Guess what this post is about? (hint: tourists)

A day after unsuccessfully going with “Without WoW WAR would not have sold 300,000 copies” and claiming that WoW tourists are actually good for the industry, Tobold today decides to go the “WoW is just that much better” route to justify WoW tourists. What form of denial will day three bring?

The very idea that WoW is so many times better than a game like LotRO or WAR, and hence the reason it has 11 million subs is of course laughable. All three games are good at what they do, and all three have glaring weaknesses when compared to each other. How does WoW’s use of lore to aid the story stack up to LotRO? How does LotROs PvP stack up to WAR? How does WARs questing stack up to WoW? If great DX10 graphics are important to you, clearly you have one choice out of the three. If you only want to solo and have a toaster for a computer, you have a clear choice, as you do if you value PvP over PvE, or are just someone who is particularly attracted to one of the three IPs above.

The point is, WoW is not in a class of it’s own in the MMO genre in terms of design, execution, or features, just like the Big Mac is not in a class of its own when compared to the Whooper or Wendy’s Classic. The only thing separating WoW from the rest of the MMO genre is that the game has 11 million subs, and everyone else has 500k or less. WoW has a lot going for it, and at its base is a very fun game, but so are LotRO and WAR. The major AAA titles all offer something unique in the space, and they all have their issues along with their strengths. Their also rather similar in many regards; they are all themepark games, are all relatively ‘easy’, they are all fantasy, etc etc. Unless you truly believe Blizzard found the magic formula of design, and their strengths are above and beyond important, with their weaknesses being all non-factors (despite some of those weaknesses being used as factors for other games as well, ie class balance), something just does not add up if we try to compare the games on gameplay alone and try to justify sales/subscription numbers that way.

So when you read about 700k people leaving WAR after the first month, it’s a bit foolish to think they all left because WAR was that bad, and WoW was that good. If WAR was flawless at launch, someone who wants to only PvE would still have found WoW to be a better game. Even flawless, someone looking for better graphics would still not be impressed with WAR. And even flawless, someone with a toaster would still not find WAR acceptable. If you are allergic to other players affecting your online experience, WAR could have launched without a single flaw and still turned you off.

In a normal market, all of the above is par for the course, people don’t always know exactly what they are buying (unless you are someone who believes the masses are overall intelligent, which I would then suggest you look at how many people still believe Obama is a Muslim, or that Sarah Palin is just misquoted by the media). The WoW tourist problem comes into effect because of said 11 million players. When 5% of the WoW population decides to try WAR because they think it’s going to be like WoW but better, you get problems. WAR is not like WoW but better, it’s like WAR. It’s RvR focused, has the engine to support that, and makes PvE sacrifices to keep the RvR solid, all acceptable trade-offs for the audience the game is aiming for. If you want a more refined history of that kind of development, look at how EVE Online is balanced and designed.

The WoW tourist population also brings other problems. For most of them, WoW was their first (and likely only serious) MMO. We all know the first love syndrome with an MMO and how it affects our judgment of other games, but for those who have played enough MMOs to understand the genre, we have had time to get over that and for the most part can look at each game on its own merits, rather than how it compares to our first. Related to that, most WoW tourists did not even play WoW at launch, but jumped on at a later (and more refined) time. Now you add in the first love aspect to the expectation that all MMOs look like WoW did to them for the first time in 2005-2008. No matter what new MMO game launches, it’s not going to meet those expectations, and hence will suffer the WoW tourist effect. The year being 2009 and not 2004 does not change the fact that MMOs are complicated pieces of software, relying in large part to the great unknown of how players will interact with them. Until the day a flawless MMO launches and perfectly predicts player behavior and trends day 1, using the tired line of “they launched too early” for every new MMO makes you look foolish (which is not to say some MMOs DID launch too early, but that’s an entirely different topic). Perhaps when Blizzard launches their next MMO and has all the similar launch issues all other MMOs (including their own) had, we can finally stop beating that dead horse.

And don’t be surprised when that next MMO from Blizzard fails to attract 11 million players, even though it will likely be a ‘better’ game. Perhaps then we can finally stop using 11 million as the size of the MMO genre, and realize WoW (along with being a good game) was a product of market timing and luck. Until then though, we can continue the debate while dealing with the tourists.

62 Responses to Guess what this post is about? (hint: tourists)

  1. Anonymous says:

    “…look at how many people still believe Obama is a Muslim, or that Sarah Palin is just misquoted by the media”

    …like young hip kids thinking they are promoting individual freedom by voting Democrat, yet not even understanding with every regulation comes the removal of more liberty, thus removing more and more individual freedom.

    Sorry, but there’s always another side to each coin, and religious-right zealots are no more nim-witted than extreme leftist who can’t understand that tolerance =/= acceptance.

  2. Ralex says:

    WoW has obviously enlarged the pool of people who will try a new MMO, and that brings both positives (the market’s much bigger) and negatives (demand for your game can shift wildly) to a new game. I think publishers/developers need to learn from what happened in WAR and try and reduce the negatives.

    What Adventurine is doing in drastically limiting initial subscriptions to DF is one strategy. It certainly limits the “boom” part of the “boom and bust” scenario. If their strategy proves successful in building a lasting, growing game, I’d look for others to try the same thing.

    If it doesn’t, developers will try something else.

  3. Centuri says:

    “It’s RvR focused, has the engine to support that, and makes PvE sacrifices to keep the RvR solid…”

    That sounds like a fun game. I wish Warhammer Online were like that.

    I suppose if you ignore the entire Ward system, which forces players into PvE to get gear to RvR, and stick your fingers in your ears and hum along, so as to not notice all of the RvE Keep and BO flipping that was going on.

  4. pitrelli says:

    ‘The year being 2009 and not 2004 does not change the fact that MMOs are complicated pieces of software, relying on part to the great unknown on how players interact with them’ ………… Hmm isn’t that what Betas are for? In the case of WAR it seemed Beta meant nothing as I didn’t see any change of note implemented when it went live infact if anything it seemed they released an earlier version with more bugs. I would also hope having made previous MMOs they would collect data and possibly learn from past mistakes from both them and the competition or is that asking too much? Ok WAR wasn’t as bad as your Vanguard or AoC but I still felt I was being asked to pay to beta test for them

  5. syncaine says:

    @Centuri: Did you experience that this week, or the first month? Because you can get plenty of ward gear in RvR (and you don’t really need it for 95% of RvR), and Domination mostly fixed RvE.

