Thursday, February 07, 2008

Why Blizzard's Next MMO is probably Starcraft

I don't normally deal in absolutes mostly because everything tends to be more based on opinion then any sort of binary right or wrong answer. Still if there's one thing I'm 99% sure of is that the next Blizzard MMO is based on the Starcraft license. I may be setting myself up for a lot of friendly teasing if I'm proven wrong but I think its worth the risk. I mean honestly is anything more satisfying then a nice big "I told you so"? Plus Blizzard isn't exactly hard to predict like the current stock market. I mean their games are always released when "they are ready" and are related to either Starcraft, Warcraft, or Diablo.

The last time Blizzard released a new game universe was in 1998 with Starcraft. Every game they have released after 1995 has been related to either Diablo, Starcraft, or Warcraft. Based on this you can make a pretty good guess that the next big MMO will be based on one of these three licenses. Since World of Warcraft is going strong and most predictions have it lasting until the sun burns out it doesn't seem likely that Blizzard would cannibalize itself to make a sequel. If you look at the list of MMO sequels for eastern games like Asheron's Call and Everquest you see that they almost never do as well as the orginal anyways.

So basically my own weird Relmsteinian logic points to either Diablo or Starcraft being transformed into the next generation MMO. If you follow further along my winding path of assertions you can see Diablo isn't the most likely target for being transformed into a massive multiplayer game. The primary reason is that Diablo 2 was pretty close to being a MMO itself and was only a couple steps behind Guild Wars. I can easily see Diablo 3 eventually being released with enough new features that it does better then Mythos or Hellgate London. However, at the moment I think Blizzard realizes there are a lot of Diablo clones on the market and half of them are trying to edge into MMO status.

This argument might seem weak to some people but there's another aspect to releasing a MMO. If you look at the Warcraft series they had some lore in the first game which really got expanded when they released the sequel. However, if you took all the lore and characters from the first two games and combined them together they still wouldn't equal the lore covered in Warcraft 3. MMORPGs require massive amounts of fiction to give developers a background for making classes, characters, cities, dungeons, continents, factions, and of course bad guys. With Starcraft 2 already announced it gives a great opportunity to create the same sort of lead in that World of Wacraft got from its RTS cousin.

Summarized List I've used when debating with Friends.

1) Blizzard hasn't create a new game universe since Starcraft in 1998.

2) Blizzard's established brands have much more recognition and are more likely to gain players.

3) Blizzard isn't stupid enough to make a World of Warcraft sequel within the next 5 years.

4) Between Diablo and Starcraft the Starcraft license is better position to be turned into a MMO because:

4a) Starcraft 2 was announced and could serve as a lead in to the new Starcraft MMO.

4b) Having a fantasy and science-fiction game would expand Blizzard's MMO audience.

4c) A lot of Diablo style clones are out there cluttering the market.

4d) Ooops rumors have already leaked.

4e) Matt said a Starcraft MMO would be stupid and he's always wrong.


Starfeeder said...

Interesting and well thought out post. I feel though that Blizzard may still want to (or already is) making a move to position Diablo 3 to be in direct competition with Guildwars 2.

Hell Gate sucks and so does all of the other MMO/FPS/D2 clones

They know that Guildwars was the closest thing that WoW had to competition.

I don't think a SC MMO is in the works because of several reasons.

1. The Diablo factor I listed above
2. SC II is going to have a strong 10+ years behind it just like its predecessor, releasing another SC II game that isn't an expansion would possibly decrease that 10+ year number.

3. Blizzard may even likely be working on an new IP, they have been rumored to be working on 2-3 un-announced projects.
Now that could be translated as Diablo 3 and a SCII MMO, but I still think an SCII MMO is a bad idea right now.

How knows... maybe they are working on SC Ghost again lol

Bill Gorman said...

Relmstein, as always, you're worth reading, and I like your reasoning, but, like starfeeder, I see the development of SC II as being an indication that the MMO won't be Starcraft.

Why spend the effort to create SC II just to "trump" it so soon with World of Starcraft?

It was 2 1/2 years between WC III and WoW. With the release date of SC II still unknown, would the future unnamed MMO be 2+ years further away?

I'm going to guess it's something else, but will happily subject myself to "I told you so" if you're proven right ;)

Relmstein said...

