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Taking Up The Fanboy Mantle

June 19, 2008

Big hubbaballoo this week over EA’s CEO John Riccitiello declaring plainly, that “I don’t think [WAR] will rival WoW”, with the follow-up of “But it is a strong game that will get our returns for us. We’re proud of it.” You’d think, after watching the blogosphere fallout, that this was a divine revelation sent by archangel Gabriel himself. I personally was of the “no DUH” reaction, but when major blogs call you out as one of “Warhammer’s most dedicated fans”, it’s easy to become bullied into taking up a fanboy mantle and defending the virtue of a game I haven’t yet played.

Or… not.

You see, I’m not the most dedicated Warhammer fan. I’m a fan, to be sure, but what I am is a dedicated MMO fan. I go where the action is sweetest, where the fun is waiting to be tapped, and where my personal playing style is best served. To be sure, I’m throwing in my chips with Warhammer, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t played and enjoyed other MMOs in the past, nor does it mean I’m on a personal vendetta to besmirch the games I’ve lost interest in. What will that accomplish?

“Blog visitor numbers,” my WordPress stat tracker tells me. Over this past week I’ve learned that if one says something even slightly controversial or extreme, it brings in the people along with rabid, foaming fanboys (on all sides). Nobody’s interested in sane, balanced viewpoints — what people want is a shiny crusader of all things WAR taking up the fight against big bad WoW. It makes a sick sort of sense: when you see someone voicing your viewpoint as the correct, infallible one, you tend to gravitate toward their side… whether they’re being reasonable or just mouthing off. It’s how news media works (and media in general), and blogs are no different.

So I can see Mr. Riccitiello’s brief statement as being fuel for the fire of both sides: the pro-WAR anti-WoW crowd, and the pro-WoW anti-WAR gang. The first group is going to say, “Ha! We enjoy being the underdog! And even if our game doesn’t topple WoW, we never meant to in the first place!” The second group responds with, “Just give it up — even the head of the game’s company says you don’t have a chance!” Hence, controversy; hence, lots of views and angry trolls.

Nearby, the third — and I daresay, biggest — group sits watching both sides. This is the pro-WAR pro-WoW (or at least ambivalent-to-WoW) people, the ones who aren’t exactly concerned with one game “winning” or “beating” the other in terms of subscriber numbers or the popular mind share. This is the group that wants a good game, period. Two good games? Why, even better! Then more players win!

You see, it’s all about the players, not the company. While I don’t think either Blizzard or Mythic are devil spawn, I also know they don’t care about me, personally. They’re companies. They do what they can to make a good profit. It’s like that romance/baseball movie Fever Pitch, where the Red Sox fans look at the team and mourn the fact that as much as they care about the team, the team doesn’t care about them (personally). So my view is, whatever benefits the players the most is a win-win situation.

Blizzard’s good people; nobody can accuse them of making crappy, slap-dash games, and while they will never be lauded for innovation or risk, they satisfy a lot of their customer base and provide a great service. Mythic is fine as well; they’re making a game that won’t be everything to everybody, but they’re willing to be a bit more selective and risky in order to make a specific group of people extremely happy. They both have virtues, they both have flaws, and they both want our gaming dollars. I’m taking mine to Mythic as long as they can keep me happy, as it should be.

Cutting past the WAR vs. WoW analysis of Riccitiello’s comment, I think we can take away what he means to say — which has been backed up by what Mythic’s been saying all along:

  1. Nobody, not even Mythic or Blizzard, expects WAR to topple WoW as the subscriber king of MMOs. By some freak of nature and a whole lot of word of mouth that it does happen, then goody gumdrops for Mythic.
  2. That said, EA and Mythic expects that WAR will do well, very well, in terms of reviews, critical opinion and (most importantly) subscriber numbers. I don’t know what they estimate, but 500,000 to 2 million is not a stupid number to guess at this piont.
  3. EA is proud of WAR and stands behind them fully. This statement wasn’t intended to cut the legs out from under Mythic before they got a chance to showcase their baby, but instead to offer them a bit of perception insurance — head off the people who view this upcoming release as a head-to-head battle between the two titles by saying, “No, it’s really not. And we’re not approaching it that way.”
  4. Warhammer Online will be its own beast and release on its own terms, without fear or intimidation on the part of fans (either side) or Blizzard. This, I think, is the most important point to realize. Mythic’s been saying it all along, and some have ignored this message because they want, really really badly, for there to be a major showdown so that some fanboys can crow that they were right. If it’s a great and polished game, WAR can release whenever it wants without being bullied, and it will succeed.

So, how’s that for being a fanboy? Did I disappoint?

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11 comments

  1. I support your view, but you know it will be totally ignored by gamers and other game writers, just so they can say “It didn’t kill WoW”, or “It’s winding up to be a WoW killer!”

    People just love negative press.


  2. “what people want is a shiny crusader of all things WAR taking up the fight against big bad WoW.”
    His name is Paul Barnett, and we love him.

    I’m glad you’re trying to class it up for the community.


  3. Great article! A lot of people come in with the concept: one game has to be better than the other, people will only play the best! WoW appeals to an extremely wide player base, it’s part of what made the game so wildly successful. WoW also released in an environment (very similar to the one now) where everyone’s looking for something new. It is possible that no single game will overtake WoW. Much more likely many, smaller, niche games that try to do “their thing” right will take little (moderate/sizeable) chunks out of WoW.


  4. Nice translation.

    That comment wasn’t meant for gamers, it was meant to show EA’s continued confidence in their acquisition of Mythic. 1st quarter sales bump, 2nd quarter subscriber revenue. 😀

    EA will have a good fiscal year.


  5. I try not to get too fangirl-y, and I know I have my moments. My friends try to keep it in check, especially my sister (the one who doesn’t write for Book of Grudges.. YET!)


  6. I’d take it as a compliment! It’s because you’re such a dedicated fan that you want to preach about the things you love but without making unrealistic expectations.

    In the case of John Riccitiello, it’s probably because his bonus depends on how well he can set expectations 😉 Reading between the lines, they’re pretty confident.


  7. Fanboi crowd is lame beyond belief.

    imho, WoW is the best MMO made so far. I hope WAR will be even better.


  8. I don’t mind a fanboi if he can support his arguments, but one that firmly opposes reasoned thought without any evidence is someone I usually skim right by.

    I usually try approaching an idea with an objective viewpoint, presenting, or at least examining, both parts of the argument. It’s really easy to represent only one side and make outlandish remarks to drive blogging traffic, but it’s not something I’m interested in doing.

    And you’re totally right about balanced arguments drawing less fanfare. Fox news would only be half as popular as it is if there weren’t so many people paying attention to it just for the sake of picking it apart.


  9. Ya they are separate beasts as you said (WAR = Great RVR, WOW = Great PVE). And I think the only way that WAR will surpass WoW is if Mythic suddenly converts the PVE faithful over to RVR (which I wouldn’t put it past them). 🙂


  10. WAR will be a better game if it doesn’t “topple” WoW. WoW’s popularity (or should I say population?)is one if its major liabilities. Simply put, WAR with 600k players will be more fun than WAR with 10M players.


  11. what we REALLY need, is a WoW vs WAR Zone, where you can PvP against players of the other game.



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