Your MMO won’t have a million subs, sorry Blizzard.

Tobold and I have a friendly little challenge going (around comment 45 on that post), one that sadly won’t have a result for a few years. The challenge is simple: The next Blizzard MMO won’t reach the popularity of WoW. More specifically, my bet is the game won’t retain 1million+ subscriptions after 6 months in the US/EU. Tobold is betting on 1m+. Of course WoW is closer to around 5 million subs in the US/EU after all these years, so even if Blizzard gets 1m it will look like a failure, but one million is a nice round number so lets go with that.

The details behind the challenge are, imo, more interesting than the actual sub numbers of the next Bliz MMO. To quote Tobold:

I think the stupid and false belief that WoW’s success is due to a combination of luck, timing, and marketing is the direct reason why we are seeing so many bad, sub-million subscriber games out there. If other companies would study what WoW did right (and I’m not saying they did everything right), and produced games with the same excellence of execution and attention to detail, they would have over a million subscribers too.

So if I can put words in his mouth, “Better WoW-clones please”. My view is the exact opposite, the more you try to out-WoW WoW, the closer your game is to Warhammer Online’s current fate/flaws. The more you stick to what you do well (CCP with EVE, Turbine with LotRO, even Mythic themselves with DAoC), the more sustained success you will see. Remember success in the MMO space is a marathon, not a sprint, and designing for 11 million is a fast track to the unemployment line.

The biggest problem I see today is studios are looking at WoW, and more specifically its huge user base, and trying to mimic the gameplay/design of WoW to get similar financial results. The problem is that WoW’s financial success is not tied directly to it’s design, but to the fact that it launched in 2004, at a time when what it offered was exactly what people wanted, SOE helped by pushing their established user base from EQ2 to WoW thanks to a disaster at launch, and the snowball rolled downhill after that. Yes WoW was a great game, but sorry, its design compared to the rest of the genre is not 11m great vs 300k for everyone else.

As each new AAA MMO launches, we see the same pattern repeating over and over. Initial over-hype and ‘the next WoW’ praise, tourists flock the servers on the first month, they wake up and realize game X is not WoW (their first and only MMO love), and return home. One million sold, 300k-ish after 6 months. We saw it with LotRO, AoC, WAR. We will see it with Aion and SW:TOR, and yes, with Blizzard’s next MMO as well.  Any MMO that launches will have its share of issues, and while so many were not around to witness, WoW was no different in this regard. It had queues, it had server crashes and rollbacks, it had (has) class balance issues, broken systems (pvp), an inadequate UI, botched lore, graphic and sound problems, dev controversy, etc. You name it; WoW had/has it, just like any other MMO. It was not the polished little gem many found in 2006 or beyond that they now compare to any freshly launched game.

It’s too bad we have to wait so long, but hopefully between now and then the genre sees a few more EVE-like titles with actual vision (small v) and purpose rather than soulless WoW-clone after WoW-clone (but with wings!).

57 Responses to Your MMO won’t have a million subs, sorry Blizzard.

  1. evizaer says:

    The problem with Tobold and Keen’s WoW clone model is that no game that is released within the past year or in the future will be as polished as contemporary WoW. It’s physically impossible. The number of man-hours put into WoW far dwarf the man-hours put into any other MMO that is current. You can’t conquer WoW by doing WoW better than Blizzard–you would need thousands of very talented developers and a million or more play testers working for five years to get close. It’s an unwinnable battle. The market has proved it.

    And it’s further sabotaged by the fact that sane people don’t play more than one pay-to-play MMO at a time. New devs HAVE to make games that are better than WoW in some facet in order to get reasonable numbers that won’t dissapear in a month. You can’t do this by trying to out-execute WoW. People will rubberband back to WoW without fail because WoW will always be better at WoW than your game will.

  2. willee says:

    I do agree with Tobold that if other companies launched with the same attention to detail and “excellence of execution”…you’d certainly have a lot more success stories. I don’t see where Tobold said they had to be like WoW but maybe i’m reading it wrong.

    For example: I’ll always believe that if Vanguard had released with much better performance and much less bugs it would be a very successful game to this day. It wasn’t at all about design issues…nobody could play the damn game at playable framerates and with minimal bugs, so people played for an hour or two and quit. Unfortunately now people point to that game as an example of why you can’t have a meaningfull death penatly, can’t have long leveling curve, can’t have too large of a world with limited fast travel options etc…in other words only games like WoW can succeed.

    bullshit. If Sigil had released the same game only with the polish of WoW (better performance/less bugs) it would have been very successful.

    • Scrung says:

      I agree with this. Vanguard is an epic game, and had it been playable back on release it would still be going strong.

