FanboysApril 15, 2008
Last night as I was playing The MMO That Shall Not Be Named, I was catching up on some various podcasts and happened to be listening to an episode of WoW Radio’s Gnome SPEED Considered. In it, the podcasters were jawing back and forth about the current 2.4 patch and the upcoming WoW expansion — and as they were talking, they were doing some pretty strange things. Depending on the moment, they were either condemning Blizzard for the gear reset or praising them, growing bored with the content or excited about it, and (most hilarious to me) worried about WAR and dismissing WAR’s arrival on the MMO scene.
Now, I have no illusions that hardcore WoW players will stick with their game of choice, even if WAR happens to be truly excellent. Nobody expects WAR to topple Warcraft and replace it as king. WoW skews to the more generic, jack-of-all-trades MMO approach, and WAR leans to the more niche, with RvR in its pocket.
But to hear these guys talking, you’d think WAR, at worst, will be a very minor speed bump in the road to Blizzard’s worldwide domination. “The question isn’t whether people will leave to try Warhammer,” one guy was saying, “But how soon they’ll be crawling back to Warcraft.” They go on to belittle WAR as a PvP-only game that caters to the hardcore PKers out there, and that’s when I hit the stop button on the player.
This, to me, is blind arrogance, the hallmark of a die hard fanboy. I know you and I haven’t known each other long, but hopefully you’ve figured out that I’m not above trying different games, looking hard at flaws in games I do like, and trying to strive for a balanced view when it comes to these things. As much as I’ve played and genuinely liked WoW over the past four years, I have to say that to dismiss WAR as an upcoming credible, viable force in the MMO market is plain stupid. Last year, LOTRO came out and seized a serious chunk of players, many from the WoW folds — perhaps the most players joining up with a new AAA-title MMO since WoW itself released. And I’m pretty sure a lot of those players haven’t yet wanted to “crawl back” to Mother Warcraft’s teats.
It’s now a year later, and we’re closing in on a year and a half since the last WoW expansion. For all of the acclaim of their once-every-four-months patches, Blizzard is simply not releasing new content fast enough, and people are growing bored and restless. There’s a general malaise surrounding Lich King; yeah, a lot of people want to try it because it’s new content, but it’s not innovative, from what we can tell. With two hefty titles coming out in the next six months, WoW players have a choice between more of the same, or a brand new bite.
Make no mistake — even with an expansion, WoW will take a subscriber hit this year. There’s a decent chance Conan might be a sleeper hit, and a better chance that a fully polished and intensely fun Warhammer could do far better than anyone expects, even Mythic. What a lot of people are banking on is that this will be the year of the changing of the guard: one shall rise, one shall fall (in subscriber numbers).