Fight, Surrender or StagnateOctober 16, 2008
My colleague Mr. Snafzg over at The Greenskin (where they perform ritual demon cleansings, or so I’ve heard) has commented on an interview with Paul Sams from Blizzard who says, among other things, that half of WoW players who listed WAR as a reason for leaving have returned.
Seriously, it’s about the biggest no-brainer that I’m sure you could’ve said the same thing last week and your friends would’ve shrugged. Gamers go where the action is, and MMO games tend to have deep roots in prior MMOs that don’t tend to let go so easy. If we’re being totally honest here, with all the WotLK publicity out there, sure, I’ve felt the pull to secretly resub to WoW and spend a month or two getting my toons up to 80. Like many of the other ex-WoW players out there, I have literally years of my gaming life invested in that title, and it’s not an easy thing to give up. Especially since you (a) tend to forget quickly just why you left in the first place and (b) your new home is a little rough around the edges, and not as comfortable as your old one. We like what’s familiar, we’re jumpy little people, and it doesn’t take much to sway us back and forth. So, yeah, duh.
Of course, even if you read beyond Sams’ cocky swagger there, there’s a world he isn’t telling you. No MMO company is 100% forthcoming with subscriber statistics, unless they can reveal part of them to you and put a good spin on it. When I quit WoW back in June, I didn’t fill out their little “crying peon” form with any accuracy; it was just click-click-click-unsubscribe. Or what about, as Snafzg said, gamers who are -gasp- playing both titles? And certainly don’t read Sams’ statement to say that “half of WAR players have left to go to WoW”, because that’s not even remotely true.
Listen, you or I have no idea what makes up the population of WAR these days. We can be certain it’s a mix: fans of MMOs, general gamers sucked into a MMO for the first time, Warhammer TT players, ex-WoW junkies, PvP fans, and so on. As I said before, right now we’re in a time where the box is being shaken and while there’s a layer at the top that’s flying every which way, the rest is settling down and getting on with the dirty business of conducting a virtual war. As much as September was Warhammer’s month, November will be Warcraft’s, and December will be everybody’s. Mythic has a lot of work cut out for them to really get WAR up to its best possible standards by the time Christmas hits and the next big wave comes in.
My gut tells me that we will hear a one million subscriber statement by Mythic by the year’s end, and that’ll be a great moment for players who base their longevity in a game on how many people are playing it. Mythic’s choice is either to fight to rise above “pretty darn great” to be awesome, surrender to the inevitable force of WoW, or to stagnate somewhere in the middle with 750K subs and ten thousand units sold to gold spammers. I’m betting they’re the fighting type, and that’s why my dollar sticks with this game.
I think it’s important to look beyond the sound bite of one quote to the rest of the interview, such as when Sams admits, “I think Warhammer is best positioned to succeed out of the various products that have come out thus far since World of Warcraft has come out. It seems to be a good game, certainly a great company, Mythic and Mark [Jacobs] over there and his team, they’re very, very talented.” Shouldn’t that have any play in this discussion?