      WoW released in a bitter/dried up market. It came at the right time as “something different.” The launch was horrible, but it was playable unlike Vanguard. The horrible lag/queues…I don’t know if anyone even remembers that? I sure do. It was a good game that’s why I continued to play. Vanguard was a good game too, but my system (that should’ve ran it) would not.

      • Atnor says:

        I agree completely with willie and Scrung here. There was a time within the past year or so that I considered Vanguard to have the best PVE MMO experience on the market.

        The disaster of a launch not only screwed Vanguard, but put a large damper on lots of MMO genre ideas and designs, which has been unfortunate.

        When I read this blog entry and think about the “design” of WoW, the thought that came to my mind is how would WoW fare if it released now, either as it was at its launch, or as polished as it is now, in today’s market?

        I’m not sure it’d be the juggernaut it is now, even if you give it an update in graphics quality from what was pretty low in 2004 to the equivalent “low quality” level in 2009. I think the social, “my friends play it so I play it” mentality gives it a strong gravitational market pull that keeps it up, far beyond the idea of its design, innovation, or polish.

        *shrug*

    • Fortuente says:

      Also in agreement about Vanguard. I think it should have been released to compete with Conan, which itself should probably have been released to compete with WAR. Regardless I think the game design is brilliant but technical execution sucky.

    • Kyff says:

      Sometimes the difference in perception and experience makes me wonder a lot. I do play vanguard since launch and still love it. Granted I did buy a new computer just in order to play it but it’s been all worthwhile.

      Yes there were problems. But the game certainly was NOT unplayable. I think i did fall trough the world once a week or had a chunck crshing every other day. But in this cases you could simply relog or evac to the nearest bindstone. The ratio of me dieing because of own stupidity and dieing because of bugs is like 50/1. And I always wondered why missing helmet graphics were such a big issue.

      Since the game has improved since launch and by now almost everyone should have a computer comparable to 2007 top end machines I can only recommend to take a look. You certainly won’t come across login ques.

  3. Yeebo says:

    There are a lot of design concepts that have never gotten a fair test in a polished big budget MMO. In terms of fundamentally non-WoWish core mechanics we’ve seen a lot of things tried out in small budget MMOs with decent polish (e.g., Wizard 101, EVE) and big budgets MMOs that were nearly unplayable for many users at launch (AoC, Vanguard, TR). Neither is really a fair test.

  4. Dblade says:

    I’d go with Tobold over you just because of brand recognition. I wouldn’t expect it to be 2 million subs, but less than 1 million with an established rep would mean Blizzard broke the gameplay pretty badly. It’s like grand theft auto or rock band, you will draw people just by franchise or developer.

    As for little v vision-well, it seems to be profitable for the developers to make, but hasn’t provided enough of an experience to attract players. EVE constantly gets glowing press, and I think its rare to find a purely negative article about it. Despite that, it really doesn’t seem to catch enough people to be close to even derivative games like aion in buzz or sub count.

    I think you really do need to design for large crowds, and have big V Vision. That doesn’t mean you have to clone though, it means you need to break the MMO paradigm again, stop copying the same old, but try and go beyond niche.

  5. Graktar says:

    I pretty much agree with you completely, Syncaine. However, no need to wait for Blizzard’s next game to see if Tobold’s claim bears out. He said this:

    “If other companies would study what WoW did right (and I’m not saying they did everything right), and produced games with the same excellence of execution and attention to detail, they would have over a million subscribers too.”

    He just described Aion. So, if Aion gets a million subs, Tobold is right.

    And to Willee, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. WoW was an inexcusable pile of game killing bugs, lag, and server queues when it launched. It was almost unplayable for many many people. Blizzard fixed it eventually, just like every other MMO developer does when they have a crappy launch. Nevertheless, people continue to compare post 2006 WoW (2 years after launch) to a just-launched game and go “zomg, WoW is so much more polished, why do these guys suck so bad?!” and write the game off as crap because it’s not as polished (at release) as WoW is (after years of development) even if it’s just as polished as WoW was at its release.

    Certain prevalent members of the blogosphere seem to be especially fond of their WoW launch day blinders, but I won’t go into that. The sad fact remains that while the comparison is entirely unfair, the comparison is inevitable. Therefore any new game needs to launch with a higher level of quality and execution than did WoW itself, lest it be derided as “less polished” than its behemoth competitor. New games have to out-Blizzard Blizzard, while Blizzard gets a free pass. Oh well.

    Regardless, Aion has out-Blizzarded Blizzard, as Aion at release is far more polished and playable than WoW was.

