Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 22, 2007
What will be the next big MMORPG?

A reader asked me on my opinion what would be the next big MMORPG success. Now predictions like that are always difficult, but my instinctive guess, based on no beta experience whatsoever, is Warhammer Online : Age of Reckoning (WAR). And the reason for that guess is PvP.

Now I don't like PvP very much, and I don't believe that PvP mixes well with a PvE game. But I am aware that this opinion is a minority one, a great many people do like PvP, or at least the idea of it. Making a good PvP-centric game could be possible, and if anyone can pull it of it's Mythic, because their previous game DAoC is widely acknowledged as having been strong in the PvP area. Add in the deep pockets of EA, who desperately need a MMORPG hit, and you get quite a good starting position. As World of Warcraft is more PvE-centric, WAR could easily achieve several hundred thousand players who prefer the realm vs. realm style of PvP. While ultimately the control of zones in WAR resets, at least temporarily your actions can make a difference to who controls what, and that is a very attractive feature.

There are some other interesting games in development, like Age of Conan, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising, or Tabula Rasa. And I'm not saying that these won't be financially successful. But I consider them to be more niche, and not so much mass market MMOPRG. If they are good, they will find their players, but most probably in smaller numbers than WAR.

All together these new games might cause at least a visible impact on the World of Warcraft player numbers that WarcraftRealms is famous for publishing. Nevertheless I don't really see any "WoW killers" on the horizon.

So tell me, what is your prediction about what the next big MMORPG is? And why?
I belvieve we need a MMO that will give WoW lots of competition but not neceserily kill it. I think LOTRO stole a lot of its numbers but hope WAR is as good as they say it will be.

Acording to me WAR is the next big thing, but I hope Blizzard will release a new MMO soon...
LOTRo lacks polish to be a real WoW killer but it's fun. WAR may draw some PVP crowd, but not sure. I also wonder if a game like Hellgate London (not a pure MMO) can draw on the MMO population.

Frankly I can't wait to see an MMO that is as nice as WoW but is accessible. LOTRo is nice for now but doesn't really fit the bill if I'm completely honest. It's the next best thing for now.

Red 5 studios, former Blizzard designers and developers work on an MMO for a while now but nothing has been announced. I'm really curious about that one tbh, but given that there is no marketing noise, it's gotta be two years away at least.
Three possible choices.

1. warhammer online
2. bioware's unannounced mmorpg
3. star trek online (probably 2009)

But let's face it; what's going to kill WoW is whatever mmorpg that Blizzard develops next )
Warhammer AoR will most probably be the next big MMO. Its formula to success will be DAoC's Realm vs. Realm PvP mixed with things they learned from WoW (make it accessible, give it the best UI you can, don't make it look too realistic but just fun to play) and hopefully some things they learned from WoW's mistakes (balance classes in PvP, then build the PvE around it).

But I'm not expecting it to be THE WoW killer. Blizzard perfected the 'hunter and gatherer' aspect, which is probably the strongest driving factor in any MMOG, already in Diablo II, and carried the item and achievment hunt successfully to WoW. And I'm convinced that this will also be a prerequisite for the often sought WoW killer.

MMORPGs are the tale of starting in rags with a wooden sword, collecting 10 rat tails, and ending up months later as KISHA (knight in shiny armor). And then comes the end game, where anyone is a KISHA, and you end up farming for epics and doing micromanagement all day.
That's the curse and blessing of MMORPGs, and also the formula of success for the next big MMO...

The word is about, there's something evolving,
whatever may come, the world keeps revolving
They say the next big thing is here,
that the revolution's near,
but to me it seems quite clear
that it's all just a little bit of history repeating

The newspapers shout a new style is growing,
but it don't know if it's coming or going,
there is fashion, there is fad
some is good, some is bad
and the joke is rather sad,
that its all just a little bit of history repeating

- Propellerheads, 'History Repeating'

Let's see what Blizzard announce at Blizzcon :)
Now I don't like PvP very much, and I don't believe that PvP mixes well with a PvE game. But I am aware that this opinion is a minority one, a great many people do like PvP, or at least the idea of it.

Oh no. PvP is not as mass compatible as PvE and it will not be for a long time. PvP content attracts a small percentage, PvE lures the masses.

