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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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?