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I recently read an article regarding the proliferation of “WoW Killer” games and I thought I’d take a few moments to craft a bit of a response with some thoughts of my own thrown in. I usually don’t do this, but I thought the article was really interesting and a great topic of discussion.
Essentially, the author touches on a number of MMOs that have been released over the past few years that either the media, their fanbases or they themselves have dubbed “WoW Killers”. Of course, like every game before them, none have even come close to the subscriber levels that WoW has reached. So does this mean that these games are all just not good enough? They didn’t innovate enough or, heck, are bad?
In some cases, yes. But in most cases, that isn’t the deal at all.
You want to know the real secret behind WoW killers?
It doesn’t matter how innovative, how dynamic, or how GOOD your game is, it will never be a WoW Killer. At least, not yet.
That’s right. You could make a game that is literally the best MMO on the market, period, and it still won’t kill WoW. The reason being is that World of Warcraft has a subscriber base of over 10 million paying customers. Many of these customers have been playing this game for multiple years, some since the game launched in November 2004. In order to “leave WoW”, especially for another MMO, one has to be willing to sacrifice a very critical element: comfort.
People play WoW because they know it. They’re comfortable there. They have friends, they have connections, they’re masters of how the game is played and how to understand the world. They know little facts here and there, they know the lore, they’ve been a part of WoW for so long that any other MMO just won’t cut it.
Does this apply to everyone? Of course not. Just most people, which is why despite taking a substantial hit to their overall subscriber count, the game still has over 10 million subs and is likely to see that number climb upon the release of the Mists of Pandaria expansion.
The Old Republic didn’t kill WoW. Warhammer didn’t kill WoW. RIFT didn’t kill WoW. Guild Wars didn’t kill WoW and it’s sequel won’t kill WoW. TERA will not kill WoW.
Will they all take customers away from WoW? Sure.
Will those customers come back? Possibly. I’d say most might.
So that leaves me with two questions to answer.
One, the question posed in the aforementioned article, “when can we stop calling them ‘WoW Killers’”? Well… never. Until WoW is actually dethroned, every hot new MMO that comes out will be thought of as a WoW Killer. Despite years and years and years of contrary results, people will still hold out hope. Some are so anti-WoW that they’re trying to convince themselves that their MMO of choice will dethrone WoW more than they’re trying to convince you.
Two, if none of these games can kill WoW, what can?
And I don’t mean “turn off the servers” kill. I literally mean the only company that can take the focus off of World of Warcraft is the company that makes it, and all they have to do is release an MMO suitable enough to take it’s place. THAT would be your WoW killer.
And it isn’t just because they’re Blizzard and other games lack “polish” or are rushed. No, it’s just because they control the board now. The MMO market starts and stops with World of Warcraft. Every game will be compared to it for as long as it exists and for many years after it shuts down, if it ever does.
WoW set a standard for MMOs that has yet to be touched, and a lot of it has to do with “right place, right time”. In 2004, there weren’t nearly as many MMOs as there are today, and Warcraft took advantage of the system that EverQuest had established and made it better, more friendly, and took over the genre with force.
To summarize, only WoW can kill WoW. Every other MMO, regardless of its quality, its level of detail, its design, or any other element will do well, get great reviews, but ultimately fall short to the top dog in the paid MMO market.