    @Ralex: What Aventurine is doing with the DF release they can do because they are an indie dev without marketing. For a game like WAR, limiting your release to a few copies each day is simply not an option due to factors outside of design.

    @Pitrelli: That beta where everyone was in oRvR, and then come release all shifted to grind scenarios because the focus was no longer on having fun but on reaching max level? What during beta would have lead Mythic to believe people would skip the fun parts and do whatever it took to reach rank 40 asap?

  6. pitrelli says:

    To be honest I struggled to find any ‘fun parts’ after release

  7. Centuri says:

    My account just lapsed this week. 1.2 was a huge step in the right direction. I plan to be back this summer for the new zone.

    The guild alliance chat that I was in was always filled with people looking to run PvE instances for Ward gear to be able to do fortresses and eventually city sieges. That always seemed kind of backwards to me.

  8. Shamus says:

    Saying WoW is better than other MMOs doesn’t mean that because it has 30x the number of subscribers it is 30x better. It only has to be a very little bit better for it to be the most obvious choice.

    It may be that WoW is the VHS of MMOs, but I don’t think so. And I agree with Tobold that WoW is better.

    Not for any functional considerations (quests, story, pvp, pve, whatever) but for all the non-functional considerations. Mostly that for whatever reason WoW feels more immersive. Whereas other games the character avatars don’t seem to blend in with their surroundings and the animations don’t respond as seemlessly. The telling point for me here is that it feels like my characters are ‘sliding’ when moving around. The speed they move doesn’t seem to match the character animation. Wow doesn’t give me this feeling. It was one of the first things I noticed when I started playing it.

  9. PTD says:

    So what is the answer? People who play WoW do it because they are stupid?

    Even people like me, playing MMOs since UO, and having played AC, DAoC, and SWG all before WoW are just dumb? Guess what, I tried WAR, and it was fun for about 2 days. Then I found myself in empty PvE zones, hoping to be able to run the same scenario for the fifth time in a row, and realizing that there just wasn’t much THERE. PQs are awesome, if there are other people to run them with, but pointless and irritating if you are largely alone.

    The fact is, WoW is a better overall game. 11 times better? No, and nobody is saying that, but it is better. It’s more polished, and there is literally a TON of stuff to do. I got bored with WAR within a couple of days, and it’s not because I’m stupid or “less a gamer” in some way, it’s because the PvE was half-assed, and the only other choice to level to the supposed “good stuff” was doing the same scenarios over and over and over and over and over and over….

    Hell, are you even playing WAR anymore? Or are you now a WAR tourist in Darkfall?

  10. PTD says:

    @Shamus

    You hit the nail on the head about one of the key factors in WoW. Everything just plain works together. It doesn’t feel like different pieces are interacting, it feels like one big world.

  11. Argon says:

    “How does LotROs PvP stack up to WAR?”

    I really liked LotRO’s PvP! Certainly more than WAR’s. I spent more time doing PvP in LotRO than in WAR.

    Perhaps that is an unpopular opinion, but that only means that I am not one of the brainwashed masses, by your logic. ;)

  12. Einherjer says:

    With all the shit being thrown back and forth between those who think WoW is in fact the second coming of jesus and those who just want the WoW turists to stick to their game instead of bashing any other game they try on the webz, the most stupid argument is the one of every game having to compare to WoW as it is now instead of what it was at launch.

    These are also the ones that complain on how long it takes Blizzard to introduce new content or the time it takes to release an expansion…

    Here’s the news: THAT IS THE REASON OF THE POLISH YOU DUMBFUCKS!

    Blizzard is able to spend a insanely huge amount of time in Q&A. Pre-WoW launch they were milking the Warcraft/Starcraft cash-cows and that allowed them to fine tune their game. And they did it very well. It was a great release but still had lots of issues in the first months.

    Now they basically don’t give a shit and if Vivendi doesn’t like it to bad. They have all the time in the world. But now they cannot afford not to have flawless releases.

    In Mythic defense, WAR launch smells more of executive decision by EA than anyother thing, for now it would be the perfect time to launch the game. It would be more stable, many players WoW players are bored to death due to easy mode epic shower and others are trying to run Naxx naked or holding lolly pops or whatever. That would’ve been smart, but EA had to show something for the quarter, hence the rush.

    Blame on the anonymous “shareholders” who regardless of the business, only want to collect the profit and sell the stock. Short term gains also fucks up games instead of “just” the, erm, world economy…

  13. Herc says:

    WAR Tourist!

    Rather than going back and forth that:

    Wow players are dumb/zombies/no fucking clue what to play and WAR and DF players are hardcore jerks, who are the only ones not blinded by WOWs shinies we tend to forgot that there are actually players in between these 2 extremist …

    Here’s my opinion

    Before the theme park MMOs, I’m guessing that MMORPGS back then were expected to be a time sink, grind, only for elitists/hardcore and no nubs allowed!(this is only a generalization)

    Then came WOW and the rest is history.

    From the 11 million subscribers from WOW how many do you guys think will make it if they played the old school style?

    A good amount of players play WOW because of their friends and doesn’t have the fortitude to get in on another MMO.

    There’s also the players who just don’t have enough time to spend on video games like they used to. So when they try out a new MMO(WAR for example) and it has been reportedly shipped full of bugs … what do you think he will do?

    and then there’s players whose playstyle only fits WOW atm … sounds crazy but can you really blame them for their own playstyle?

    I’ve played alot of shooters online and I can’t help but compare most games I play to CS or COD4 when playings other shooters … does that make me a COD4 tourist?

    I think that just makes me want the small details and “polish” to be carried over the next game I play … if not then I can always go back to playing COD4.

  14. Einherjer says:

    @PTD

    Nobody says people are stupid for preferring WoW. That’s just personal taste.

    People look stupid, however, when they try games that are different than WoW, have different goals than WoW, have different gameplay than WoW, a different mindset than WoW and they say it’s crap because… well, basically it’s not WoW.

    Also let me tell you, I fully agree that Mythic should’ve optimized their graphic engine further because if you have a toaster the game will be less-responsive, choppy and so on. That shows specially in a game where iron looks like real iron instead of cartoon iron, flesh looks like flesh, dirt, like dirt and so on.

