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

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.