Wednesday, August 20, 2008
WAR kills AoC, not WoW
The most frequently asked question I got now the WAR NDA dropped was "Is WAR the WoW killer". Answer: No, it is not, don't be silly. WAR *will* take a large bite out of WoW subscription numbers, but not enough to cause WoW to die. In my opinion Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is of similar quality as World of Warcraft, doing some things better, some things worse, and having a different focus for the end game. Many people will enjoy both games, and then decide for one or the other depending on things like timing, what their friends play, or personal preferences between raiding and RvR. WAR will probably lead to a much decreased activity on WoW servers between its release in September and the Wrath of the Lich King release (probably around November). But many people won't cancel their WoW account before having seen both WAR and WotLK. Nobody knows how that will work out in the long run.
One big factor here, to which we don't have an answer yet, revolves around the quality of the WAR servers. Recent changes made at least the European beta servers more laggy, but as the release servers will be totally different hardware, it is simply too early to say how smooth the servers will run on release day. That is somewhat self-limiting the success of WAR: If WAR is too successful, the servers will have more problems, driving more people away again.
But while WAR won't kill WoW, it could possibly deal a fatal blow to Age of Conan. AoC fans were disappointed this week to hear that the latest mega patch still didn't introduce a PvP points and rewards system. Many players reached level 80 by now, and there simply isn't enough to do. Warhammer Online on the other hand already in the beta has a completely working PvP system, and more content for all levels than AoC has months after release. WAR is more mature in its lore than WoW, while avoiding the big nekid boobs kind of "mature" AoC has. So unless you are a huge fan of the more twitchy AoC combat, there really is no reason to not switch to WAR instead.
The current closed beta version of WAR albeit is not quite feature complete. For example the bank and auction house NPCs are there, but aren't functional yet. And as the crafting system depends on players exchanging materials, that part of the game isn't fully tested yet either, with some indications that the higher level recipes are still missing. There doesn't appear to be a system yet in place to balance server populations to prevent either Order or Destruction outnumbering the other side. Nevertheless WAR is already a lot more bug-free than Age of Conan, and could really hurt that game.
WoW meanwhile escaped into immortality, and will easily survive the next 5 or even 10 years, even if subscription numbers will probably decline slowly. I'd say not even Blizzard could really produce a "WoW Killer". There might be painful things ahead like server mergers, but I don't think it is possible that subscription numbers drop so low that it isn't commercially viable any more to keep the servers running for years. WoW lives forever, like it or not.