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Age of Warhammer Craft?

May 23, 2008

This past Tuesday witnessed one of the most furious days in MMO history in quite a while. Age of Conan finally launched after a 4 1/2 year dev cycle, City of Heroes/Villains released their Book 12 update, and even Warhammer Online got into the mix with a fresh round of beta invites (rumored to be the biggest beta invite wave ever, and no, I was no included in those invites).

After what looked like a prelude to a disastrous launch, Funcom pulled off a major miracle patch, announced a stunning 700,000 units shipped (albeit not sold — yet), and was widely lauded for a smooth launch day. It further benefits from being the only AAA MMO title to be released with a comfy six-month buffer on either side, partially in thanks to WAR’s delay to fall 2008. It’s not hard to imagine crowds of bored, itchy gamers — many of whom might well be from WoW’s slow-as-molasses fold — jumping onto this game like the only life preserver in the middle of a desolate ocean of summer gaming. In any case, AoC has had an enviable launch that WAR fans might pray happens to our boy as well. It remains to be seen whether Conan will have legs past this summer, particularly when the Lich King-WAR duo hits the field, however.

Although it might be disheartening to WAR fans to see AoC (the “competition”) striding boldly ahead instead of falling flat on its face like many predicted, I think a different and much more positive point of view is called for here. AoC’s launch is the first real proof of the growing theory in MMO circles that not only is World of Warcraft vulnerable to serious competition, but also that the gaming audience in general is quite ripe for new blood to come reap this growing field. Not even LOTRO, which, in my opinion, had a much stronger IP than Conan, hit the starting gate with such a powerful surge. So what’s different between now and back in the yore days of 2007?

For one, World of Warcraft launched their Burning Crusade expansion only a couple months before LOTRO, whereas no expansion so far in 2008. For another, dev studios are finally getting it through their thick skulls that these titles need to be tested and polished within an inch of their life before release — thanks we owe in part to Vanguard. Finally, we appear to be on the cusp of a new step in MMO evolution, where studios are trying to push past standard MMO conventions to take risks and make the games more accessible to a wider market.

Translation? What has WAR players so concerned — AoC’s successful head start and the upcoming Lich King battle — might not be the dire issues we’ve made them out to be. If WAR is polished, is a genuinely fun title to play, and pushes out a smooth launch, there’s a huge demographic of unsatisfied gamers out there ready for plucking. And WoW’s once-terrifying stranglehold on the market is no longer relegating other titles to niche roles only, but is making room for other mega-MMOs to share the spotlight.

The MMO genre was previously predicted as hitting its peak — in terms of total subscribers — twice. The first prior to 2004, when analysts claimed that all new titles would be vying for subscription dollars from existing players in other MMOs, and the second following a year or two of WoW, when that title’s potential had not yet been reached, but there was still no proof that it was being the type of “gateway” MMO some wanted it to be. These are the same people who, again and again, claim that the fantasy MMO genre has been tapped out and gamers will refuse to jump on board of another sword-and-sorcery title.

Really, all bets are off. I’m now more excited than ever to see what happens come this fall.

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8 comments

  1. Great post. I agree that it’s a good thing for AoC to be successful, but I attribute most of that success to the timing of their launch. Could it stand up against WoW and WAR if launched simultaneously? Probably not, but then each title would see an overall decrease due to market share.

    I think the audience for these three games is actually a bit more defined than previously reported. WoW will hold onto the casual PvE market, AoC will capture the hardcore, guild vs. guild PvP market, and WAR will appeal to everyone in between. That’s a good place to be IMHO. 🙂


  2. “WoW will hold onto the casual PvE market, AoC will capture the hardcore, guild vs. guild PvP market, and WAR will appeal to everyone in between. That’s a good place to be IMHO.”

    So, WAR is the nice meaty center of an MMO sandwich? =D


  3. Snafzg i can’t agree with that, AoC pvp sux … only way i would play it it would be for PvE. I hope i can find a great RvR in WAR as they promise, coz i didn’t found it in AoC.


  4. I admit I haven’t played AoC but aren’t they trying to concentrate their PvP on guild vs. guild rather than realm vs. realm? Seems like a bit more free-for-all-ish to me… and they have those servers too! I doubt you’ll ever see something like that in WAR.


  5. Also, you lose XP in AoC PvP, which is something I doubt we’ll ever see in WAR. I didn’t mean to sound like I thought AoC would have the best PvP… just the most hardcore. I very much doubt the PvP in AoC will remotely appeal to majority of WAR fans.


  6. It’s weird — I’m a habitual MMO hopper (or sampler at least)… I almost always try out the new games, but AoC really and truly has nothing to peak my interest. Which is a shame, I could’ve used some new summer fun, but I guess I’ll find it elsewhere.


  7. If AoC launched any where near WAR, or even Wrath, I wouldn’t of bought it. But being as it’s AT LEAST a good four or five months before we see Warhammer Online, and I got nothing really else to play, I went for it.

    AoC is enjoyable, especially if you have a good computer and can run the game on high settings. Disappointed it won’t have DX10 until later this summer, but it’s still a beautiful game.

    But PvP in AoC isn’t that good, it’s very unbalanced, and it is in no way going to compete with WAR. Not even close.

    I also question AoC’s long-term playability. It’s fun for now, but as time goes on, I can quickly see content disappearing, and with lackluster PvP, so far, what will the end game consist of? It’s a good game, but I’m not sure it has a long life span unless Funcom releases some major content updates.

    But we’ll have to wait and see. It’s only been out a very short while, and so it’s possibly it’s end game PvP and raiding could be a lot more fun. Only time will tell.

    But when I get to play Warhammer, I’m going to be all over it, and only seeing what AoC looks like in DX10 will probably keep me in it, unless it has a great end game, which I question so far.

    It’s still a great game, and ranks higher in my book than pretty much any other MMO I’ve played, which about the only major one I haven’t is LotRO. Typically if I don’t get in at the start, I don’t get in, because they leave new users behind in many MMO’s so quickly.


  8. AoC is awful. If they can retain users anyone can. This should bode very well for WAR since it is actually an amazing game. (and yes, Im in beta)

    lots of people flocked to AoC from WoW for the hope of great PvP. If thats what you were looking for OMG cancel AoC and pre-order WAR NOW! You can queue for BGs from anywhere, the open warfare is awesome and has a real / impactful game world objectives with quest ties, regional rep, xp gains, etc etc. Everything you thought you were going to get at launch in AoC is done and polished in WAR. come get some!



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