    So, let’s see Aion bring home 1 million+ subs . . . yeah, don’t hold your breath. It won’t. It’s a good game, but it’s clearly a WoW clone. No game so directly competing with WoW is going to bring home a million subs, EVEN IF IT’S BETTER THAN WOW IN EVERY WAY.

    The only game that is going to breach the 1 million mark is one that has a perfect launch experience and offers gameplay and systems that surpass the draw of WoW. The only upcoming game that has even the remotest shot at that is Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s combining a mega-popular IP with a developer that has credentials to rival Blizzard.

    • syncaine says:

      Just to add to this, depending on which server you picked at launch, some people literally got a month+ of free game time from Blizzard due to server downtime, and I think everyone got at least 2+ weeks. Certain servers were experiencing 8 hour+ downtime MONTHS after launch, which is to say nothing about trying to get into an instance on those servers back then, or playing with rubberband mobs. Look up a launch-day screen shot of the UI and tell me WoW had a polished and complete UI. That one hotbar was really ideal for a shaman…

    • Scrung says:

      God, I forgot about the months free. I think I blocked that out of my memory. Maybe that’s why a lot of people say WoW was so polished because of the horrible atrocities most faced just trying to play in the evenings on Blackrock/Illidan.

      http://www.leagueofpirates.com/sirvival/queuedance.html

      I don’t think any game will EVER reach 1 million subs besides WoW. It just can’t be recreated (the retardation of an MMO for the masses)

    • evizaer says:

      Certain prevalent members of the blogosphere seem to be especially fond of their WoW launch day blinders, but I won’t go into that. The sad fact remains that while the comparison is entirely unfair, the comparison is inevitable.

      The comparison that matters is NOT WoW at launch vs. new game at launch. It’s WoW now vs. new game at launch (which is now). That’s the decision that people make before they put their money into a 3-month subscription. Comparing consumer perspectives on MMO launches independent of time is an academic debate at best.

      No way you can beat WoW now with a new game that’s just launching by doing the same thing that WoW already does well enough to merit its subscriber numbers.

  6. armagone says:

    I do agree, apart from the “their first and only MMO love” part.
    WoW is neither my first, nor my only MMO love.
    I’ve played Ragnarok Online for a few years, I’ve tried Anarchy Online before, even a little bit of Ultima Online and one of the EverQuests. (I think EQ2, but it was so horrible I didn’t stay for more than a week). I also had a brief look to Tantra and WAR.

    Of those coming before, WoW just trumped em. Ok, for Ragnarok it did just these things right I was most annoyed with:
    – grinding
    – no quests
    – click to move
    – horrible UI
    WAR was a near match, and if it wasn’t in a quite active raiding period with an awesome guild, I would have probably switched to WAR.
    Now I’m dabbling a little in DDO and it’s also nice, but far from better.

    Many words without much content, I think. But I’ve also been a tourist, but even before WoW, just in that area I always went back to my single player games after my MMO trips…

  7. Letrange says:

    I think part of the problem is expectations are set waaaaay to high initially. People forget but EVE didn’t really start climbing out of of it’s very slow start for about a year. And even then it had a few advantages most other MMOs don’t have. The biggest one was no publisher soon after launch. Very early in it’s life it became the sole and total master of it’s own destiny (not to mention income). I suspect it took “balls of steel” on the part of it’s executives to stay the course and let it grow when it dropped down to what? 30k subscribers soon after launch. The CEO is on record as saying that once it hit 50k subscribers it knew it would be profitable (or it became profitable at that point). It’s only been in the last few years that EVE has really taken off. The point here is that if you budget it right, 50k subscribers CAN be profitable. And once you’re profitable you can grow comfortably.

    EVE’s only problem from the “beating wow” perspective is that CCP has decided to stay the course on their vision of EVE as a hardcore PvP game. This has inherently less mass draw. Think about it though, it’s got 300k subscribers and slowly climbing in what’s supposed to be niche game. I think this is more due to the social dynamics of the single universe architecture than any other reason. This is something that no other MMO out there has quite the way they do. And even if developers took note of it, with the long lead times that non wow clone MMOs take to develop, it would still be a few years before we see anyone trying to do something as different from both EVE and WoW as they are different from each other.

  8. Malakili says:

    I Think the key here is “after 6 months” I wouldn’t be surprised if they sell a couple millions boxes, but I wouldn’t be surprised AT ALL if a lot of players just end up going back to WoW like they always do. Even blizzard probably can’t “out-blizzard” themselves.

  9. sid67 says:

    People always seem to forget that Blizzard was an incredibly successful BEFORE WoW. The original Warcraft RTS games, Starcraft and Diablo were all huge successes and even today continue to sell copies.