    Even in gameplay, unless you raid, you think that the choppiness in Ironforge, Stormwind, AV is only due to lag. It’s not just that. Most systems start limping when 20+ cartoons are on screen. Translate that to a game where the best part of it is spend in situations where you have 80+ characters on screen.

  15. syncaine says:

    @Shamus: Better for who? For the solo PvE player with 30 minute chunks of time? Sure, I agree. Better for someone who likes large-scale PvP, not so much. Better for someone really into the lore of a game and the setting? Unless you think space goats and Horde Paladins fit, again not so much. Whether you think it’s slightly better overall (whatever that is) or not, does not explain it having 11 million accounts vs 500k for the rest of the genre.

    @Herc: Your generalization of pre-WoW MMOs is terribly off. UO for example was far less of a grind than WoW, among countless other differences. WoW in 2004 was not as giant a step forward for MMOs as people like to think it was. Was it fun, sure, but it’s not like WoW launched and everything before it instantly became ancient. The refined WoW you are playing now was not the WoW that launched in 2004.

  16. PTD says:

    @Einherjer

    Just for reference, I don’t play on a toaster. :) I can run anything out right now, other than Crysis in full blown, system killing mode. :)

    As far as WAR, I don’t think it’s failures, and they ARE failures, really have anything to do with the graphics engine and performance.

    WAR depends far, FAR too much on the actions of the PLAYERS to make it successful and fun. PQs, for instance, are amazing, but only if there are people out there running them and you get to actually see the different phases. Though I didn’t see it, I would have LOVED some Open world RvR, and not boring old “zerg and die” scenarios, but to get to where people are actually DOING open world RvR, I have to grind empty PvE content and/or the same scenarios over and over and over and over and over and over…ad infinitum.

    Sadly, Mythic can’t force players into Open World RvR or PQs. When you get down to it, players just want to get to max level as fast as they can, and if that means grinding Scenarios, so be it. It’s kind of like back in my AC days, when people would sit in the same Tusker or Olthoi dungeons day and night. I’m sure it got hellishly boring, but you got a lot of exp!

  17. Shamus says:

    @syncaine

    My point has nothing to do with lore, casual vs. hardcore, pve vs. pvp. My point is about technical implementation. This is where I consider WoW to be better than the other MMOs on the market.

    It is the combination of user interface, graphical content, character animations and, most importantly, how these interact in a responsive and intuitive nature.

    I start with DAOC. I moved onto WoW at launch. Since playing WoW I’ve tried Guild Wars (twice), EVE, LOTRO and most recently WAR. The latter of which I am still playing, alongside WoW.

    Somehow WoW is the only one where the avatar I control truly feels part of its surroundings and responds to my commands fluidly and moves through its surroundings sensibly. The first thing I noticed when I logged into WAR was that it seemed that my character was sliding along the ground when I moved with no correlation to the animation of movement of the character. This was nothing to do with lag or the quality of my PC as I have top notch products and a decent cable connection. LOTRO was better but still jarred on occasion.

    Having played WAR more I noticed this issue less, but it is still there. More importantly for WAR is that the character animations and spell casts just don’t match up. It jars. This is especially bad for melee characters. I’ve been trying a Witch Hunter and compared to by feral cat druid it is abysmal. The feedback from ability uses is very poor and completely out of time with those abilities actually being used.

    I’ve also noticed that the lighting on characters is different to their surrounding in WAR. It is as if the character is rendered using a different engine to the game world and then the two interposed together. Whereas in WoW it all looks the same.

    This is what I mean when I say WoW is better. If WAR had been implemented using the WoW engine I suspect it would have many more subscribers than it does currently.

    (except of course I’m not convinced the WoW engine can cope with pvp zergs)

  18. syncaine says:

    @Shamus: I agree with some of that. In the years since WoW’s release, the response for abilities has improved, as have the animations. I guess the difference is I just view WAR as being different in it’s animation style, rather than being lower quality or less immersive. The spell lag is a known issue with Mythic, and does need to be fixed, but I would not consider it a make or break issue. This is why the subject is interesting though, I found LotRO to be SUPER jarring in its animations, almost game-breaking for me (and I really liked LotRO overall)

    But my point was that how big of a factor is the tech stuff to a PvP fan deciding between WoW or WAR? Is someone going to pick WoW battlegrounds over WAR scenarios because the character lighting fits better, or because the WAR engine is built for PvP rather than the WoW engine being designed around PvE questing?

    And, what sacrifices in all of the above did Mythic have to make to design an engine to handle 500 players in one area? Could they have gotten the lighting correct if they did not have to consider oRvR implications? How much better could they have made the PvE aspect if they did not have to balance the game around RvR?

  19. Loire says:

    @Shamus:

    I honestly cannot tell what you’re talking about with characters “sliding” and your point that the skills in WAR don’t seem to match up, well I can see how you may see that but it also sounds like your top of the line system isn’t so top of the line.

    Understandably you like WoW. I’m not going to bash you for that, it is your choice. But when you compare WoW graphics and animation to any other game you have to realize that WoW took the path of least resistance. When design a games visuals you have two choices; you can go for the ultra realistic (at the time) and toe the uncanny valley or you can take the ultra cartoony (and piss off us graphic elitists).

    Cartoony looks “better” to some because
    a) Everything matches, from character design to architecture to mount movement to skills and attacks, everything is bright and shiny and colorful.
    b) The player has to suspend his disbelief automaticly to except a cartoon world and as such has a much easier time believing anything else that world present.

    With the realistic game designs such as say, WoW or SWG (at the time) The flaws character design verse say background design and animation is the difference between the detail given to the ground effects and the detail given to the characters. The uncanny valley (where the user rejects an ultra realistic face for its very simple flaws) also takes hold.

    After playing WoW I can politely disagree with you that everything just “flows” in wow. The characters, including mounts, move in unbeilavable fashion, the body shapes (huge shoulders and upper bodies for every male!) just dont sit well with me. The artificial looking neon colors all over the place just don’t seem right in a fantasy setting.

    Its all about personal taste and how much you can disbelieve. Im sure if WoW actually concentrated on their PVP as much as the PVE I, and many others would love the game, but it doesn’t, the game takes the easy route and supplies endless polished pve goodness to the masses. This isn’t a bad thing, there needs to be a great PVE game in the market. But don’t lay your “WoW” is ~the best~ on us who don’t enjoy the mindless (read: NOT STUPID. 11 million people and there are going to be intelligent players. Just Mindless.) fun of WoW. We like our competition unpredictable and human.

