Monday, July 07, 2008

Could Wrath of the Lich King win the war?

The war for best MMO of the year is still up in the air. For the longest time everyone thought it would be a duel to the death between Wrath of the Lich King and Warhammer. I think we were all surprised when Age of Conan showed such a strong release and made it seemed like it also might be in the running. The game's shine has worn off now and fans are starting to clamour for Funcom to deliver on all the promises it made. The developers are trying, but it's obvious they released too early to take advantage of the lack of competition. Funcom has said that they have had over 700,000 accounts made since release, but that number is probably not reflective of current active subscribers.

This has once again become a contest between Wrath of the Lich King and Warhammer. The current hype paints Warhammer as the most likely winner though that's not based on probable box sales. Warhammer is not going to sell more boxes then Wrath of the Lich King no matter how popular it becomes. World of Warcraft has too many accounts already established that are going to boost the demand for it. If you think about the monthly churn rate which has been estimated at about 4-5%, then World of Warcraft most likely has around 20-30 million inactive accounts. Not all of these players are going to be coming back for the expansion, but a portion of them will be reactivated.

Warhammer has little chance to win if you look only at initial sales numbers. However, it's really the quality of the game play that sets the long term popularity of a game. A lot of video games based on movies sell well because of their relation to a license, but they soon disappear into obscurity. Wrath of the Lich King is going to win in initial sales, but the numbers will start to shift if Warhammer is the better game. That's not to say that Blizzard is just going to stand by and let EA Mythic make a better game then them. World of Warcraft finally has some decent competition and that's spurring Blizzard into being more innovative. (still slow as hell though)

I've mentioned before that people have made fun of the initial feature list announced for Wrath of the Lich King since it was surprisingly lackluster. Now all of sudden Blizzard is mentioning new ideas like a dungeon done while flying on dragonback. I find it suspicious that Blizzard has held onto such a gem for so long. This might be because they wished to protect their design ideas, but more likely I think its because they just recently started putting effort into innovation. This is probably a good idea since even buggy Age of Conan was able to easily steal 700,000 players away from them for a month. And this is a game that had a lot of negative press from their open beta disaster.

I'm sure Rob Pardo has nightmares about how many players Warhammer is going to steal away for their initial release. I think the hype surrounding Warhammer has caused Blizzard to go into overdrive trying to come up with new ideas to improve their expansion. The game that is now starting to take shape definitely doesn't look like what was announced at Blizzcon last year. Instead we've got a game that is opening up casual raiding and introducing a lot of new combat features oriented around flying mounts. It seems obvious that Blizzard knows EA Mythic is going to be beat them on PvP content and they've decided to try to steamroll them on the PvE side.

That's not to say that Blizzard is ignoring the PvP side since they are very familiar with taking features from other games and integrating them into their own. One only has to look at Lake Wintergrasp to know that any popular feature in Warhammer is soon going to have a baby brother in World of Warcraft. It may not be streamlined into a RvR experience, but it might be enough to keep players from trying out the new kid on the block. Plus, I think Warhammer's hype is starting to get so thick that it's posing a danger to the actual game. The recent Bartle incident is enough to show that fanboism has reached an all time high for the game. With so many expectations being so high, I can't help but think that there could be some major disappointment when it releases.

I personally thought I would be avoiding WotLK because my interests have started to focus more on PvP combat in MMOs. I've had some bad luck with guilds breaking up because of Karazhan and well equipped members guild hopping. This made me finally give up on raiding and just focused on small group content. Imagine my surprise when I started to find arenas and battlegrounds just as satisfying as raiding when decent rewards were included. Warhammer seemed like the next logical step since most of its content was focused on similar PvP encounters. However, I've found out playing Age of Conan that I still like PvE content. I just needed something new that I could actually run with a small group. If Wrath of the Lich King can introduce much better PvE content and stay only a little bit behind Warhammer in PvP features then I might be returning to Azeroth sooner then I thought.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ive always been a PVPer since DnD days, but only a few games focused on it. Finally a game has come along with a focus on PVP over PVE.

Ill continue my subscription to WoW and get the WotLK expansion, but I am mostly looking forward to Warhammer.

Relmstein said...

I'm excited by Warhammer's PvP ideas and I hope they work out as well as Paul Barnett describes them in the videos. On the other hand I'm starting to hear about some of the new PvE ideas from the WoW expansion and they sound great.

I have a feeling most hardcore MMO fans might will just end up paying for a subscription to both games.

Crimson Starfire said...

Have you ever heard the saying "You are only as good as your competition"? I think it is great that we will have WAR and WoW competing against one another for the best PvP / PvE system. It will make both games better.

Personally I prefer PvP, so I'll most likely be going the Warhammer way from the beginning at least.

Bildo said...

On a PvE in WAR note from what I can gather there is a LARGE focus on small-group dungeons in WAR throughout the game that are meant for shorter play-sessions.

I wouldn't be surprised if these combined with PQs offer an altogether fresh take on PvE for smaller groups that draws a lot of casuals away from WoW for a bit.

That said, I still am betting I'll end up playing both. WoW's leveling content is always too good to pass up. Even if the end-game is a grind and a half with loot as the only reward, the leveling is what keeps me coming back.

Heartless_ said...

I actually find the news about WAR's PvE content a lot more interesting than Wrath's. I love WoW's PvE, but WAR seems to be bringing the system back in line to be equally enjoyable for all involved, not just a minority that can chain themselves to a weekly schedule.

WAR's idea of PQs inside realm-wide dungeon instances really interests me, as it brings people together outside of a stupid LFG channel or tool. I hate LFG btw :P

I will not buy Wrath at launch, no matter how much I wish I had played TBC at launch. I will wait, let the Wrath storm settle and hopefully be playing WAR. Then if WAR needs to go on break I can pick up Wrath. I am really doubting WAR will let me down and will probably play it even if it is a train wreck. If I'm going to get tagged as a fanboy, I am going to sure as hell act the part.

Relmstein said...

Even though I distrust the hype surrounding Warhammer I'm still more inclined to try it out first before Wrath of the Lich King. Quite frankly, I've gotten tired of the slow pace at which Blizzard releases expansions and their lack of innovation. Then again it seems that Warhammer has put a little bit of a fire beneath their asses and they are coming up with some good ideas.

Honestly, whoever releases first is going to have an opportunity to convert me back from Age of Conan. Unless a miracle happens and Funcom makes the best PvP system ever.

Incidental Purpose said...

I just want Warhammer to be successful to put a flame under Blizzards ass.

One can only imagine, because of Blizzard's success they have the resources to really innovate the MMO genre...especially if they start to feel that innovation is necessary to stay ahead of the competition.

Bring on the competition!

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