The next big MMO is years away. If big means WoW-kinda big we at least talk 5 years from now. PvP-centric MMOs will be huge if they can find 1 million subs, everything above that number is unrealistic. The next big MMO will be whatever Blizzard puts out as its 2nd MMO. Looking at how WoW is shaping up right now, it isn't hard to see, that Blizzard with 8 million under their hands, can shape their own audience for the 2nd MMO. You know that "World of Starcraft" is already in the making, but do not expect any announcements for at least 2 years. SC2 has to be a smash for a couple of months to ressurect the IP into the peoples minds, then they can come up with the MMO.

AoC is such a hardware hog, this will eat the hardcores from WARs PvP audience i guess. Estimated subs for 6 month: 200-300k if they're lucky. The game cripples itself cause with its hardware requirements. Tabula Rasa could be doing really well. I think if they're capable of pushing out enough content this game could break 1 mill within 6 months. WAR is way to much future talk yet. We will see lots of delays for this one. If it's released christmas 08 i would be suprised, really depends how fiancially commited EA is with this one.

That said, i have no clue what Spore will be like, it could be a big smash, especially now that they reconsider the basics. I do set my hopes onto the yet to be named Bioware MMO, especially if the rumors about a KotoR-MMO should be true. They recently licensed a technology to track a couple of thousand player actions serverwide in realtime... that gives you ideas.
I used to be anti-PvP. I rolled (and still play) on a PvE server. It's approaching 3 years of playing WoW and the only thing keeping me going is PvP ironically. You go through enough 5 mans and raids and every fight becomes the same thing with new skins. There really is no variation and the only challenge is getting all the others in your party to play well enough to overcome the same scripted routine.

So for me, WAR is the game I'm waiting for. WoW's PvP is fun but unbalanced and extremely limited. I look forward to a game with PvP as it's core and endgame. I'm not the only one.

I think a lot of the PvE only types would be surprised how many people are looking for a new challenge via PvP. I have friends in large, very successful raiding guilds who are telling me their guild is looking for beta invites to WAR as they are all excited about moving over there. These are PvE guilds. Most of them have done the PvE thing and are now sort of tired of the same old cycle. PvP has it's draw for many, as the fights are never the same and your opponents 'AI' is greater than that of a scripted event.

I don't think WAR will kill WoW but I do think you'll see a substantial drop in subs if it lives up to expectations (a million plus). Look at how many PvP servers there are. Most of those people are tired of the limited, unbalanced PvP WoW offers and are salivating for the next new, big PvP MMORPG.
Personally I don't think we will see another MMOG hitting the subscriber numbers that WoW managed for sometime, maybe not until the replacement of WoW 2 or "World of Starcraft" (should it ever happen)...or maybe even never!

WAR will probably be the best performer of the next generation, LOTRO will be up there but I believe it will be affected by WAR more than WoW. LOTRO is a great mmog, but I don't think it is different enough from WoW to make it the next big thing, WAR on the other hand has more unique features (other than PvP, like the class system and public quests). Plus Warhammer fans are just as numerous a LOTR fans and it's community has an arguably bigger intersection with computer gaming.

Tabula Rasa looks different, but I think that it will only attract a percentage of the player base similar to what Auto Assault or Planetside achieved.
The first chance on a WOW killer will be ...

None, I suppose.

My best estimate is that once the giant tumbles and falls, it will shatter to many pieces and these pieces will be created as a smaller version of the giant on its own.

For the time I doubt there will be one game that will be large enough to dominate the market after WOW. My best estimate is that WOW served as the market enhancer, it widened and commercialized the market.

I wish Star Trek Online could draw some 6 million+ attention, but some facts speak against it:

- less attraction from the asian market
- SciFi usually sells less good compared to Fantasy
- Developer Perpetual is relatively unexperienced with HUGE MMOPGs.

WAR will certainly see some crowds, PvP kiddies are crazy like hell for that game, every 2nd comment when someone flames WOW is: 'WAR is coming'. My best assumption: 3-4 million players. Less than WOW because of PvP centric content.

