Tobold's Blog
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.
I think AoC will also hurt WAR. After jumping onto the AoC train too early, I will not make the same mistake with WAR. After several weeks of operation I will see what people say about it and then decide if I join or not. Maybe others will be more cautious too.
AoC will hurt WAR?? I think you meant the other way round mate.

AoC is dead to me, it's just another page to the sad saga that was Vanguard before it. i.e. released under pressure and no where near finished.
There's a difference between people disliking a buggy and unfinished game and a game that's feature complete, working as intended and just not fun to play. If AoC was the latter, then it might have "poisoned the well" for Warhammer.

I'm a bit concerned that Mythic is doing a marketing open beta instead of a debugging/polish open beta, but I do hope that they pull it off. There's definitely room in the market for a decent PvP-oriented fantasy MMORPG.
What gets me is a number of WAR sites/blogs are professing that the graphics (based on beta) are great.

From what I can see there is no way of scaling the graphics, in beta, to the highest resolution & seems to be set at a low level which I still feel looks OK but certainly not great.
The thing that totally drove me away from AoC was the fact that so many basic features just did not work. Your character had a (relatively big) set of numbers (which i like) but these did not have any influence in the game world. At all. This was a game breaker for me. I hope that at least these basic gameplay mechanics are in working order in WAR.

I am disappointed i a lot of the mmos in past years (lotro, vanguard, TR, AoC) so this time im not expecting too much.

Partly because i read alot of the more negative bloggers out there, just to be fully informed (a diet of only K&Gs hyperbole -entertaining as it may be, and it is- will probably lead to me being disappointed in the actual game). What i am expecting is a wow variant with lots of semi-massive TM like clashes (which i liked alot) and extremely easy grouping (PQs).

The points that strike me as critical for this game:

-combat, is it really 'sluggish' and even unresponsive?
-as i read it many things arent in game yet. This will have to be implemented asap and not include basic mechanics (aoc syndrome).
-realm balance (destruction seems to be the absolute fav, which will mean i will roll order..underdogs are cool) How will mythic keep things balanced, pop-wise
-server performance

-class balance. with so many classes (and maybe 4 more in the future! this will always be an issue).
I doubt that WoW will last for another 5 years. Sure, people are still going to play it even after the new stuff in WotLK comes out but not a whole lot of those players will have been pre-TBC players. I would say that WoW is going to fall in numbers significantly in the next 2 years perhaps to 5 million subscribers. At that point Blizzard will probably decide to begin making their next MMO. Within 4 years I think their new mmorpg will be near release and everyone will forget about WoW.
Well, thats my take on it anyway. :D
Very insightful post, Tobold, and it in fact expresses a lot of the thoughts that I've been having about WAR and its probably relationship to currently existing MMOs.

I have to agree with bvznl that realm balance seems to be a huge concern. I tend to prefer the "pretty" races, and even I can't help but think that destruction looks like much more fun to play than order ... but we'll see what happens when the game actually comes out!

In response to chappo, WoW will most certainly survive for the next 5 years, and most likely even the next 10. If Ultima Online is still running (meaning that it must be turning some kind of a profit) over 10 years after release, then WOW, with a peak subscriber subscriber base approximately 20 times greater than UO's peak number, then it's not much of a stretch to say that WOW will be around into into the 2020s.

I, for one, hope that the retirement homes of the future have fiberoptic internet connections.
@Tobold, WAR didn't and won't kill AoC, AoC killed AoC. It's a repeat of history with Funcom yet again blowing their chance with a potentially good product simliar to what they did with the early bug ridden case of Anarchy Online. They pushed it out to the market too soon, and while MMO gamers enthusiasticly responded to a truely PvP focused MMO to fill the void in the market, they just utterly failed on delivery leaving customers to leave in droves.

Fast forward a few months after the release of WAR, WAR by far appears to be the better product, the only negative vs Conan I can think of at the moment is graphics, however everything else is clearly superior from the ground up. I just don't see subscribers ever leaving WAR to go back to AoC even if Funcom does manage to clean up their mess in a year.

AoC will survive and be profitable for years to come, I just fear funcom's short-sightedness has cost them a lot of subscribers and income in the longrun by blowing their one and only chance with their competitor hot on their heals to steal the victory from them.

@Shalkis, Mythic is doing a stress test, and marketing beta. The "open beta" as its structured is too late to matter, and so limited it won't display any significant exploits. The only way Mythic could polish the game more is to delay the game further so their team can keep working on the cut features and bugs. Obviously they made that call, and here we stand with release in about 3 weeks.

@Chappo, WoW will easily last nearly another decade. Business models change, and there's alot they can do between now and later when they see their subscribers significantly dropping to keep it profitable.

Particularly in reference to Neil's point, as Ultima Online is a perfect example of pioneering MMO that altered it's model near the end of its boom lifecycle to implment micro-transaction type fees to supplement it's income significantly.
Participate in your first open RvR / Keep Siege and you will no doubt say what everyone I've met in beta has said: OMG! I can't believe this is so fun!!

WAR has far more variety of things to do that AoC and it will absolutely be the best game for people that enjoy any form of PvP. Period. After playing both AoC and WAR Beta I can say that the gameplay, stability, class balance, and fun factor of WAR greatly surpasses AoC. Anyone that decides to give the two games a fair shot will more likely than not stick with WAR.