  20. Yeebo says:

    @Einjerer

    “People look stupid, however, when they try games that are different than WoW, have different goals than WoW, have different gameplay than WoW, a different mindset than WoW and they say it’s crap because… well, basically it’s not WoW.”

    I agree 100%. Well done sir.

    The idea that one game is inherently “better” than another is also a bit specious. You can certainly pick an arbitrary criterion (e.g., lack of CTD, total box sales, current subs, number of crafting recipes, number of helmet models, abundance of shrews) and rank MMOs according to it. However, any sane set of criteria for ranking MMOs will put high value on how “fun” an MMO is.

    Since what constitutes “fun” is completely subjective, it follows that no MMO can really be said to be “better” than another in an objective sense. More profitable, more popular, more stable, more innovative, more complex, more graphically detailed, more group focused, more solo friendly, more novice friendly, more critically acclaimed …any number of things sure. But “better”…no. No MMO is “better” than another for everyone.

    We all like different things, and to argue that popularity “proves” than something is better than something less popular is assinine. Blue is probably the overall most popular color for clothing in the US. Does that prove blue is “better” than other colors? Don’t be stupid.

    The only thing the popularity of WoW proves is that it’s more popular.

  21. Graktar says:

    Though I hate to post without contributing much, I just have to say this is your first post this week that I’ve actually agreed with Syncaine :p

    Also, I’d like to add I’m getting really tired of people touting WoW’s “polish” as if they had a flawless launch, flawless patches, and flawless expansions. The WoW launch was terrible. Who here remembers the loot bug, server crashes, zone crashes, long queues, stuck animations, and all the rest? *raises hand* Each patch blizzard puts out fixes some things and breaks others. Somehow that’s excusable for WoW because “they can’t possibly catch everything on the limited environment of the test server”, but everyone else is supposed to come out of beta flawless? *boggle*

    WoW is not the ‘best’ MMO on the market, it’s merely the most accessible. Accessibility means greater appeal to non-core gamers and even non-gamers, which is where WoW has gotten their huge numbers from. Well, that and the Chinese, a market most of their competitors aren’t even in yet.

    Popularity does not equal quality.

  22. [...] Down on the Herd Today Syncaine makes fun of Tobold for saying that WoW is #1 with a bullet because it’s the best game on the [...]

  23. syncaine says:

    @Graktar: Dude you disagreed with my DarkFall adventures? F U Carebear! :)

    And stop spreading lies, no player has ever fallen through the world in WoW, ESPECIALLY not when AQ launched and 50% of all players online got dropped into the same endless void, including hilarious corpse stacking pictures. No, that never happened, it can’t possibly sneak by the Blizzard polish. The whole AQ gate opening event was flawless, the engine handled everyone in one zone without a hitch!

  24. Tobold says:

    Why unsuccessfully? I totally stand to my statement that in a parallel universe without WoW, WAR wouldn’t have had 300,000 subscribers, because the total size of the MMORPG market would be much smaller in that universe. WAR is *not* as suited as introduction into the genre, even you should be able to admit that. You, besides calling me names, haven’t brought forward a single argument against WoW having grown the total MMORPG market to a point where even WAR ends up with 300k subscribers. Which, by the way, I’m sure it doesn’t have any more, it’s probably down to below 200k by now.

  25. syncaine says:

    Tobold, how did DAoC have 300k then, pre-WoW and at a time with far less internet access? And are you trying to say your statement of 300k boxes is actually reasonable? Do you honestly believe that?

    Not only did I not call you names (nice try though), I have given you plenty of arguments why WoW has done more harm then good to MMO games since it’s launch, you just seemingly ignore them. Plenty of other commentators on both our blogs seem to understand the statements, and have commented accordingly.

  26. Shamus says:

    @Loire I agree that there is a certain element of Uncanny Valley going on. Certainly friends who also play WAR on almost identical PCs don’t see the “sliding” that I do. But I do see it, and I have to assume I’m not somehow special so other people must see it too.

    My argument isn’t one of taste. Whether the upper body is overdeveloped or what the colour scheme is. My argument is one of mechanics. When my character takes a step forward I want it to the animation of that to look right and for the distance travelled as seen according to the world around him to match up to a sensible stride pattern. From my perspective (subjectively) WAR (and LOTRO though I didn’t play that for more than a week) doesn’t do that. So it looks like the character moves further than the stride should allow for. Hence the “slide”.

    The ability interactiveness of WAR (or rather lack thereof) is something those I know playing it have agreed on, and as another commenter points out Mythic have it down as something needing addressing already so that’s all good.

    You seem to think I’m dissing WAR. I actually like it. I think the ability system is better than WoW and the PvP knocks the pants off WoW’s crap and pointless PvP.

    There is no ‘best’ game. You can even argue over which game is ‘best’ for a specific aspect (e.g. PVE/PVP).

    My aspect I’m arguing on is the general ‘feel’. How easy and comfortable the game is to play regardless of what you are actually doing in the game (chatting, questing, pwning noobs (woot!) or killing raid bosses). And my conjecture is that WoW is the best at this, possibly for all the ‘short-cut’ reasons mentioned. And my conjecture is that this is how it holds on to more of the people who try it, where other games lose so many tourists.

    @syncaine Your point about the sacrifices potentially made to support large scale battles is well made. There’s a good chance you’re right. Of course the trouble is that that is all end game and in the meantime they’ve lost all the tourists. And I reckon a lot of that will be for the reason I suggest above.

    @Loire Given the amount of theorycrafting that some people (see Elitist Jerks) go into to optimise their characters, and the elaborate tactics needed for many of the end game raid bosses (see Vashj and Kael’thas) I’m not sure where the ‘mindless’ comment comes from. I’d be interested in what way you think WAR, for example, might be less mindless. My experience currently (at CR20 RR20, and from a friend CR40 RR50) is that of following the zerg and spamming group heal. Other than that and the obvious tanks at the front healers at the rear I’ve seen little sign of thoughtful play. Doesn’t stop it being damn enjoyable though :)

  27. Loire says:

    “Which, by the way, I’m sure it doesn’t have any more, it’s probably down to below 200k by now.”