    That’s really amazing and (at least for those games) has nothing to do with the mistakes made by SOE or any other game developer.

    The reason those games were successful is the same reason Tobold is citing for why he believes WoW is successful. Excellence of execution and attention to detail.

    So following that logic, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the next game (MMO or not) produced by Blizzard will also be successful.

    Now none of that has anything to do with the WoW-clones. That’s where I get lost. You don’t need to be a WoW-clone to take lessons from Blizzard’s execution or attention to detail.

    Frankly, I’d be surprised if the next Blizzard MMO even resembled WoW outside of a few features.

    In that respect, I agree with you Syncaine. Just being a WoW-clone isn’t enough to cannibalize the WoW player base. You need to either be a) vastly superior or b) different.

    And I’m willing to bet that Blizzard knows this as well. Which, ironically, is why their next MMO won’t be a WoW-clone. I’m certain it will still be targeted at casuals, but there is no way in hell they are planning to re-make the same game.

    • sid67 says:

      How about a Blizzard version of EvE? :p

      • Wyrm says:

        You are right. But expand on that.

        Blizzard could afford to spend an undisclosed amount of time developing WoW. Blizzard’s execution and attention to detail was financed by their previous success, things some of the other houses who try to release their products now never had.

        The company that created Vanguard didn’t had the constant trickle of money pouring into their office as Blizzard had nor the possibly healthy bank account. Also Mythic was obviously forced by EA to release the game earlier due to EA wanting show more profit in the last quarter of 2008. They succeeded with the 1mil+ boxes sold, but impaired the game due to an rushed launch: 6 months later when WAR was already a different game, tourists were still pointing long solved flaws as the reason the game sucked.
        And the the same ones who nowadays praise Blizzard polish are the same that stupidly complain about the time that it takes Blizzard to release content. Here’s the news: Blizzard makes polished games BECAUSE they take much longer to release such content. They probably have one of the biggest Q&A budgets in the industry.
        As investors want a piece of the 11 million, AND THEY WANT IT NOW, they force other Development Houses to release games as quickly as possible making it impossible to test as thoroughly as Blizzard does. Ironic isn’t it?
        Of course Blizzard is a competent company and they’ve been doing a lot of good things since the first Orcs & Humans, but only a douchebag fishing for is next Blizzcon invitation would say that WoW did not benefit from a perfect storm back in 2004.

      • syncaine says:

        Also keep in mind that Blizzard is now a public company, and while they have been doing a good job pushing titles back (SC2) to make sure they are ready, if the WoW money tree ever starts to slow, you know Activision is going to start pushing for them to release something sooner.

  10. Der_Nachbar says:

    Grim-Fantasy-Sandbox-MMO by Blizzard ^^

  11. ScytheNoire says:

    Blizzards next MMO will have far more than 1M customers after six months, because they are targeting a larger market audience than the current MMO audience and because it will be vastly different from WoW.

    If it was just another WoW clone, it might not. But because it will be different, and because games like Diablo II, Warcraft III, and Starcraft STILL (two of those over ten years old) have high numbers of players.

    Betting against Blizzard having success is just foolish. You’ve already lost the bet. Congrats Tobold.

    • syncaine says:

      True, both StarCraft:Ghost and WarCraft Adventures did really well, and Blizzard made huge profits on those investments.

      But yea, if Blizzard releases Peggle Online and charges an RMT fee per special color, or something equally not-MMO, obviously the bet won’t really apply. If it’s a true MMO though, it won’t have 1m after 6 months.

  12. n0th says:

    This is somewhat unrelated, but considering you’re talking about upcoming MMOs: did you take a look at Mortal Online?
    I really do not want to get into fanboism here (especially since we all know how MMOs tend to be overhyped before launch), but from what i see (beta leaks) and read (dev interviews, official beta review etc.) it could be something a DarkFall player might want to look at.
    Full loot, first person view, skill-based combat, player-based economy, complex crafting system etc. And it uses Unreal engine…
    Care to share your thoughts on this? (i left a proper email address this time ;) )

    • syncaine says:

      MO in it’s current form does not work. As in, you can’t get more than 20ish people in one area before the game craps out, and it has some other major tech issues regarding it’s combat. Just talking to some DF players who are in the beta, I’d stay far away from the game until a miracle patch or three hit and the massive part of MO works. The rest of the feature list reads like DF’s, and half of DF’s feature list is not in the game yet. It’s something to keep an eye on, but nothing I’ve heard from anyone makes me really excited for the game.

