“The WoW Killer”. Anyone who has ever played an MMO, especially World of Warcraft, has heard this phrase at one point or another. The game that will strike down Blizzard’s giant and will bring about a day when WoW no longer sits in the #1 position of the most popular MMO on the market. For some, it even means the end of WoW altogether. Many games were predicted to be the WoW Killer: Aion, Rift, Star Trek Online, and even Star Wars The Old Republic is believed by some to be the newest WoW Killer. Yet, none of the games have been able to do the job. SWTOR seems to be the most favorable, in that a recent survey projected that anywhere from 900,000 to 1.6 million WoW players plan to jump ship to SWTOR at launch. But even then, with the accounts already lost, WoW would still be at around 9 or 10 million subscribers. So the question is: what is the WoW Killer, and is it even possible to make one?
Personally, I think people look at the subject too specifically. They think that a single game will be so popular and amazing that people will just lose interest in WoW. It won’t work that way. The way I see it, there needs to be two things to bring WoW down a notch: an abundance of other popular MMO style games, and an error on the part of Blizzard. Many MMOs have recently converted to a Free to Play format. Some of these games were on the verge of utter failure prior to this conversion, and have since managed to thrive off this change and even increase their popularity. While it’s true that one game was able to have earned 12 million subscribers, it may not be possible to duplicate that success. However, several MMOs of average popularity might be able to do it. SWTOR is predicted to have around 1 million subscribers at launch, a number which could potentially grow exponentially in the first year. So let’s say, for the sake of argument, that SWTOR could get up to 3 million in their first year. Three or four more games of the same caliber, not to mention the myriad of F2P MMOs on the market today, would obviously make a huge impact on the WoW community. While it’s rare to see quality MMOs like WoW and SWTOR, it’s obviously not impossible to make them. If anywhere from 900,000 to 1.6 million WoW players are planning to leave WoW for SWTOR, imagine what would happen if there were a small handful of other games out there that could attract the same kind of numbers. WoW would become another average MMO, and go from king to commoner in the blink of an eye. Obviously quality MMOs will have more of an impact than a large quantity of mediocre games, but they’d still play their part in bringing WoW down.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Mists of Pandaria expansion seemed to be an unpopular idea at Blizzcon 2011. If you were there, or if you even watched the video of the announcement, you could almost see the fear on Chris Metzen’s face, and hear the tension in his voice. He started off great, saying that instead of one big bad guy to battle, we would instead be facing the threat of war between the Horde and Alliance itself. This was a great idea for most people, considering that the relationship between the two factions had been shaky at best. The audience was with him the whole time it seemed, but from what people report there was the scattered sound of applause being strongly overpowered by the sound of booing after it was made clear that MoP was the theme. This is an example of what I mean when I talk about errors on the part of Blizzard. People in the audience at Blizzcons of years past had been screaming for the Emerald Dream to be the next expansion, and this year was no exception. For years, WoWers have been dying to get their hands on an ED expansion, and to be dragged along for all this time, only to be presented with Pandas seemed almost insulting. Another bad idea that Blizzards seemed to have is the idea of them simplifying the game and designing it around more casual gamers. I raided a lot when I played WoW, but nowhere near as much as the hardcore raiders, and believe me, there were a lot of them. When announcements were made about Blizz changing something in the game to suit the needs to the casual gamers, the hardcores would go up in arms. While casual gamers are a part of the WoW community, it’s the hardcore gamers that make the game go round. Part of the appeal of WoW was that you could be casual if you wanted and get the story from the game, but the prestige was in being a hardcore gamer and killing the great evil that threatened the world. Now it seems like Blizzard is trying to make it so that anyone can do it, and while its great from the casual point of view, that idea of glory in being hardcore now seems lost to some.
So what is the WoW Killer? Will it be a singular popular game like SWTOR? Will it be an abundance of other MMOs that draw interest away from WoW? Or will it be a fatal mistake on the part of Blizzard? The truth of the matter is: there’s no way to tell. Only time will reveal the answer to this question. And who knows? Maybe WoW will never die. EverQuest has been running for almost 13 years now, and was once considered (and still is by some) to be the greatest MMO of all time is still up and running, even with the small number of subscribers it has currently. Who is to say that WoW wouldn’t live on in a similar fashion? Even with the negative reaction MoP received, there are still people who want to play the expansion, and there are people who have no interest in SWTOR but still are interested in WoW. On a personal level, WoW is already dead. I played it for six years, and I’ve had my fill. I have no intentions of retuning, and I can’t think of anything that could potentially change my mind. That being said, may the force be with you all!