    Sounds spiteful :-/. How has War growing the market done any good?

    Those extra 9 million players? They rarely ever play anything but WoW fo whatever reason. A lot of these make up the “tourist” class.

    Because of these tourists every single MMO with any sort of hype behind it has to first and formost plan ahead for the influx of wow players upon release (much like WAR did) then they must deal with the outflow of these same players who quit after their free trial is up because “It’s just not as good as that other game that has been out for 5 years, has two expansions and racks in almost a billion dollars a year in profits.”

    Now not only do they have empty unused servers they shouldn’t have needed, they are also dealing with the negative PR backlash of “Game X loses 700 thousand subscribers first month” and dealing with their disillusioned players who had to transfer servers, or have been playing on dead servers and not experiencing the true game.

    Yea that’s totaly good for the MMO genre.

    There was a time when having 300k subscribers was a great success and where the best MMO’s on the market rarely reached up to 500k subscribers. Now your game is heralded as doomed if it doesn’t break one million.

    Let’s not forget the WoWTards mixed into the rest of the WoW population (at much high populations then the Tards in other MMO’s) that essentially ruin any sort of coherent community.

    @tobold: How can you call WoW and “introduction” into the genre when very few players ever want to leave. Just like with the Wii, “casual gamers” who are “introduced” to the market are not going to suddenly want to pick up an Xbox and halo 3. They play the casual games because nothing else suits their tastes. Introducing them has no positive effect on any other company.

  28. Loire says:

    I really wish there was and edit function on these :(

  29. syncaine says:

    @Shamus: And your point brings us full circle to one aspect of the tourist problem. If WAR had gone ahead and taken the shortcuts WoW did to make 1-39 perfect, it would be left with a broken r40 game, similar to what PvP is in WoW (among other issues). (side note: large scale combat DOES happen in WAR pre-40, it just depends on the server and the time, but it does happen)

    So now you either cater to the one-month crowd, trying to squeeze an extra 1-2 months out of them, or you design your game around its core ideas and accept that the tourists will move on, and make the best game possible for the MMO crowd (who you expect to invest 3-6 months or more into your product, which after all is what the original business model is designed around)

    If you are a developer, its an easy choice. If you are a bean counter with a quarterly profit margin to meet, its not so easy. That’s why CCP get a lot of credit, because all along they have stuck to their ideas, rather than give in and try to chase the masses. It seems that Mythic is also now on that path, focusing more on what makes WAR great (RvR) and not wasting effort on what might attract WoW fans (solo PvE questing)

  30. Einherjer says:

    “Which, by the way, I’m sure it doesn’t have any more, it’s probably down to below 200k by now.”

    Maybe you’re right.
    That’s why gaming is headed where music, cinema and literature are right now. Hope you have fun.

  31. Swift Voyager says:

    hehe, Einherjer. Your post gave me a funny thought. Imagine the game industry really getting as bad as the music industry has become. Picture this:

    We can have a contest where people create their own game characters. These characters won’t have games of their own, and have never been in a game before. We can have them coded into other people’s games in place of the real main character and then people can vote for their favorite character by calling a telephone number. When the winning character is selected, the game industry can then create a whole bunch of cookie-cutter games with the new character in them. We can call this nationally televised contest something like “American Icon” or “Avatarsearch”?

    Back on topic. CCP is doing well, and it’s because of good business practice. Their game isn’t better or worse, it’s just being run very well. WoW isn’t much better than the others, it’s just being run very well. WAR isn’t really much better or worse, and it isn’t really failing. The WoW tourists are gone now, and the game is still going. If we still see WAR servers five years from now, then we’ll know that Mythic was paying attention after all. If not, then we’ll know that Mythic doesn’t know how to run a business. WoW tourists aren’t to blame, it’s business planning.

  32. Swift Voyager says:

    One more thought: You really have to give WoW credit for one MAJOR thing. Before WoW, it was unthinkable for most video game players to pay a monthly subscription for a game. There were MMO’s and subscription games, but it was a fringe or niche industry. WoW singlehandedly changed that forever, but they did have the magic hour of good timing to help them.

  33. syncaine says:

    Are we really happy about that though? Especially when more and more that $15 is paying for the server to be up, and it takes another $40 to get some content? (save for when some competition comes around, and a few token features are ‘borrowed’ and placed into the next patch)

  34. Loire says:

    @Shamus: Ah yes the zerg. A problem I have no argument for. I can tell you, I’m personally in a guild that goes out of our way to avoid the zerg while looking for PvP, by setting up 6vs6 staying in the same zone as the zerg and just hitting different points or moving to different zones and I’m sure we can’t be the only one.

    My comment on mindless being that once one group figures out the raid and information on it starts to spread then that raid no longer requires any effort beyond man power. Programmed encounters never change, bosses cannot react like players do.

    The equivalent to this in PVP is of course the zerg but whereas you can do your best to avoid the zerg, you can never really make a raid challenging for yourself after the first go. (Knowing the sheer number of dungeon and raid instances in WoW though I admit it might be a while before you’ve gone through every scenario :D)

    Ahh just imagine an MMO of the future where there are no PVE zones nor PVP zones, where everything is just completely open, the only regulations are to punish players for zerging and killing players significantly below them in skill, a true sandbox. There are no NPC’s just player made quests and player made items. Now imagine this all on one server in an completely open world. You can plop down your city anywhere you want (as long as it doesn’t interfere with someone else’s) and millions of players in this one world.

    Impossible for sure but one can dream. :D

  35. JR says:

    Saying the main difference between one product and the other is that 11 million people subscribe to one and 300k to the other doesn’t explain anything. Because that’s the effect, not the cause. The question is “why are people sticking with one and not the other for the same price”?
    Saying “because people are dumb and can’t see what’s good” is pretty insulting and falls short. PvP-MMOs are typically niche games (which Scott Jennings has been saying all along), true, but there were still a lot of people looking forward to good PVP-MMO that filled the void WoW left. And there were many people bored with WoW. Yet War still didn’t live up to those expectations.
    Other MMOs came before WoW, but those games lost out badly to WoW, so the “come first, win forever” doesn’t work either.

    Attributing the rest to luck and market timing…honestly, I don’t think so. Especially when looking at Blizzards track history. I never thought their products were terribly innovative, but as far as ease of use, interface, technical requirements, learning curve and downright “polish”, their game design hit the taste of the masses like few others (if any) do. Saying Diablo, Warcraft, WoW and Starcraft are more successful than their competitors mostly because of luck sounds highly unlikely to me.