  13. Rem says:

    Turbine didn’t stick to what they do well. They gradually, and especially since MoM, transferred LotRO into a more and more WoW-lookalike. With more mindless grind. And less actual endgame. To the point where some people started wondering why not to just go and play, you know, WoW.

    Result? The upcoming “paid digital expansion”, i.e. something we used to get for free, back in the day, the current players will have to pay for. Running out of money, anyone? Shame, considering it used to be a really fun game.

    I guess (former) SWG players can tell a similar tale.

    • syncaine says:

      I’ve not played LotRO since just before MoM, and the new paid patch/expansion thing is a little odd, although just reading about it it sounds like a ton of new content and systems. I do know a lot of people are not happy about the whole radiance end-game though.

  14. Scrung says:

    The only ones that can change the market, and what games will be produced is Blizzard. (If the money keeps flowing into their coffers) They have the most influence because the investors make the market now, not the ideas and design. No longer will people think a measly sum can produce an amazing MMO. They think they need 100s of millions to even get into the market. It is very sad.

  15. Xyloxan says:

    If Blizz will market their next MMO as the next generation WoW-type game than it’s rather obvious that they will sell more than 1M boxes and retain more than 1M subs. Most current and previous WoW players will try it (and that’s a big number to start with.) I think that most of them even expect the next Blizz MMO to have a similar (i.e., familiar) gaming experience. For Blizz, creating a new MMO which DOESN’T follow the insanely successful footsteps of WoW would be an unreasonable and unnecessary gamble. Sorry syncaine but my bet is on Tobold’s prediction.

  16. Wyrm says:

    Well, is kinda easy to say it will have more than 1 million. The other guy will probably win the bet, but if Blizz’s new MMO peaks at 2 or even 3 million it will be proof enough of the perfect storm theory.

    On the other hand, in my spare time from DF I’ve been playing Champions Online. Ultra casual game with an hardcore (ok, debatable) character creation. Recommended as a side dish from your main MMOG

  17. sid67 says:

    What other game company has an entire CONVENTION that they put on just for their games? And Blizcon sells out every year.

    That’s the kind of hype machine that you are talking about with Blizzard.

    Whatever game is eventually released, it’s going to sell A LOT of games. AND — because of all the Hype there will be lines at stores which means additional press and news articles. So even more hype that will create more sales.

    If anything, the game will reach 1M subs after 6 months for no other reason than people are still buying the game.

    To put this in perspective, when Warhammer was about to be released last year, I was still playing WoW and I made it a point to ask around to see who was going to play it.

    And almost to a man, none of these players had even heard of Warhammer. And that was RIGHT before release and with the EA hype machine behind it.

    That’s the true reason a game like Aion will never be as successful as WoW. OR, quite frankly, any game.

    When the next Blizzard MMO is released, that won’t be the case. EVERYONE will know about it. And I mean EVERYONE. They’ll be talking about it constantly 6 months. It will be the big announcement at Blizcon. Real press (not game press) will have stories about the launch.

    • Nat says:

      What other game companies have entire conventions for their games; CCP, SOE and ID just to name a few.

      • syncaine says:

        Yea but how many web comics have a convention? PAX and that’s it, so clearly they are by far the most dominant and polished web comic on the web. Everyone else is just trash, clearly.

  18. Bonedead says:

    I know I’d like to see some “I’ve only played WoW” people at Blizzard’s next MMO launch.

  19. Tobold says:

    No, I don’t want “more WoW clones”, I was talking about craftsmanship. Think about a sculptor having big success with an exquisitely crafted sculpture of an elephant. What the imitators do is thinking that people like elephant statues, so they produce a bunch of roughly hewn elephant statues and wonder why they don’t sell. What I’m calling for is for other sculptures with the same exquisite carving, and they might well be not elephants at all.

    • Atnor says:

      I may be way off base here, but I really dont think an MMO about elephant sculptures will do well at all. Blizzard really needs to re-think that one :)

      Essentially though, I’m pretty sure this means that companies need to learn that the quality standard at launch has to be a lot higher to retain people over its first few months. The bar has moved.

      We all probably thought this was evident after Vanguard. I remember that was the mantra of the day: “Vanguard teaches the world to launch with polish, some semblance of game systems fundamentals, and design to todays computer tech level, not tomorrows”. Obviosuly, the management teams have not quite gotten that message yet. I dont know that they will.

      What will probably most likely happen, at least in the short term, to continue the analogy, is that the imitators will soon realize the “craftsmanship” angle, look at WoW’s “gold” elephants, and start slowly producing bronze elephants and ivory elephants and silver elephants… all really exquisite but simply another color…

      when people really kinda want exquisite statues of anything but elephants. I personally want a gold tiger statue.

