How WAR Can WinJune 13, 2008
Over the past year or so in the USA presidental election campaign, we’ve seen numerous articles written by so-called “experts” about how so-and-so can win such-and-such. They’re fun articles. Completely speculative, you understand. Almost stream of consciousness. And yet, people love reading them.
You’re people! And I’m a so-called “expert” in managing my quotation marks!
So instead of trying to predict what WAR’s subscription numbers will be in a year, or whether it will dent WoW’s dominance in the industry, or how it will be perceived by the public, I wanted to make a list of how WAR can ultimately put its best foot forward — that if WAR is going to win (“win” whatever), this is how it’s going to happen:
1. Warhammer Online will launch smoothly, giving the public a polished, highly playable game right from Day One.
This is pretty much common sense. No matter how good the game *might be* six months from now, it WILL be remembered for what kind of launch it had, and whether or not it grabbed the gaming public by the throat at the beginning or squandered an opportunity.
2. WAR devs will continue to be communicative, attentive and enthusiastic.
In a way, it’s easy to showcase excitement when a game has yet to come out — it’s all about hype on something we can’t fully see yet. However, after WAR launches, Mythic will be graded for whether or not its publicity machine keeps chugging happy juice for us, and whether its devs go into reclusive hiding from the millions of passionate — yet unbalanced — fanboys who demand answers why Fist of Justice has a 2% coefficient instead of a 2.5%.
3. WAR looks great and will continue to remain competitive in the graphics department for the next few years.
While we all wring our hands and fret about Age of Conan and Lich King, it’s easy to forget that WAR will be bumping heads with many, MANY more MMOs in the next few years, all of which will be looking for their own hefty slice of the subscriber pie. The first sign of an aging MMO is in its looks, and as shallow as that might seem, if Warhammer starts looking like “yesterday’s” MMO, players will jump ship to the better looking sister.
4. EA pulls out all the stops in promoting and publishing WAR.
EA needs a huge MMO hit the same way a hobo needs a drink. They’ve been less than stellar in the MMO market, and after investing so much money and time in Mythic’s baby, they absolutely need a hit. For their part, Mythic needs to make a great game — but past that, EA’s responsibility is to use its considerable muscle in pushing WAR into the face of every gamer, journalist and media outlet out there.
5. WAR generates a strong, vibrant and positive community.
Please note that last adjective: “Positive”. A game’s community says a lot to undecided purchasers — are they about to leap into a game where they’re paying a monthly fee to hang out with the virtual equivalent of juvie hall, or does the community seem supportive, encouraging and welcoming? What WAR’s community does between now and release will have a huge bearing on those undecideds.
6. WAR will grow exponentially through word-of-mouth.
Look at it this way: there will be two groups of subscribers to WAR. The first group are the ones who already know about it and will be there on Day One, Hour One. The second group doesn’t even know they’re going to play it yet — they’re the ones who will “discover” the game at a later point, mostly through positive word of mouth testimonies of friends and co-workers who play the game. If people like the game, they’ll encourage others to play it so they can enjoy the game together.
7. WAR impresses us with regular content updates.
MMOs that can do this, and do it well, are very respected by long-time gamers. Sure, all the content is shiny and new when we first start up the game, but no dev should ever underestimate how fast players can chew through content. We’re an insatiable beast, and regular meals are one of the best way to keep us from turning our slavering hunger on the devs themselves.
8. Classes, masteries and itemization will be balanced, not broken.
24 classes, 72 mastery paths and thousands of items are a heapload to manage and balance, especially in a PvP-heavy game. It’ll say a lot about WAR how fast the devs respond to obviously overpowered classes, skills or items — and how tactfully and diplomatically they nerf and buff when the need demands it.
9. It’s accessible to newbies.
New players hate feeling stupid trying to figure out a game, and MMOs are more complex than most genre titles. WAR needs to be tuned to a point where someone can jump in, be guided if need be, and figure out what’s what relatively quickly.
10. It’s just fun.
At the end of the day, you can ignore all the sparkly graphics, the billion feature list, the rabid hype and the fanboy ravings — what will matter most is simply how fun it is to play. We’ve seen pretty games that sucked, we’ve seen titles with a depth of features that utterly floundered, and we’ve witnessed countless disasters as game devs thrash about trying to find the sweet spot that will draw in the most subscribers. The bottom line is “fun”. If it is, people will play. Period.
What would you add to this list?