  36. Anne says:

    @ Loire
    “Just like with the Wii, “casual gamers” who are “introduced” to the market are not going to suddenly want to pick up an Xbox and halo 3.”

    Lol, ya because Halo 3 is totally hardcore and totally one of the best games around. The whole console gamer scene is casual, they just appeal to different casual audiences. Xbox appeals to teenage males that like to fix up cars and drink beers with their buddies around a BBQ while Wii is going for people who don’t know how to play games.

    Halo if anything is the most hyped game ever. Sure, isn’t a bad game like the shovelware you can buy on Wii, but it is still the most over-hyped game ever which was made for console-tards who can’t work a keyboard and a mouse and a game that just takes from better FPS games and regurgitates what they have already done well. So it is ironic to call Halo 3 complex, if you really wanted a better example you should have stated something like, “sit down and start playing dota”, or TF2, or starcraft, and the list goes on.

    With that said, I am sure many WoW players (or former wow players) are wishing a new hardcore game did what WoW did to WAR. I first started to worry about the direction of hardcore raiding when they stated that they were going to reuse raid instances twice by making 10man and 25man versions (personally, I am a casual gamer mostly, but prefer hardcore content). But it was worse, they not only reused Naxx from pre-TBC, they also didn’t even care to add any major content past that point (and made it hella easy).

    Of course WoW fanboys will still try to justify it by stating “oh but OS x3 was for the hardcore!” LOL, a kitten dies each time a retard says that.

    The Ensidia website dead is a testament to where WoW has gone. Did Blizzard have a choice to the direction of WoW? I can see why Blizzard wanted to get on the money train, but with all that money, couldn’t they have employed more people and made more content for both casuals and hardcore instead of release WOTLK with pretty much nothing? Did they release WOTLK early just to piss off WAR??

    Oh yes, and I agree with the first comment posted. It is moronic to say, “oh the left side is more honest” when we all know that is BS. Both sides of ‘the coin’ are perfectly guilty of propaganda. If you couldn’t see the type of bs CBS (etc) pulled out of their arses to make the right look bad Syn, then you are blind.

    For the most part, the whole US election is based upon who could lie more then the other. Even after the election, biased morons like Jon Stewart said stuff like, “Palin didn’t know all the countries in North America”…. You MUST be joking right? Jon was SO fucking thick that he didn’t know that there are were over 40 different parts to North America and over 20 different countries (even though he lied and made it seem like there were only 3). See? It’s pure propaganda, the media tells you one thing (that Palin doesn’t know all the counties) yet fails to tell you that there are many tiny countries within North America that pretty much all people in the world wouldn’t know anyway.

    Anyway Syn, nice try on trying to sell your own political BS like you are a unique flower and are not fooled like the masses of “right winged” morons, but you failed and just showed us all that you are one of the idiot masses… just from the left this time… So I find it funny that you talk about the WoW tourists where you are one of the lemmings too.

  37. Tallon says:

    The only problem I see with your argument, is the part about ‘market timing and luck’ I also heard that about EQ when it was the big monster.

    The 11 million number may be small peanuts compared to future gaming numbers, There are after all 6 billion people on the planet, still plenty of room for growth, especially considering the generation of people that are computer illiterate is dying off.

  38. Akjosch says:

    Loire wrote: “My comment on mindless being that once one group figures out the raid and information on it starts to spread then that raid no longer requires any effort beyond man power. Programmed encounters never change, bosses cannot react like players do.”

    Which, when you think of it, is all kinds of strange. Traditionally game AI was and is strongly limited by the small time slice it was allocated to and the rather small processing power available to consumer computers. This isn’t the case for MMO raid bosses. You CAN hook up a Deep Blue behind them just to crunch their AI routines, to let them learn and adapt and use all the nifty modern AI algorithms which are too slow and unwieldy for other games. They DO have whole minutes to try and act intelligently. They CAN learn from previous encounters – even going so far and recording how each of them went and analyse those. So, why doesn’t anybody?

  39. JR says:

    “They CAN learn from previous encounters – even going so far and recording how each of them went and analyse those. So, why doesn’t anybody?”

    Why should they? It’s not like raid encounters are too limited as they are (not counting Naxx, which is entry-level-raid). I’ve yet to hear any guild trying to stay on the edge saying that the original encounters of Vashj, M’uru or Twins were too easy and required bosses that can learn.

    Sure, somebody has figured out how to beat boss xxx and you’ve read their strategy. Which doesn’t mean that you and your 24 buddies are able to execute the same strategy without any effort. If it was that easy, which did raid groups struggle so much with Kel’Thas, Vashj, Brutallus or even Archimonde? Archimonde is a pretty good example…sure, knowing what to do is easy: avoid the fire, decurse, hit the tear, have the tank stance dance. However, I haven’t heard of any group that killed Archimonde on their first try and repeatedly every try and never wiped once (before 3.0, at least). Because even a small random element like where the fire spreads, who is affected by the curse and the air-blow-thingie can lead to a player making a mistake. Which, in that encounter, leads to a wipe.

  40. Bonedead says:

    If any MMO that isn’t WoW was given the same resources, talent, and time as WoW has had since release I think a lot of people would be humming a different tune.

    So is this done yet? I’m really tired of it, I’ve even got points I could make in my head and as much as I want to say them, I don’t even want to because this is never going to end.

  41. Akjosch says:

    @JR:

    I don’t actually care about making the raid boss encounters harder. I’d much prefer if they were more interesting, unpredictable, and cleverer. And that there wouldn’t BE a winning strategy – just “what works this week, before the boss learns to deal with it and you have to use something else”.

  42. syncaine says:

    If raid bosses could think and adapt, guess what raiding would be more like? PvP. And I think we all know how well PvE’ers accept PvP.

    The reason people get so pulled into raiding is its a gradual process (or was pre-WotLK), you wipe a ton, take small steps, and eventually get the encounter and the loot. You move on to the next boss a little stronger, progressing. All of this fitting into a nice weekly routine people can count on. Once you have cleared half a raid instance, you know each time in you will clear it again.

    If the boss was able to adapt and change, the outcome (assuming it was well designed) would be 50/50, and most players don’t like those odds.