As for WoW killer; it's hard to say. If all you really want to do is end game PvE (something only a small percent of the WoW population ever gets to see) then I'd say WoW will keep you. If you want to be able to participate in all aspects of end game whether it's PvE or RvR (PvP that actually matters) then I believe people will enjoy WAR more.

WAR is not at all about grinding out levels just to hopefully participate in some fun stuff at max level. In WAR you hit the ground running from day 1 and exp flys in no matter what you're doing!
For those that are worried about server balance. If it's any consolation typically Order can easily hold their own in rvr assaults/sieges even with less numbers.

The trend seems to be most order roll a much higher percentage of healers and tanks, and they actually win rvr battles. Most destro healers and tanks fail at using their skills in a way that helps on the battlefield. There have been many times where an easily 2:1 outnumbered order skirmish rolls through destro.

People that understand the flow of battle and can adapt with tactics will 100% be the victor regardless of numbers. :)
War will never kill AoC.

Even wow with its huge player base has not killed the "old" MMO like EQ, DAOC, ...

So WoW will not kill other MMO and other MMO will not kill WoW.

There is still a lot of player that want something else that a dumb-down MMO so EQ, EQII, etc seems to still work well.
My main reason that WAR will be preferable to WoW is the fact that EA have promised real, actually proximal Oceanic servers. Trying to competitively PvP with 600+ latency is simply frustrating.
AoC will always have an audience. In a market where SWG can survive the NGE exodus, AoC can prosper.
I agree with some of the above posters. AoC's biggest issue is that Funcom is running things. My computer won't even run the game (I can get through character generation, but that's it.) If AoC was a Blizzard property...

Blizzard has a looong line of successes and they do a superb job of making a game that's accessible to a very wide range of people. There's nothing out there which will kill off WoW, but several games will cause a short term dip in active subscribers.

Still, AoC has a very different atmostphere, as does WAR, so you'll see people who like those worlds playing those games. I've been reading the Conan stories for a very long time and I'd love to be able to play a working version of that game. Unfortunately, it's Funcom...

If Funcom can get it's act together and make a workable game, then AoC will survive. Heck, Anarchy Online is still alive.

I don't know much of anything about WAR, but it'll certainly be worth looking at. I like PvP quite a lot, not that I'm good at it, and if WAR has a good system, that'll be cool.

If it's a major gank-fest with armies of little kids running around making (expletive deleted) of themselves, then maybe not so cool.
Well said, Tobold.

@ chappo: You make a good prediction, but I'd have to say otherwise. Remember Everquest II? Lineage II? Those may be 'dead' games, but they still remain commercially viable. Even after Everquest II failed to remotely compete with WoW at launch, the servers are still up and running today, and that's a long time they've been up.

I'd have to say that Tobold is right. Even if Blizzard releases no more expansions after WotLK, WoW servers will still be live for years to come, and they can rather easily retain their Chinese market as well.

Sorry mate, Im not trying to bash. I just think Blizzard is too smart to let their game die. They actually have already been working on the next MMO for quite a few months now. The 'top secret' "next-gen" MMO project that is constantly in the Job Listings.
It will be sad to see WAR obliterate AoC, because I root for Funcom and (though I'm not playing right now) would hate to see Anarchy Online die or even lose its upcoming graphics upgrade.

But damn it Gaute Godager really deserves it. Age of Conan isn't just a trainwreck as it has turned out; the game they wanted to make is an obscenity which shows contempt towards so many things I love about MMOs, and they intentionally downplayed the many, many copouts they resorted to.

WoW is indeed bulletproof because of its charm and its appeal to different age ranges and people seeking different levels of challenge and complexity. (You don't see people complaining, for example, that WAR is too simple or too geared toward young kids.) Where it appears WAR may have followed WoW's lead is on slickness and variety. If it takes a bite out of WoW's monopoly on professional quality animation & sound effects and big choice of setting & atmosphere, that's where it's going to take a bite out of wow.

AoC is dead either way for the simple reason that people won't slog through the same low level area over and over again. Total absence of low level variety means a top heavy game of Asheron's Call proportions inside of a year. It may simply be impossible for new players to get into the game.
It's called beta for a reason. Don't expect to see everything otherwise there won't be any surprises when the game is released. Part of the fun is discovery.
Yarg, this whole "killer" thing is so misguided. Don't use the word killer. Use the word "competition". Blizzard has needed some good competition for about 3.5 years now.

First, everybody needs to stop saying that a WoW killer is going to draw 10 million account holders away from WoW. You have to remember what market we are talking about.

Mythic is releasing WAR to North America, Oceania, and Western Europe, hereafter referred to as "the West".

The majority of Blizzard's paying customer base is now in Asia. Less than 5 million account holders are in the West.

Mythic is competing for less than 5 million Blizzard account holders in the West.

Blizzard's scared, and they should be; of the WoW accounts that left for AoC, an admittedly bad game, only 40% returned. WAR is a better game than AoC. The return percentage is likely to be even lower, and the attrition rate in the Western account holder group WILL be higher.

So if you are going to make comparisons and go on about "WoW killers", you have to properly define what market you're referring to. Mythic is not competing for WoW's large Asian base.

Not yet, anyway.

If by Christmas Mythic has acrued 1 or 2 or more million players, then you will have some idea of what they've done to WoW's Western accountholder base: reduced it by 25-50%.

So what's it take to be a "WoW killer"? To be the most dominant in the relevant market space (i.e. excluding Asia?). Or do you expect a game released ONLY to Western players to eclipse a game that is now populated by a majority of Asian players?
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