Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
 
Sir Bruce's E3 MMOG report

"Sir" Bruce Sterling Woodcock did an excellent write-up of the MMOG games presented at the 2006 E3. So if you want to know what the MMORPGs of 2007+ will be, Sir Bruce's report gives you a good idea which games to look forward to.

Sir Bruce is more famous for his MMOGChart.com data on MMORPG subscriber numbers. Unfortunately his last data are from November, and could use some updating. But if you look at the chart of games with more than 120k subscribers, it becomes clear why nobody bothers to look at the numbers any more. Just mentally update the number of WoW subscribers to 6.5 million, and then consider that the only two other games with more than 1 million subscribers are the two Lineage games, which only have a tiny market share in the western world. World of Warcraft is the Microsoft of MMORPGs, with a market share that makes all the other games subscriber numbers look like background noise.

On the one side the millions of dollars that WoW made are certainly encouraging some companies to develop a MMORPG. But on the other side the complete dominance and near-monopoly of World of Warcraft isn't a healthy situation. It doesn't exactly encourage Blizzard to improve the game's shortcomings, or to add content at a faster rate. And there is a risk that other game companies hold the wrong parts of WoW responsible for the game's success. So instead of saying "we need a well-programmed game with lots of quests and content, accessible to many people", they might come to much shallower (and wrong) analysis like "the market wants elves and orcs".

Of course the WoW monopoly won't last forever, just like the dominance of Everquest didn't last forever. But in Sir Bruce's E3 line-up I fail to identify a "WoW-Killer". There are some nice games I would like to try, but nothing remotely likely to get even a million subscribers in the USA and Europe.
Comments:
But the market *does* want elves and orcs!!!

I'm still waiting for the WoW-killer. Unfortunately, I think it's a ways off. Not only will it take a new game with substantial improvements or at least alternatives, but it will also take a diminishment of WoW to pull off a switch. And I don't see WoW diminishing any time in the next year. (Figure 6 mo. to the expansion, then at least 6 mo. after that.)
 
I skimmed it and saw pretty much what has already been posted. But his collation is good, and he seems very optimistic on most games. I just wonder if it's not appropriate to start being a little more sceptical on some of these titles. Some of them have the veneer of AAA but they don't have experienced teams. There's just way too much hype from the press on some of these titles, while curiously there's a lack of attention on mature and well polished Alphas, like Pirates of the Burning Sea. I guess I just don't get why it's cool to hope for a "coming soon" when there are other games from small companies already in the works. If the whole point is to be fair and give attention to those providers who need it. This has nothing to do with Sir Bruce, I'm just uncomfortable with some of the paid E3 reviews making their way to MMO circuit these days. Thanks.
 
I prefer reviews of existing games to previews of games which might or might not make it to the market over the next year too. But it is interesting that there are more games from other genres than fantasy in the works. There is Sci-Fi, Pirates, and pseudo-historical settings, all of which are a nice change from the above mentioned elves and orcs.

I don't think we need for WoW to decline before we can have another big game. WoW will probably peak in subscription numbers shortly after the first expansion, but then hold on steady for many years in the 6 to 10 million range. But keeping a steady number of subscribers means that new players are joining, while old players get burned out with WoW and leave. These are all potential customers for other MMORPG, and there soon will be millions of them.
 
I don't think the replacements will fully offset the burn outs. There are a limited number of people who will join WoW and that number continues to diminish as they *do* join WoW. (Ignoring population growth as a substantial increasing factor in the potential number of people who can/will join.) Then what happens? They leave. Eventually more will be leaving than joining and WoW will diminish.

I just think that's a requirement for any other MMO to be a WoW-killer or even WoW-rival.

Of course such a MMO could help itself out by having a strong draw to pull more people out of WoW faster. I.e. Superior graphics, novel gameplay, whatever. Something to make people say:

"Ooh! Forget WoW! I'm going to ____!!!"

(Btw, "aan" above is me.)
 
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