AoC will see less subscribers than LOTRO from my perspective as it has 3 main disadvantages:

1) The brand "Conan" is less known amongst the younger audience compared to LOTRO / Warcraft / Warhammer
2) Too PvP centric with high brutality penalty (will certainly get a rating of 16 at least, more likely 18 in Germany which kills sales)
3) Too much elitist targeting. People will soon become frustrated that complex/tough action movements are required for every single mob kill and many people will lack the skill to match against other players therefore serving as cannon fodders and leave the game frustrated. Ever tried Jedi Knight action games/duels against seasoned players?

Tabula Rasa has no big chance of entering the market in a grand scale from my pov. I am unsure about the asian market though, where they might see more crowds subscribing than other games because of the developing company. Also, I think TR will target the BattleField/CS audience more than a WOW audience.

Honestly, I think some StarCraft Universe Online or World of Diablo has a good chance to be the next huge thing.

Many little big things incoming though which will hurts Blizzards bottom line.
I lost faith in Mythic. I'm betting on Age of Conan being a great game, though I don't think it will be a runaway success numbers wise.

Tabula Rasa, based on the hype I've seen, will be a huge flop. Garriot has lost touch with reality.
50% of WoW servers are PvP. You people are VASTLY underestimating the number of PvP'ers in the game. Warhammer is going to attract millions from WoW. It is the one and only game that is going to take a very large chuck out of WoW. Expect to see Blizzard put some serious work into PvP leading up to Warhammer's release as an attempt to offset it.
Some thoughts

Success of Blizzard is due to their business model of giving wide access to deep fun being had currently by an few gamers

Next big MMO will improve access to raids/bg (Alterac Valley is the best model, which is also the direction of WAR) and maybe allow instances of greater variety (short 2 mans, many AVs)

There will be greater individualisation by smashing equipment (core goal of MMOs) into tiny components to allow appearance customistation (direction of Second Life), greater relevance of old content (eg. look like van cleef at lvl 70 but from drops in vc), crafting as a wider activity (eg. better crafters can assemble armour with it falling apart or with more magical properties)

There will be improved social spaces to allow people to just hang out (Second Life) and feel social bonds (Sims)

PvP will become the central goal of the goal (current WoW direction) but dungeons can provide top gear

I personally think linearity of content (dungeons/quests) will pass, and we may see things like giant dungeons with many paths where you can spend ages just exploring (like the old D&D 15 level dungeons)

Of course, zones/dungeons may become semi-dynamic to improve variety (meet explorers needs), eg. capture the castle, new weekly adds to dungeon bosses

Eve online shows us that a large world with player institutional structures can create a genuine historical feel with dynamic content and player attachment

The above means that the next big MMO is gonna be way bigger than WoW (!) and maybe only Blizzard would have the finances and people resources to carry it out (however, it might become the first MMO that will last a persons own game lifetime, eg. 20 years)

PS. Like the blog, keep it up
Ironically, I think that WoW has helped WAR to be able to steal subscriptions.

before WoW, PVP was a very small group of hardcores consisting of those of us that played DAoC and EQ PvP Servers - WoW made PvP mainstream, and WAR will be the first PvP-centric MMO to come out since this shift.

I also think that a good chunk of LoTR's success has come not from it being a good game, but more-so from WoW players looking for something new and different.

These factors combined with what Tobold mentioned about Mythic and EA being powerhouses in their own right, makes it seem that WAR could be bigger than we think.
I am looking forward to WAR, even though I am not the biggest PVP fan. Perhaps the reason I don't care for PVP is WoW's implementation of it. Perhps RvR will be better. If Mythic pulls it off...we'll see.
I'm not so sure there will be a "next big MMORPG." The way business in general is headed (starting sometime in the 90s) is away from large corporations doing a million things to small niche companies that do one thing particularly well.

WoW can maintain its size because it offers several legit ways to play depending on what you want: you can solo, or group, go PvE or PvP, raid, etc. A small game focusing on one or a few of those areas will probably (if they are smart) be able to excel in them. A game focussed on PvP created by a company willing to throw money and developers at the issues in a PvP system will be better (in theory) at creating a PvP game than a company expending its resources supporting a larger set of gaming activities.

People will gravitate towards games catered to their preferred niche. And each of those niche games, appealing to a subset of WoW's playerbase, will most likely be smaller than WoW which attempts to appeal to all of them. Thing is, all those little niche games, while not destroying WoW in and of itself, maybe bleed the giant out.