      • syncaine says:

        A few problems here. One, WoW had a better launch than Vanguard, or more accurately EQ2, but it’s launch was WORSE than WAR’s or LotRO’s in terms of a finished, polished game. And while neither LotRO or WAR are perfect MMOs, the tourists that left both those games did not get deep enough into them in the first month to see either games true issues. The left because the game was NOT WoW.

        Two: If WoW launched today, in exactly the state it is in currently, it would not retain 1m subs, let alone the 5m or so US/EU it has now.

        Which is more or less my whole point: WoW’s success is not about it’s design but it’s timing and the circumstance back in 2004. The fact that it was a great game in 2004 helped, but great game only takes you so far, and it takes you FAR short of 11m.

      • sid67 says:

        Syncaine, your timing logic falls apart when you consider that EQ had nowhere even close to the subs that Blizzard received at launch.

        EQ had what…something like a 500,000 players? That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the success of WoW.

        So how exactly you can you credit “timing” for just 10% of the current US player base?

        Diablo 2, by itself, sold 2 MILLION copies at launch. Pre-WoW, Blizzard already had a VERY established player base (all casuals).

        THOSE are the real players who deserve the credit for making WoW successful.

        And THOSE players were fans of Blizzard products because Blizzard had a history of making great games.

      • Dblade says:

        It’s not craftsmanship. For another analogy, McDonalds restaurants are ugly, bland boxes with few amenities and that sell food which is mediocre at best. They do excel though in getting food done fast, consistently, and cheaply.

        I’m honestly betting the quality of WoW is a heck of a lot less than people think. I know when I played it I saw it as a dull, brainless cartoon of an MMO, and it didn’t have anything to hook me at all compared to past ones. What I think it does do however is a few things extremely well, and those few things were timed well.

        If you look at the big successes, it’s not usually craftsmanship that defines them, but how they market and merchandise what product they have.

      • syncaine says:

        @Sid67: But EQ1 was released in 1999, at the time was one of the first games to really push 3D graphics in the genre, and broadband connections were still in the minority. I really don’t understand how 1999-2001 can be compared to 2006-20009 when talking about internet-related popularity, especially since SOE made truckloads of money off it (as did Origins with UO and Turbine with AC).

        And if you and Bhagpuss are trying to say that those 11m subs that play WoW are indeed just WoW fans and not MMO gamers, then we are in complete agreement. So unless Blizzard’s next MMO is indeed WoW 2.0, those 11m won’t transfer over to another MMO, because they are not fans of the genre but just one special example of it. (which falls right into the whole idea of tourists, because a % of that 11m hears about another WoW-like game, they try it, and return home because no game is going to be 100% like WoW for them)

  20. Bhagpuss says:

    I agree on the WoW vs EQ2 timing thing, to a degree. I played EQ2 from beta and carried on at launch, even though I knew it was pretty horrible. Almost everyone I knew who’d come over from EQ1, and all the new people I met in EQ2, left within less than a year, bitterly disappointed. Mrs Bhagpuss and I both went back to EQ1.

    On the other hand, we aren’t gamers. We’d barely heard of Blizzard, or Warcraft. It never even occurred to us to try WoW until early this summer. We’ve been playing it ever since.

    I don’t thing the “tourist” tag has that much weight, though. In ten years I’ve played more MMOs than I can remember, and some I only lasted the free trial, or the free month; many, though, I played for years. WoW has been the final proof, although I shouldn’t have needed it, that you can never really be sure what something is like until you try it yourself.

    All the MMOs that have attracted, but failed to hold, large numbers of players haven’t done so because of the tourist effect. They’ve done so because they were deeply flawed, or horribly bugged, or both. I was one of the few fortunate enough to have a machine that likes Vanguard and I was able to play it reasonably well right from late beta. I love Vanguard. I played it for two years and its my second-favorite game after EQ, but had it been as bug-free and playable as the average MMO at launch, I contend it would still never have been more popular than a solid niche game.

    Nothing wrong with that, but like all the other MMOs that have followed WoW, it was only likely to appeal to people who already liked MMOs. What WoW did was appeal to people who, until they played WoW, had little or no interest in MMOs.

    The success of Blizzard’s next MMO will depend on whether thay can, again, attract and hold people who either don’t currently play MMOs at all, or who only play WoW but are gettign bored with it because it’s been around for a long time. Their track record suggests they have a good chance of doing so.

