Remember back in the summer of 2008 we were all making WAR subscriber predictions, and we figured they would be in the range of 1-100 million, depending on how high your fanboy rating was? Everyone reasoned that if WoW can get 11 million, WAR can at least get a few million right?
Just like all the other MMOs with a million+ subscribers…
I’ll be up front and say that initially I thought the 300k number was low and disappointing. While WAR had its issues at launch (and a few still persist), in the grand scheme of the MMO world it had a good launch and is a very stable product. Plus personally I’ve had a damn good time with it, as have the regular members of CoW that I play with. Even MMO newbie Aria (my fiancé) enjoys it, and she has a short fuse when it comes to frustration, be it for technical reasons or her witch elf being blown up repeatedly by a bright wizard.
But if we enter the land of make-believe, and pretend WoW does not exist, how does 300k stack up? It’s around LoTRO and EVE numbers, and it beats EQ2, CoH, AoC, ect. Basically, it’s close (if not at) the goal of being #2 in the market, with the perception problem being you are a VERY distant second. I’ve said this many times here and elsewhere, but its worth repeating, if your MMO is budgeted around WoW-like numbers, you are going to fail even if you deliver the baby jesus of the MMO world. The 11 million people playing WoW are not MMO players, and they never will be. The kids/moms/dads/grandmas etc playing WoW won’t make the jump to the next shiny that’s released, and the MMO tourists that WoW has created won’t stick around past a month of ANY new MMO (which may also include Blizzards next MMO btw). We always talk about rose-tinted glasses when we talk about UO or EQ right? 10 million people are wearing WoW-tinted glasses, and those aren’t coming off anytime soon.
Moving beyond the “my MMO has more subs than yours, hahaha!” aspect of 300k, what does that actually mean for WAR’s future? It’s a high enough number to justify WAR’s continued development with a full crew, for one, meaning the game is here to stay. It also means that as WAR improves (and it has a LOT of room for improvement due to its solid fundamentals and the difficulty of getting a PvP-base game ‘right’), that 300k number will go up. The shine of WotLK continues to dull, and if recent CoW member movement is any indication, some of those players will be giving WAR another shot. I think a common thread we saw with WAR early on is people liked the concepts, but too many issues prevented people from fully enjoying the game as a whole. With the release of WotLK, those people had the perfect excuse to move away from WAR and enjoy WoW again, knowing could always give WAR another shot once it has been fixed up. I think we are starting to see the beginning of that process, and with WAR’s full content schedule coming in the next few months, it will give people more and more reasons to give WAR a second look.
One would think being horribly wrong on one prediction would teach you a lesson, but here goes my 2009 prediction: 500k+ by the end of 09, securing the #2 spot without debate. I have faith that Blizzard will continue its snails pace of delivering content, and making WotLK so easy is going to burn them. Along with that, I really believe WAR is 1-2 patches away from getting its end-game where it needs to be to really hook people, and the buzz from a successful city siege will go a long way to raising peoples attention (think EVE tournament or some of the other major stories that draw people in). Fanboy optimism? Of course, I’m a fan of the game after all, and I believe in its design. I think there exists a spot for it in the MMO space, just like DAoC had its spot among EQ1 and company. Mythic just needs to step up to the plate and finally deliver that one set of changes that will finally get T4 RvR where it needs to be, that perfect balance between making a city siege possible, but still rare enough to make it something special.