  43. Loire says:

    By the way Sync, great post. I found myself disagreeing with you “methods” of getting the tourist point across in the past but this was well written and I couldn’t find myself agreeing.

    Also if you can tell me the secret of how to get a Darkfall account I will forever be in your debt. I’ve been keeping the shop page up for the last two weeks with no success :(.

  44. [...] Syncaine of Hardcore Casual and Tobold of…well, Tobold’s MMORPG Blog have been at each others throats during the last couple of days, the subject being the always tricky (and somewhat infected) “WoW tourism”. I won’t go into much detail about my own stand on the subject, I’ll just say that I tend to agree more with Syncaine than with Tobold, but I can’t stay away from reacting one thing Tobold wrote in his latest post on the subject. Back in 2004 the fans of Everquest claimed that World of Warcraft won out against the nearly simultaneously released EQ2 due to better marketing. It is possible that there are undiscovered gems out there few people are playing. But that argument falls flat the moment a game gets a huge wave of initial subscribers, who *after* playing the new game for a while decide that it isn’t for them. In that case either the gameplay is less appealing, or the quality of execution, the programming is inferior. Nobody would ever react with “Hey, this new game is more fun and runs better than WoW, lets go back to WoW”. A customer who leaves and goes back to WoW means the new game failed to attract him. WoW might be the standard by which he measured that new game, but obviously he was willing to try something else, and would have staid [sic] if that something else had had sufficient quality. [...]

  45. [...] But more than anything… to be really cool, I have to hate WOW players who try another game and decide they don’t like it.  After all, that’s the epitome of serious MMO internet fashion these days. [...]

  46. Solidstate says:

    What Aventurine is doing with the DF release they can do because they are an indie dev without marketing. For a game like WAR, limiting your release to a few copies each day is simply not an option due to factors outside of design.

    @Syncaine,
    I don’t understand, why not? What factors?

    You have written that it is better for a game to make a good first impression than to sell a lot of boxes initially but make a bad impression.

    Given that, wouldn’t it be moronic – or at least, short sighted – to open too many servers, then have to close down 60% of your servers to preserve a playable player population, thus giving a bad impression?

    I’m sorry but why can Aventurine be smart and Mythic has to be stupid? Because by your own definition, what Mythic did is stupid. What overriding reason could they possibly have to shoot themselves in the foot?

  47. [...] just rename Hardcore Casual to “WoW Tourists Go Home!” already. Heh. But good post [...]

  48. syncaine says:

    @Loire:Copies go on sale Monday 2pm EST, and should be on sale all week. I’m guessing however that it will still be a first-come-first-server deal with a 15 minute window. Good luck.

    @Solidstate: DarkFall is only sold online, in a shop Aventurine controlls. They can sell the exact amount of copies each day that they want. They also only need a very small (50k maybe?) amount of players to make a profit. WAR was shipped in boxes to stores, sold in multiple online stores (amazon, gamestop), and had a huge, unlimited pre-order. In addition to all that, they had all the marketing hyping the release date. You can’t do all that and then limit the actual accounts or servers to 300k or whatever you think is your actual core market.

    Not only this, but pre-WoW going 11 million, MMO tourists were not a problem. When DAoC came out, and EQ1 fans tried it and left, they did not leave 2/3 of the servers empty, because the tourist population back when was smaller (and one could argue better informed about MMO games in general, since that was before MMOs went pop culture)

    Going forward all new MMOs will have to deal with the WoW tourist flood, and PvE games will have a much easier time (PvE is not as reliant on server population). How the next wave of mass market games deals with them will be interesting, as they can’t all pull what DF has (even though what Aventurine is doing is working remarkably well)

  49. xabbott says:

    The fact that we have to make so many excuses for other games says a lot.

    My first MMO was EQ. I played several others as well, but EQ did it for me at the time. I’ve been playing WoW since open beta. I’ve tried several other MMOs since, including WAR. But WoW overall is just so much better.

    LoTRO is close but not different enough to really pull me away.

    WAR just felt clunky, I like the ideas but not the execution. Seriously felt like I was playing something from 2002.

  50. [...] back and forth, one thing was stated that’s been ringing around in our heads ever since. In his most recent posting, Syncaine ends off with “Perhaps then we can finally stop using 11 million as the size of the MMO [...]

  51. Glen says:

    Thanks for voicing an opinion contrary to Tobold. His article annoyed me

  52. [...] Syncaine at Hardcore Casual talks about WoW’s 11 million and when they go on holiday [...]

  53. ixobelle says:

    When 5% of the WoW population decides to try WAR because they think it’s going to be like WoW but better, you get problems.

    you’re still blindly denying that maybe that 5% just likes MMOs, and will try ANYTHING that comes alone (in my case it was AoC, WAR, and Darkfall). All three of those, at the end of my trial, I was content to say “yeah, I’m gonna just stick with WoW”.

    Here’s the magic bullet.

    what if we could assign a point value to these games, and say WoW was a 46. Along comes WAR, and for all intents and purposes, let’s say it’s a 46, too.

    the fact remains that I already have an invested interest in WoW (my experience with the engine, my toons, my friends, my guild, whatever). For me to throw that out the window and start fresh would require a game that’s significantly BETTER than WoW.

    In all honesty, I don’t think any of those games are even equal to WoW, much less better.

    But companies get this idea in their head that they either a) can’t compete with wow, and therefore shouldn’t even try (don’t try, because then you won’t fail) or b) they SHOULD try, but then release some unfinished piece of crap. This isn’t helping their cause, and i not MY fault. I even gave them the benefit of the doubt, and tried their game. it wasn’t as good to justify a switch, so I didn’t subscribe.

    It’s really not that hard, but if you flatly REFUSE to accept it, then … well, go for it. Have fun with that.

  54. Mantorok says:

    Dear Author and posters,

    Ask yourselves the following questions:
    Is Coke better than Pepsi?
    Is a Big Mac better than a Whopper?
    Is blue better than yellow?
    Is WOW better than the rest?

    The answer to all of the above is the same: It does not matter… The answer lies in the eyes of the beholder…

    Now ask yourselves:
    What does Coke, Mc Donalds or Blizzard have in common?

    Clearly we all know that their products are not the best. They are decent at best by all standards of quality. They have understood however that their strength lies not in the quality of their product but instead it lies in the power of mass marketing to the public. They have developped the ability to make you believe that their product is the best of the rest. Simple as that.

