Tobold has a post up today talking about the future of WoW and how sustainable it might be, a topic Brent over at Virgin Worlds also recently mentioned in his latest news podcast. The importance and influence WoW has on the MMO space is undeniably huge, so it’s only natural to try and predict its growth or ability to retain subscription numbers. Adding fuel to that fire is the fact that Blizzard has been very slow to roll out expansions, and that those expansions so far have been a little too much of ‘more of the same’.
Depending on how much weight you put into rumors, Blizzard is currently working on a Starcraft MMO, to be released in similar fashion to what we had with Warcraft 3 and WoW. StarCraft 2 is set to release ‘soon’, and following that up a year or so later with an MMO version makes a lot of sense. It is entirely possible that Asia might completely shut down for weeks/months due to the release of a StarCraft MMO, and making release day a national holiday would not be shocking. Not sure if you have heard, but StarCraft is like… kind of a big deal in Asia.
It’s long been thought that the only true competition for WoW would be whatever MMO Blizzard releases next, and so far that prediction has held true. Yes LoTRO had a nice launch and is doing well, and so far AoC seems to be off to a good start, but both are candles in the sun that is WoW. Warhammer Online is getting a lot of buzz, but even the most diehard fans would be hard pressed to think that WAR will seriously challenge WoW and go multimillion in subscriptions. It could, sure, but odds are rather slim. Which is not to say WAR won’t impact WoW, I truly think it will, especially drawing away the Arena PvP crowd that Blizzard has focused so much attention on lately, but WAR certainly won’t ‘kill’ WoW.
And I don’t think a StarCraft MMO will either, but it could have a huge impact. How many people would switch over to SC if it had the same polish and gameplay of WoW, just in a brand new setting, with all new graphics and content? Knowing this, is it a huge surprise that Bliz might be in ‘cash cow’ mode with WoW, just feeding people enough content to string them along until they come over to SC? Why would you drastically alter WoW, with the possibility that you drive more people away than you keep, when you know that you have the ‘next big thing’ coming out soon? Feed them ‘more of the same’, keep them content, and then bring them all back in with your new game, one that is built on a fresh graphics engine and takes all the lessons learn from WoW and implements them on day one, without the need to go back and tweak/nerf anything people are already comfortable with.
So with all that said, what exactly is my prediction for WoW? I think until the release of StarCraft Online, it will remain the dominant MMO. WotLK won’t set the world on fire, but it will bring hordes of people back in to check it out, play around for a few months, and perhaps move on again. It will still make a boatload of money, and right around the time WotLK begins to show its teeth to the majority of players, SC Online will be gearing up for release, ready to captures all those people who left, and also bring over a huge chunk of current WoW players. WoW will remain popular, but will no longer be the ‘it’ MMO, with that title going to SC. And like MMOs of the past, but on a much larger scale, WoW will remain up and running in ghost mode, being updated sparingly and retain a solid, ever slowly diminishing base for years to come.