  21. We’re assuming Blizzard will make a WoW-clone as they’re next MMO. What would be really ironic is if they release a totally different type of MMORPG, get millions of players and then in a couple of years people are slagging that off :)

    • notageek says:

      It will be Sony Free Realms copy (c’mon, when was the last time Blizzard ever did anything original? Check out games that are out right now and you’ll see what Blizzard will be doing in 5 years time.) and it’ll easily gather more than 1 million players.

      It might not have a monthly fee, but by that time – and when Blizzard does it – everyone is happy to accept microtransactions as a fee that you pay to play the game.

      It won’t try to convert wow players to play that game (eq2 tried to get eq players to play it and did not succeed, why would Blizzard try to do the same when they don’t have to), it’ll aim for the same audience that’s playing Free Realms, Wizard 101 or Habbo Hotel right now. It won’t try to compete with wow or any wow-clone, most likely it’s going to be competing with Free Realms clones and possibly Koster’s Metaplace by the time it comes out.

      Gamers won’t be playing it, but it’ll have more than 1 million players, easily.

  22. sid67 says:

    Syn- I’m saying that 60-70% of the WoW player base are BLIZZARD fans — i.e. not specific to WoW and would play any game (MMO or not) that Blizzard produced.

    The fact that they had many of these fans prior to WoW supports the idea that they like Blizzard games (not just WoW).

    I mean the other games are 9+ years old and people STILL play them.

    So are they tourists? Not serious about the genre? Sure, I’ll buy into that.

    I just think it’s more accurate to call them Blizzard fans rather than just WoW fans.

    And at least for those fans, it won’t matter if Blizzard’s next game is WoW 2.0 or EvE 2.0, people will play it.

  23. Cat says:

    WoW launched polished and has been adding polish along with significant content. That’s the difference.

    They took twice as long as everyone else to make their game. They had many successful games to draw on as a source of funding and also hype. They had their own internal IP and no licenses to satisfy or pay out the nose for. Nobody was rushing the thing to launch just so they could get a return on their investment.

    Give every MMORPG a 4-5 year development schedule and you’d see some pretty darned neat things. Instead, they’re being shoved out the door in 2 years with a huge launch day patch. They play catch-up for a few years (“we’ll add the dragons in later”) before everyone gives up and moves on.

    Blizzard launched a game that was easily twice as good as anything then on the market. It wasn’t the prettiest. It wasn’t the most innovative. It just had more stuff, and the stuff was polished. The attention to detail was obvious. They managed to support some pretty wimpy hardware specs in their cartoony way — yet the game still looked decent because the designers were paying attention to their limitations.

    Now they’ve added Death Knights (skip to level 55), heirloom gear (XP boosts), refer a friend (super XP boost), faction transfer, server transfer, dual specs, XP via PvP… if you are bored, the game offers many ways to become un-bored without making the same arduous investment of time over and over. The snowball slowly becomes an avalanche.

    Boredom and frustration are game-killers. WoW has made it possible for people to stay in the game and still have fun after all this time. The only other game I know of that has a similar development depth is Asheron’s Call.

    In closing, I feel the question really isn’t, “What’s the difference between WoW and this other MMORPG?” The question is, “What’s the different between WoW and other highly-polished MMORPGs of long duration?” The playing field gets narrowed quite a bit then.

  24. dubs says:

    Blizz will probably make it possible for WoW players to upgrade their account to allow them to play both MMO’s and increase monthy sub to about £12/13 from £8.99. To me it makes good business sense because even if only 10% of 5million or so players in EU/Europe takes up that offer (i would think it would be higher) it will give them 500k subcribers off the bat and removes the hassle gamers would have to either subsribe/choose between them.

    Take into account blizzard fans subsrcibing because its Blizzard and the hype that surrounds their games it should break the million mark. If the game is polished i see no reason why it won’t stay that way.

  25. You’re both right. Blizzard’s new game will get over 1M, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a success. If they spend like they’ll get 11M then “only” get 5M, they’re going to be in trouble.

    I don’t buy the “you can’t do better than WoW!” arguments. People said the same thing about EQ back in the day before WoW. If EA… I mean, Bioware manages to hold it together, I think SWTOR will challenge the throne. But, given that it’s really EA (with the Bioware name), it’s not a sure bet.

  26. Wyrm says:

    We are all assuming that by the time Blizzard coughs up the new game, there won’t be any successful games out there. By successful I mean with 500K+ subscribers. Two powerful IP’s are on the making (SW:TOR and Star Trek) and also there’s a “casual EVE” (Jumpgate Evolution) not counting the games that will launch in the next two years.

    If they learned something from WAR is not to rush things one would hope and as soon as investors get that, “polish” will no longer be a blizzard exclusive.

