Future Tense

October 11, 2008

Today, we received word from up on high (I only assume EA sits on top of Mt. Olympus) that Warhammer Online crossed into the 750,000+ subscriber territory. This is, of course, great news (it’s easily one of the biggest-selling MMOs in years, if you discount WoW’s expansion), but also a bit of a misguided statistic, since none of these subscribers are yet paying for the service. That got me thinking about the road to WAR’s subscribers in the next year, and what ups and downs it might experience depending on these factors:

  • End of the Free Month: This is a crucial junction for any recently-released MMO — will the customers who bought the box and tried the game out for a month consider it worthy of now paying a monthly subscription? For some, the answer will be “no”, and they’ll either go back to another MMO or leave the scene entirely. What companies bank on, and what Mythic is probably chewing a few fingernails over, is that a vast majority of their playerbase says “heck YEA!” and stays around.
  • Reviews: Print and online reviews have tremendous sway over consumers’ wallets, and how WAR continues to fare in this department is crucial. I wouldn’t worry too much, as WAR’s walked away with some pretty glowing reviews, and even the so-so ones range in the 80-percentile and admit that there’s a lot of promise in the game. As of the writing of this article, Gamerankings has WAR at 88%.
  • November’s Expansion Whammy: After two months of free reign as the new kid, Warhammer will have to relinquish that title to two new expansion packs: WoW’s Wrath of the Lich King and LOTRO’s Mines of Moria. Expansion packs always spike a game’s subscriber population, and as much as people wondered how many people would be siphoned from WoW to WAR, now they’re going to speculate on how many WAR gamers return to WoW (or, hey, play both).
  • Word of Mouth: MMOs are long-distance runners that sprint out of the gate, hope to pick up enough of a subscriber base to continue, but ultimately rely on players’ positive word of mouth to keep the game growing after the initial newness and publicity dies down.
  • Holiday Madness: It’s another potential spike for WAR, and although consumers will definitely be spending a lot less this December, Mythic should see a very nice bump from Christmas purchases. If the game’s not over a million subscribers at this point, I’ll wager this will put it over the top.
  • First Major Content Patch: Big content patches are always a reason to rejoice and for games journalists to go ga-ga over, and WAR’s first (and second) content patch will be of major interest to new players and players who are holding off (or leaving) to decide if this game will be worth their long-term while. Major bump points if the first or second content patch adds back in classes or capital cities.
  • Anticipated Future Titles: MMORPGs are notoriously fickle, at once seeming both completely faithful to their current MMO of choice, and willing to fly at the drop of a hat if something better comes along.  Or is slated to come along in the near future.  Or far future.  Or even if there’s speculation.  It’s entirely possible that a 2009 MMO (such as Champions Online) might seduce WAR players from the fold, or just the word that a certain MMO is in development (KOTOR?) is sometimes enough to send a MMO gamer into temporary hibernation.
  • News of the First Expansion: We know that Mythic has plans for the first WAR expansion and that the team right now for it is rather small — but it is in the works.  Expect a boost of excitement, publicity and apostates to return for another round of WAR hype madness!
  • Breaking the Pop Culture Barrier: This is a long shot, but not as unreasonable as it would’ve been back in 2005.  When a game breaches into the mainstream pop culture awareness, it has the potential to draw in entirely new, untapped crowds.  WoW did it with their Toyota/Celeb commercials, Age of Conan had an episode on a sitcom, even Second Life was on The Office.  Why not WAR?


  1. I think I’m done with WAR. I’ll keep an eye on future developments though. I just don’t find the main focus of the game sustainable with my small group of friends and my frequent solo play.

  2. Hmm, I’m thinking that WoW’s expansion could be the biggest factor because if it epically fails then it is probably going to do more bad to Blizzard’s subscription base then if they hadn’t released the expansion and a whole lot more good to Mythic’s. The again, if the expansion is really good Mythic could be in for a long fight, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be up to it.

  3. […] are many of these registered players only in WAR for the time being?Syp writes about this in his “Future Tense” post, and breaks down the factors that could make or break the title’s success in the long run, not […]

  4. FYI, EQ2 has an expansion coming up as well, so that’s 3 expansions between now and the end of the year.

  5. Here is the question…

    Where are the MMO’s that get away from the old sandbox endgame and introduce something innovative? You want to be the breaker of a lot of MMO’s? Get away from grinding reputations and dungeons over and over in the standard rinse and repeat role they are in now.

    I actually am not staying with WAA..I am actually waiting Mines of Moria for the simple fact that game is very casual, solo friendly and has an amazing story and exploration ability to it.

  6. Being a huge fan of the IP, before release I had been seeing WAR potentially as my new main MMO. While this is still true as far as PvP oriented play is concerned,I now think that it’s rather ordinary PvE content will make me go elsewhere. So yeah, I can see some longevity issues with this title for some people. As far as being worried for it’s long term viability though, well, I’m not really.

  7. I have been playing WoW since it started, that is more than 3 years now. Since last month I switched to WAR.
    I like part of the game very much, but other parts are exremely bad. Bet example is that totally crappy chat system. I have never felt so alone in an MMO.

    All I do in game is making quests solo and then “killing” other players in szenarios. The socialising in WAR is minimal, there is almost no chatting. But that is what I want in an MMO. WAR seems to be an MSO (massively singleplayer onlinegame).

    In WoW I went into the same dungeons 20 times to reach a goal – but as a group with a lot of chatting. in WAR I go into public quests and szenarios over and over to reach a goal – without communicating with anyone.

    And raiding a PVE content (with ppl you get to know) is more interesting than killing other players without any sense or planning the whole evening long.

    I am really not sure if I will pay for more than one month. The content and the social aspect are just to bad.

  8. We all have to wait… and see what the first patch will bring.

  9. The core requirements for an amazing game are definitely there, but the communication gap is certainly lacking. Its as if Mythic WANTS the players to be isolated from one another. Open Groups are not editable, so prospective members haven’t a clue what anyone else is doing, and are limited to a single zone. Ignoring the lesson provided by the huge success of in game coded voice chat, players are forced to attempt to type during real time PvP, remain silent, or attempt to gather a large group of strangers in an outside chat program. They don’t even have an official forum. If WAR wants to stay afloat, it has to increase communication avenues, as it is the relationships that people make in games that often keep them around, not just the coding.

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