Fear, Itself

June 28, 2008

If we were burdened with the homework assignment of listing the greatest fears of the Warhammer Online community right now, “another delay” would be tied with “not living up to expectations” and “getting the stuffing beat out of it by WoW”, but just behind “spiders and spider-related superheroes”.

It’s the big invisible elephant in the WAR room: what if WAR’s going to be delayed again? It’s not outside of the realm of possibility, after all. Mythic has made the call twice to postpone WAR for futher testing and polish, and EA has stuck by them both times. Mythic’s also been adamant that WAR doesn’t ship until it meets their expectations, first and foremost. “It won’t ship until it’s done,” they’ve said, “And done right.”

Delays cause considerable conflicting emotions to well up in the hearts of fans (note, that’s not fans of Heart, which are a great group of people you should get to know today). On one hand, we’ve witnessed enough lackluster and faulty launches in the MMO genre to choke a sea cow (yes! another manatee graphic!), and the thought of WAR stumbling and falling flat right out of the gate is a truly cringe-worthy image. On the other hand, fans aren’t noted for their long-lasting patience, and two delays have tested what little credit there is already.

There comes a point where a game must be launched, or must be canceled/indefinitely postponed, due to the costs of development. Right now, WAR is purely in the red for EA. Every day, every month they work on the game is an outflow of money without a single dollar coming back in. EA can afford to be patient — after all, they need a big MMO hit and not another screw-up — but it’s not infinite. Sooner or later, WAR has to get out the door to bring the books back to the black.

So imagine this scenario: August or September rolls around, we’ve been in guild beta and perhaps NDA-drop land, but open beta’s yet to begin. After taking a hard look at beta numbers and surveying the closed beta crowd, Mythic feels that they need to push it back again — to Q1 or Q2 2009 — in order to really make everything click. Open beta gets pushed back as well, to October/November/December.

What would happen? Well, I think this time around fans might have more ground to be justifiably upset. Devs at this point have verbally committed to the “Fall 2008” ship date so many times it’s just as much of a mantra as is “War is Everywhere”. Top that with sales of the Collector’s Edition, which fans have been paying for as early as April 2008, and you’re going to have more angry players demanding to see the game they’ve already shelled out the big bucks for. And don’t forget, another delay would possibly let Lich King slip in the door first and draw in scores of WAR-wannabes who might be fed up with the delay and starving for new content that they’d return to WoW. Top that all with the public perception that a thrice-delayed game must be extremely faulty at the core, and WAR could become the butt of a lot of jokes.

It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not worst-case scenario, but it’s getting there. And yes, you’d still have a strong contingent of fans who would back up Mythic’s call and wait it out until WAR’s release. But if WAR doesn’t ship this fall, there’s going to be hell to pay — and hell doesn’t pay very well.



  1. Scary stuff.

    I’m confident that EA-Mythic *know* they have to get it out before WoTLK. Releasing it after or alongside Blizzard’s blockbuster expansion would be retail suicide, even as much as i think Warhammer is going to do great sales wise. If Age of Conan can sell so many being as buggy and clunky as it is, I can confidently say that Warhammer can do better.

    I think the start of the guild beta is a good sign though. I see the guild beta lasting until late August, with the start of open beta being anywhere around late August/early September, and in so hitting a late September, or so, launch date.

  2. If this game is delayed, it will only be for a few months, I do not see this game not shipping entirely. The standard for MMO’s today does not allow for as short of a development time as has been on WAR (it took over 5 years for WoW to release and even more to become what it is today). People don’t realize you can’t get 10 million people quality with the initial sales it seem (or even the more realistic 2 million that are in NA). So, the latest date I seeing this game drop is January 2009 and while it might hurt intial sales to hold back on the release having a few less players whining at the open of the game might allow for actual improvemental development to occur the first month it is out (as there will be bugs). Though this all hinges on Open Beta as well, and hoping they do not limit where you can play and to what level is appropriate because breaking a game in beta is good, breaking a released game is bad (I’m looking at you AoC). And when it comes down to it I’d rather have a few months of “paid beta” than never see this game come out right now.

  3. I think another delay would be grounds to cancel the two collector’s editions I have on preodred and just say to hell with it. The sad thing is I already have five other people leaving WoW to form a WAR guild, and I think they’d be upset as well.

  4. There is always the option that they polish up teirs 1-3 and patch in the endgame stuff later like WoW.

    On a more positive note, it looks like the core systems of the game seem are built and just need testing.

  5. Late September launch I think is a bit optimistic. We’ve heard noting on the other two cities, not all the classes are fleshed out yet, and they are just now starting to test out side-game systems ( crafting ect.).

    Also, from what I can gather they’ve never tested the game as a whole yet, just sections.

    My best guess is you won’t see this game till late November.

  6. “There is nothing to fear, but fear itself” as your headline (almost) says

    This is just fears and doubts, and the release of the game needs to get closer, before we can see, if it’s going to be delayed again.

    Oh, btw is it a picture of you? 😀

  7. I agree, it’d be very tough. I think I’d be able to manage with a little Mines of Moria, but we’d definitely have to go to one blog post per day!!! And you know that would be a travesty (actually, expect that to happen this weekend cos I’m off to London in 3hours to meet with spinks tomorrow and be cultural!)

    I really think the longest it’d get pushed back is end of Nov, but I realise many think I’m optimistic.

  8. the money is not from the boxes. the money is in the subscriptions

  9. Heh, I’m nowhere near as photogenic. That’s Xander from Buffy (alongside of Buffy).

  10. I’m still sticking with my September/October launch optimism.

  11. I’d be sad. But the game isn’t vapourware, it will come out. They even run down what they’ve been testing each month in the newsletter. Also, although I pre-ordered my CE, they don’t take the money until it ships so I’m not really losing out.

    I remember also that WoW patched in the last class (hunter) just before they went live. So although there is a lot to do — and it must be crazy crunch time at Mythic over the next couple of months — I get the feeling that the core playable game is there.

    I don’t know about September but I don’t see a long wait on the cards.

  12. It seems to me that WAR is already more polished than many MMO’s that have come out in recent years. Maybe not as much so as WoW, but enough that I feel it would be successful even if released tomorrow. Sure we haven’t seen everything in the game, but that certainly doesn’t mean it hasn’t been developed. Add to that WAR has 2 guaranteed player-bases whether it releases at the same time as WotLK or after. The DaoC crowd and the Warhammer crowd. We might not be 100% happy, but I’d settle for a 75% complete Mythic game over any of the other crap MMO’s available to play right now.

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