WoW PvP diehards -> Warhammer

WoW Fantasy Game Diehards -> LoTRO

WoW players sick of fantasy -> Star Trek(?)

Etc, etc.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is overhyped. It will not be the next big MMOG. Just like other PVP based games, we will see a big unbalance in class populations. Everybody and their dogs will be playing the classes that are more powerful.

Here's the three I'm looking forward to...

1. Darkfall Online
2. Darkfall Online
3. Darkfall Online

I like games with city building and relentless & unforgiving PvP. The most polite server I ever played was Siege Perilous in Ultima Online... go figure!
I don't know if anyone has noticed this, but the realm take-overs in WAR are going to have multiple contributing factors.

Take a guess which factor contributes the most...?

If you said Battlegrounds, then you are correct.

I'm looking for a PvP-Centric game that focuses on world objective, not another queue and wait artificial game of capture the flag =/
WAR's audience is too small to be the next big MMO. It's hardcore PvP centric, aimed at the 18-35 male demographic. Even if it's fantastic at what it is aiming to do, it still is limited by it's "non-general" appeal.
As some other comments have pointed out, I do not belive there will be any next big MMOG any time soon, but rather a number of them that each cater for a smaller player base than WoW - at least when looking at the Western hemisphere.

While WoW certainly is bringing in a lot of money to Blizzard and Vivendi, it is not the only MMOG that has numbers in black, probably a number of the smaller games are making money and perhaps even pretty good money.

Aiming for a game that might get a player base of a few 100K people is still quite a lot and it would be less risk to aim for than spend money assuming one would get a player base in the multi-million range.

I am quite sure that Blizzard's estimates for the number of subscribner they would require to make adecent profit was way lower than their 8.5 million total player base world-wide, even though they probably had their aim quite high in comparision with earlier games in the genre.

When a "WoW killer" game appear it will be either
* when the market has changed enough so that making an investment with the aim of making a game with similar player numbers seems to have a reasonably good chance of success
* A game that aimed lower than that, but due to fortunate circumstances got a much higher influx of players than expected.
WAR is already setting records after getting over 200,000 beta sign-ups within the first 10 days.

I really don't think it's a question if WAR will be big but how long can WAR keep those players. If they plan on pulling a 1.62 patch on millions of players it will spell doom for WAR.
Darkfall Online will be all we least for hardcore-pvp folks and that doesn't mean some wannabe-WoW-PvPers...
I think the business is going to fragment, as above posters have stated. Some people want more sandboxy experiences, some want PVP-focused games, some want a MMOshooter, some want the WoW formula in a specific fantasy world.

I think WAR is going to be a big success. There are a number of new mechanics, top notch production values, everyone is talking about it like crazy, and most of all every hands on I've read has said it's already a lot of fun.

Dunno about AOC. It seems very ambitious and the dev blogs I've read don't give me confidence they'll be able to get all the mechanics worked out correctly. Especially not in 3 months. Plus there are the direct x10 and xbox360 issues to deal with.

My obscure pick: Tabula Rasa seems to be getting some good reviews, the core gameplay seems to be a bit different and fun though there may be some balance and quest design issues.
"50% of WoW servers are PvP. You people are VASTLY underestimating the number of PvP'ers in the game. Warhammer is going to attract millions from WoW. It is the one and only game that is going to take a very large chuck out of WoW. Expect to see Blizzard put some serious work into PvP leading up to Warhammer's release as an attempt to offset it." -- Anonymous

The only reason these PvP servers thrive is because WoW's PvE is so stable. The real PvP games are of old.
i'm sure it will let me down, but i am looking forward to Star Trek Online.
Lineage 3, Aeon, Project Offset, warhammer anything are all going to be big hitters imo.

However, by them Blizz will put out something else like diablo 3 MMO or w/e and still maintain their grapple on the majority.

Niche MMO's last along time but dont draw large ammounts of players. If anything it holds the hit n run fresh gamers into a single game longer than a generic "everybody" type of MMO would.
Next big MMO will be the WoW expansion probably announced this August.

It seems to me that many of the Warhammer fans (and I'm an old Pen & Paper Warhmammer fan) are driven by a desire to see Blizzard fail, almost as much as a desire to see WAR be good.

I hope Mythic learned from DAoC, but I lived through the early months of that game and they weren't pretty.
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