    What is funny is the subtle change in the Blizz-Sycophants arguments: WoW is not a much better game anymore nor it has superior design of old ideas. Now it only boils down to polish and detail. Which weren’t there in 2004 by the way.

    So 1000k will be possible of course but after cannibalizing the WoW player base. The ones who jumped off the WoW train and the ones who never wanted to get in are unlikely to do so after.

    In any case WoW is finally setting of their intended market and Blizzard’s new game will be targeted at that market: people with the attention span of a goldfish, a internet connection and an 15 disposable dollars/euros. And they will be able to play the game while hearing the new Kanye West and eating the Big Mac they brought home after seeing Ghost of Girlfriends Past at the movies. A world of quality and polish I guess.

  27. nerd.gone.bad says:

    I think something neither of you have considered is this…

    Due to the high probability that a new MMO from Blizzard would probably cannibalize their own WoW subscriber base I think there is a good chance that they will likely move to a variable battle.net subscription model which allows you to play both MMO’s for essentially the same price. And the freebie sub just sets up game of SC and Diablo, etc.

    Online “Entertainment” companies will (should) move towards offering their “games” just as a bundle and variety of “services” sort of like an all on-demand cable channel, online. Media companies specialized in traditional TV will have to do the same soon.

    It won’t matter if as a subscriber you play their new MMO or WoW, as long as you stay a subscriber.

    So my prediction is Blizzard’s next MMO will climb to 10million+ by virtue of pure battle.net subs.

  28. Rob says:

    I’m willing to bet that the next blizz MMO is going to be bigger than WoW. Yes, bigger. Eventualy, not at launch. There will be all the people have played WoW, all the people who play console games, all the new players; we are talking about a huge potential player base.

    The other thing is that many of us didn’t play WoW until years after rlease. I played at BC, when the game was pretty polished and relatively bug free. Many did the same thing. Many started playing at Wraith. I venture to guess that few who have played since vanilla have really quit. It’s pretty hard to quit wow, you may take breaks, but its hard to quit (going on 3 years here).

  29. Dan Gray says:

    1 million is a little arbitrary, but the premise of your bet seems solid enough. I think I’d rather propose a bet along the lines of: No traditional MMO is ever going to get more than 3 million subs. Of course then we are down to arguing what constitutes ‘traditional’, but you get my point.

  30. […] and Syncaine are having a debate as to whether the great unannounced MMO from Blizzard will reach a million […]

  31. Eliza E says:

    Realistically, what a lot of people here are failing to realize is that Blizzard’s success came as a result of their ability to market their name. Top of mind awareness is a powerful factor. As Coca-Cola is to soft drinks, so Blizzard is to PC gaming, at the moment.

    Anyone who wants to even nibble away at their subscriber base is going to need an established gaming franchise that would translate decently into an MMO. TOR won’t cut it, they’ll pull in decent numbers, but it won’t hurt WoW’s bottom line one bit since they’re targeting a different market.

    I might be missing something here, but I think the only PC gaming fantasy franchise that can even think of standing toe to toe with Warcraft is, amusingly enough, Blizzard’s own Diablo franchise. Anyone else have any possible contenders?

  32. Sebastiaan H says:

    I think what a lot of people fail to realize here is that it’s not all about the technical side of the game. World of Warcraft has become huge largely in part because it caters to a lot of different kinds of people.
    Hardcore raiders, casual raiders, solo players, PvP-team, Solo PvP. Aside from that, it’s easy to play, but still offers challenges to those who want to play well.

    I doubt if half the people have a clue what the warcraft lore is. WoW’s graphics are easily outdone by other games. It’s strength seems to be more it’s (ease of) gameplay.

  33. […] The other sculptors saw that, and thought that they could earn such big money too. Obviously the public wanted elephant statues, so they all started making elephant statues. Only they didn’t have the patience of the original sculptor, and wanted to get rich too. So their elephants were much smaller, of inferior craftsmanship, and not life-like at all. Some were rather roughly hewn, others decorated with gaudy stones to distract from the lesser quality. But when these inferiors elephant statue copies were put up for auction, they didn’t sell all that well. Some didn’t sell at all, so bad were they. Some attracted initial interest before the auction, but when the buyers saw the inferior quality, they only bid 300,000 for it, and the other sculptors were much disappointed. “Oh!”, they cried, “the original sculptor was lucky that he made his elephant statue just when the market wanted one. Sculpting is dead, nobody will ever get more than 1 million for his sculpture.” […]

  34. […] over at Hard­core Cas­ual makes some sim­ilar points to those in Tobold’s ana­logy, but addi­tion­ally claims that “WoW’s fin­an­cial […]

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