A new Blizzard IP would be a very interesting thing to watch but between Starcraft 2, Wraith of the Lich King and having their lore master (Chris) working with the Legendary Picture guys I just don't see them being able to do it.

I think despite what people are saying nowadays we are going to see a surge in sci-fi based MMOs after this year. There's the rumoured KOTOR MMO and it looks like Stargate Worlds is moving from vaporware to a real MMO.

I do think the future MMO for Blizzard is at least 2 years away. Got to remember we're talking about the Blizzard development cycle and not a normal game studio.

Also Starcraft 2 will most likely be free to play on the new BattleNet once you buy the box. Thus it wouldn't interfere with a monthly fee for a MMO. Plus if its anywhere as popular as the first one it would act as free advertising.

Bill Gorman said...

Speaking of sci-fi based MMO's, I see you link to EVE Online.

Do you play EVE? Would you recommend it?

I am thrashing about for something to play pre-WotLK, since I've maxed out my non-raiding interest in WoW for now.

Kaziel said...

Sorry for asking this since it's not directly related to the post, but one thing stood out on starfeeder's post:

They know that Guildwars was the closest thing that WoW had to competition.

It was? I'm not saying it wasn't, I'm just wondering how you are gaging this game to others. I've not seen much on it either way, compared to other recent MMOs that haven't done badly (LotRO & EQ2 are the two that jump to mind). I mean, one could look at the total number of accounts, but since they never expire (thus are always counted) it makes it hard to accurately judge it's success.

Relmstein said...

I think EVE is to Sci-fi MMOs what Everquest was to fantasy MMOs. It is fun and probably will be copied a lot by future games but it has some game systems that are a bit grindy and unfriendly to new players. Still I know Saylah at Mystic Worlds blog just started playing again and has several write ups.

If you go by boxes sold for Guild Wars and the three expansion packs then I can see Guild Wars being a big contender for revenue. Figure around 40-50$ a box and its estimated around 4.5 million accounts for Guildwars. Not everyone bought all 3 expansions but it does add up to some money.

Scott said...

I'm also doubting the Starcraft route. If we go by the Warcraft way of things, they'll have to release SC3 first, right? As popular as SC was (still is?) it just doesn't have the lore behind it yet to justify an MMO.

I don't feel like Googling for links, but I could've swore I read more than one interview with Blizz people saying they're more interested in finally creating a new IP, something they haven't done since SC ten years ago.

As for Guild Wars, yeah recently over 4 million boxes sold, but most MMO players don't consider GW to be an MMO. For that matter, many GW players don't either. I include myself in that latter group, I've been playing since beta and back then ArenaNet made a big deal about "it's not an MMO" but all the media and fanboys at E3 ignored all that and put "New MMO! No monthly fee!" on their headlines.

GW2 on the other hand, will be a real MMO, and I'm also looking forward to seeing how that pans out.

Starfeeder said...

Hey Scott

I was in the Alpha/Beta test too :)
Which Guild where you in?


I biased what I said on pure quality of entertainment and quality of product, GW is a really fine polished game.

Now I haven't played LotRO or EQ2, but most Guildwars friends are also big time Blizzard gamers. From Warcraft, SC and WoW.

I think Guildwars's competitive nature lends itself as a Blizzard like game.

Rhey said...

First of all from what I've heard Matt is almost never wrong and quite a Sexy Beast too boot. My sources tell me that he stands by his comments that a Starcraft MMO would be stupid.

I mean you can only play as a Zergling herding Ultralisk for so long before you scream yourself horse yelling "Nerf DT" because lets face it the only thing cheaper than a rogue is one that never has to break stealth.

It's all a moot point anyway because Blizzards next offering is going to be "Hello Kitty, Island Adventure" In which lilies and lemon drop kisses are going to be completely OP.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with Rhey. Everything I heard about this Matt guy leads me to believe that he is just a skinny alcoholic that would club a baby seal given the opportunity. I heard Steve is much better than Matt in every aspect.

Relmstein said...

Never let friends know you have a blog.

Also they are making a Hello Kitty MMO, no word on the overpowerness of lemon drop kisses.

Hello Kitty Island Adventures comes True

Rhey said...

For all your Seal clubbing questions:

And we wouldn’t have to post if you would just stop slandering people whose prophetic vision on the world is consistently better than Miss Cleos.