    Add to this a great strength in their channels of distribution and you got yourself the perfect weapons against competition, present and future.

    As you are well aware, just like Coke and Mc Donalds, WoW has become part of our daily environment and our daily lives. All Blizzard have to do now is throw a few updates, a few changes and a few patches to keep the mass happy. The amount of people they will lose to new MMO is marginal. 10% fluctuation everytime a new MMO comes out is indeed very marginal to their gross revenue as most players who switch, still pay their monthly subscriptions.

    Blizzard has not created the best game out there nor does it have to. They have indeed found the magic formula and they are going to milk it for the next 20 years.

  55. syncaine says:

    @ixobelle: And here is how WAR stacks up to WoW in my mind. Better class balance day one than WoW after 5 years. Better scenarios with more variety day one than in WoW after 5 years. Better world PvP in WAR by a mile. That the kill ten rats quest is a 7 in WAR and a 9 in WoW is a minimal factor for me, I’m bored of both. And I would give WoW the edge in high-end PvE, if not for WotLK making everything a one-shot.

    The key though, is I knew going into WAR that the strengths above would make/break the game, not how cool the kill ten rats quest is, or how many mods I can cram into the UI. Of all 800k or so of players entering WAR, how many were looking for a better kill ten rats simulator, and how many were looking for better PvP?

  56. PTD says:

    The portion of the MMO community that favors PvP over PvE is a minority. It’s pretty simple, really.

    WoW PvE >>>>> WAR PvE
    WAR PvP >>>>> WoW PvP

    And PvE is much more important to the majority of MMO players.

  57. Krosuss says:

    WAR is my first MMO and hopefully not my last. I don’t have all the background of other MMOs to compare other than to say I’m a lifelong gamer, so I know a little bit about gaming.

    I play with many ex- and current-WoW players. I’ve asked them to compare WoW and WAR. And it’s usually the same meme: WoW kicks WAR’s butt in PvE and WAR kicks WoW’s butt on PvP. So I guess it’s whatever floats your boat.

    From the outside looking in, WoW appears to be a fun game, just looks too cartoony for me. Sorry. I’ve heard it’s a ton of fun and a lot of people enjoy it (and I’m sure given the chance I would enjoy it). But I’ll take WAR’s graphics over WoW any day.

    I think something to remember is WoW’s been out for 5+ years, right? WAR has 6 months under its belt. I’ve been told MMOs need to grow and evolve and should not be judged on such a short timeline. And those I play with have told me about the early days of WoW and that what it is today is far removed from what it was.

    One could say WoW is an acceptable game for both hard-core and casual players, right? Are other MMOs not as forgiving to the casual player?

    Quick question: Does WoW really still have 11 million subscribers? Or is that a sacred cow statement from a previous press clipping that no one has updated?

  58. JR says:

    WoW does have 11 million subscribers if you include asian markets, which work on a different model. The typical subscriber model in US/European/Australian-markets cover about 6 million subscribers, I believe.

    Yep, War beats WoW easy in mass pvp/scenarios. It doesn’t offer controlled small-scale-pvp like arena (which WoW does worse than Guild Wars, but at least it has the option). However, War is troubled by performance issues for large scale pvp. Which is critical for such a game. Big-ass-assaults on huge forts in T4 is an AOE-lagfest.
    But even discounting that factors, the subscriber difference proves to me one thing: The masses enjoy a nice game of 10 kill rats over mass pvp.

    Nobody cares today how WoW was 5 years ago. If I have to chose between a daimler and a tato nano car, I don’t compare how the daimler was 100 years ago, but what it offers today.

  59. Wilhelm2451 says:

    WoW sucks, WoW players suck, WoW players are ruining my game. Sorry, we’ve heard that all before Syncaine, ad naseum, and you haven’t added anything to you rhetoric this time around.

    As for your attempt to rebut Tobold, I agree with him. The fact that DAoC managed to cap out at 250K subs just means that DAoC was better relative to its competitors that WAR is to its.

    Seriously, are you going to argue that WoW did not grow the MMO market segment? That WAR got a smaller slice of the pie than DAoC did in its time only argues against the quality of WAR.

  60. Chris says:

    I keep seeing everyone throw this “11 million” figure around like it’s some kind of “zomg! there arent that many more gamers left in the world!” moment, where time has stopped and it’s doomsday for the future of MMO’s. If there were only 12 million gamers in the world then I would say yes, that people have a right to be concerned, but we all know that’s nowhere near the truth.

    If the blogosphere wants to give itself some street cred with this n’th degree of MMO analysis, then start by providing some solid numbers and actual analysis of those numbers in order to justify these type of posts.

  61. Slymie says:

    It seems some of the WoW fanboys have forgotten exactly how rocky a start that game had. Anyone that compares the WoW of today to ANY newly released game is comparing apples and hand grenades. WoW was damn near unplayable the first two weeks after release, and for the first two months it was plagued with Login Ques, Server crashes and pretty much everything that other MMO releases suffer from. That’s the nature of the beast.

    Mythic, IMO, over planned for their release. They saw their beta test numbers, and instead of using those and adding some sort of loss factor, they assumed those numbers would grow. Hence we had the problems of too many servers, not enough players. Instead of someone grabbing that bull by the horns early and merging all the low pop servers, they waited… The end result of that in-action being that they lost more people because the game is utterly broke w/o the proper population to make it go.

    11 million… That number truly is utter crap when all is said and done. Throw out China from WoW’s numbers. Now throw out the gold farmers and their re-buys of canceled accounts and you have numbers that, while still impressive, are not the Gods Gift to Games that people make WoW out to be.

    Compare games if you wish. Weigh them against each other in whatever fair and balanced methodology you can conceive. I’ll continue to play them and simply say the truth. None of them are perfect. They’re all broken. And regardless of which one you play, you’ll either find a shinier model eventually or you’ll quit playing them completely.

  62. pitrelli says:

    Just like you cant compare the two games i dont think you can compare the two launches.

    WoW probably didnt expect to be as busy as they were at launch and were relatively unprepared. WAR on the other hand expected to have lots of subscribers etc and had servers in place etc.

    Also Im sure technology has moved on a bit and game companies should be able to guage what they need. We will see how blizzard handles the next MMO launch

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