The Hot Doggin’ WoW Killer
My good friend Kristen jawed to me the other day about MMOs and the competition coming up on the horizon. She’d been watching recent threads, and saw what seemed to be a running trend among them. This asked a simple question – is (insert game here) a WoW killer? The usual speculation and firestorm of posts resulted, from people confident that the title they were most loyal to was destined to dethrone WoW to those that said it was equally as destined to fail to do so.
While Kristen and I aren’t fond of WoW for a variety of reasons, that doesn’t mean the looming question doesn’t get asked. Will upcoming titles like Aion, Champions Online, and SWTOR are capable of toppling the current king of the hill from its perch?
There’s a great amount of loyalty and pride that people have in the titles that they follow. Whether that title has 10,000 subscribers or 1,000,000 subscribers, there’s a sort of fierce “home turf” sort of protectiveness that comes from a genuine enjoyment of the game. People call this “fanboyism”, but I like to call it brand loyalty and a defense of something they’re actually liking. That’s not unusual and frankly, plenty fine with me, because games are meant to be enjoyed. Cynics and haters, by contrast, are quick to tear down titles they may have played but didn’t ultimately enjoy, or are sometimes despondent over the fact that even though WoW may or may not be something they like, that nothing will ever drop it from its kingly throne.
Either way, my answer to this question is indirect and of course, sunny. Too much effort is put into wondering whether or not a game is going to kill another game or become #1 on the market. In fact so much effort is expended that people tend to get exasperated, upset, and otherwise furious that their opinion isn’t one that everyone agrees with. Guys and gals, wondering if a game is going to be competitive is the job of the developers, investors, and marketing folks – people with far more stressful jobs than we do. People really need to relax and judge enjoyment of their game of choice on things besides “whether or not this game will kill WoW” – things like personal fun factor, desire to play, and their experience with the games appealing points and its flaws.
Players aren’t the only ones who need to take a chill pill with regards to the WoW killer topic. I mentioned developers above, and worrying about whether a game is competitive is a lot different than worrying about whether your game will kill WoW or not. If I’ve seen a developer or two make a mistake over the past 3 or 4 years, it’s talking a lot of bluster and taking shots over the bow at WoW in an attempt to exude not just confidence in a product but its ability to compete directly with the king of MMOs. In most cases, it has led to at best an underperforming game and at worst, total shutdown. Developers – in this small-time blogger’s opinion, it’s not worth it to worry about WoW that much. Changing or adapting core design elements to try to appeal to WoW players is only going to get you something that isn’t WoW but that also isn’t what you wanted out of the game. It’s just not worth it.
Really, this all boils down to not stressing about the competition in the market too much (because ultimately more MMOs is a good thing, not a bad thing) and simply having the confidence in your game of choice to get subscribers on its own merits. Developers and players both need to realize that being the highly visible, hot dogging WoW killer that screams “lookit me (kill WoW)” is going to end up in a really bad injury or a black eye. I think a lot of people would be a lot less stressed (and therefore feeling a lot better enjoyment of their chosen MMO) if they never really bothered with the question of being a WoW killer, because inevitably, something will topple WoW from its top spot – and it won’t be because of things that make that something WoW-like.