, perhaps, possibly” release, the assumption is that they’ll be going head-to-head on the same weekend and gamers will develop a nervous breakdown trying to choose between the two.
If you ask me, and since you’re reading this I assume you are, this whole chain of reasoning is as flaky as it is flimsy. Yes, it would’ve been great if WAR launched in Q2 and had a chance to really build up a huge following before Lich King attacked those numbers. Yes, it’s a slightly scary thought that the possibility exists that those titles might launch relatively close together. Yet it simply is speculation of the murkiest kind.
As with all predictions in the game industry, what we don’t know could swamp a landfill. We have absolutely no proof or promise that WAR will release in early or late fall 2008, or even fall at all. We don’t know whether WAR’s subscriber numbers will make any noticeable impact on WoW, or whether WoW’s expansion will keep would-be WAR gamers away from that title. There are so many variables to consider that my head just hurts thinking about it. What about the players, like myself, who plan to subscribe to both games? What about the people disillusioned with WoW who have already quit, decided to play WAR whenever it releases, and WoW’s expansion has absolutely no pull on them? What if WAR does go head to head with Lich King — and pulls off an upset of immense proportions?
Let’s keep in mind that in November of 2004, a lot of folks thought it was an absolute disaster for EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft to release in the same month. EQ had a built in subscriber base, they got the jump on WoW by a good few weeks, and nobody really foresaw the immense domination that WoW would soon exercise.
I think Mythic’s attitude of “Let’s create a great, fun, polished game and release it when it’s finished, and let the chips fall where they may” is absolutely correct. They shouldn’t be bullied by expectations or release schedules to push or pull their release date based on the same speculation we have. In any case, with the recent “breaking news” that Lich King has gone into alpha status — seriously? Only alpha so far? — I’d say it’s a safe bet that Lich King won’t even be ready for a fall 2008 release unless Blizzard is hiding some big cards. And who’s to say they’re not?
There’s a great Bible verse that speaks to this situation, for those WAR fans out there concerned about all this: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27) Speculation is all fun and games, but when you start twisting yourself up over what could be an entirely imaginary, hypothetical scenario… well, there’s that askew perspective again we’ve talked about. Que sera sera.