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The WoW-killer will be

February 11, 2010

The WoW-killer will be …
By Michael Lafferty

Is the world’s highest-profile MMO seeing the end of its run?

According to a recent report on, Blizzard’s highly touted, and subscription-crazed massively multiplayer online title, World of Warcraft, has stabilized in the past year in terms of growth. The number of players playing it in December 2008 has not changed. Same numbers.

Of course, there are those predicting its downfall. Every new MMO that comes down the pike inevitably – though in hushed tones – gets the question about whether it will be the game that kills WoW.

Let’s get this over with …

The WoW killer will be … ready for it? … WoW. This year will see several new MMOs release, and some with very high profiles – like Final Fantasy XIV and perhaps DC Universe Online. Neither will knock off WoW. They may dip into the numbers a bit, but World of Warcraft hit at the right time, offered the right game experience and captured the gaming world in a time when the MMO genre was young and hungry.

Several MMOs have tried to capture that bit of lightning, hoping that it strikes twice but they seem to always come up short. A new MMO releases, the WoW servers empty out, people try it and about a week later, the WoW community is back. Why? Simple, the new MMO is not what they are looking for. Why? (Ok, stop with the ‘why’ questions – it’s getting annoying!) Because the games either lack overall vision after powerleveling through the intro game, or it’s simply more of the same. And no need to pay for a game beyond the 30 days of free game time if you are already paying for the same game with a level-capped uber character.

Let’s put it another way. I like spaghetti, especially with the homemade sauce that has a hint of red wine flavoring the spices that are melded gently into the tomato base. I don’t like spaghetti every night of the week for several weeks solid. It gets old, it gets boring, the enthusiasm fades and the taste goes from treat to ‘oh no, not that again!’ status.

And that’s the rut many MMOs are in – they are rehashing the same things everyone else has done. A new game releases and players rush in, hoping for an experience that is fresh and new. They powerlevel past the early stage where everything is handheld and the game world seems it might offer promise and then get into the core game, and find … well, let’s just say that most often the bloom comes off the rose. The blossom opens and instead of a rose it’s a dandelion – prolific and common in appearance.

WoW succeeded because it found a common denominator in the gameplay elements. It took the better elements from existing MMOs, tweaked them slighting and then forged them into a game that was solid from the onset of the journey. People tend to forget some of that. They see the subscription numbers and eyes turn into cash symbols. As the game was built, it started to get more involved and slowly began to bleed itself.

Maybe WoW has peaked and maybe it will start to fall off a bit in subscription numbers. Let the MMO kingdom rejoice! The King is falling, long live the … well, likely with a kingdom full of princes, rather than one true power, there may be several mini-kingdoms. And that is how it should be. One title is not everyone’s cup of gaming, and people will gravitate to those titles that appeal to them for the gameplay offered beyond the opening 10-20 levels.

(To drive the point home with that spaghetti reference …) Hey, it might still be pasta, but instead of a tomato base, we are going marinara, or Bolognese, or Alfredo sauce.

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