An interesting thing has happened in the World of Ferrel lately. I’ve lost all interest in raging against and/or hating on World of Warcraft. I have to stop and wonder why that is? What could turn a person like me who used to write scathingly about the game or go off on rants via podcasts into someone who is no longer interested? I suppose the answer is WoW itself. It doesn’t feel like the destroyer of the MMORPG genre anymore or the evil empire. It is just an old game that a lot of people still enjoy. It isn’t cool to hate on the elderly, even I know that.
I bring this up only because other bloggers seem to have all written about what we’ve all been thinking privately. I start with Syp who has called 2011 the end of the WoW era. He has also noticed that the game has started to slip from its position on high and is now down in the mud with all of the other MMORPGs. While WoW may still command the greatest number of subscriptions (about half of what they claim (sorry, one more dig in there)), it isn’t the yardstick by which to judge everything. There are viable options in the market and numerous other ones waiting in the wings. The last quarter of 2011 and most of 2012 is probably going to be pretty rough on Blizzard’s primary game.
It was Tobold who I think articulated my change of position best. He wrote an article titled The Dead of WoW and said something that really struck me as true:
“The only thing that is dead is the MMORPG gold rush, and that is something to be thankful for. It only created a huge number of very bad games in the hope of getting rich quick. Surprise, surprise, video game players aren’t total idiots, and bad games don’t really do well. Especially not if you have a business model where you expect your customers to keep paying for a long time, instead of selling them a game they can’t test first and running with the money before the customer finds out the game is bad.”
This is why my all my ire and bile has subsided. Venture capitalists have seen enough failure to know that you can’t pay a studio to hack together a game, call it an MMORPG, and “get some of that there WoW money!” It is like I’ve been saying for years. WoW was magic. WoW was the perfect combination of quality, timing, and built in customer loyalty. Everyone assumes that the game itself is what drew people in but that was never the case. People bought World of Warcraft because there were no comparable options and Blizzard could do no wrong in the post Warcraft III/Starcraft/Diablo II era. They took the winning formula of EverQuest, put a beloved intellectual property into it, and polished it to a level that only Blizzard is known for. That is what got people in the door. Everyone accepts that now. There may never be lightning in the bottle again for MMORPGs. The market is full and everyone must compete and compete they shall!
To mirror what others have said, WoW is not dead. In fact World of Warcraft still prints money like nobody else. What has happened, however, is that all of the developers, players, capitalists, and pundits have realized that Blizzard is not an ascended being. If you can make WoW bleed, people will cease to believe in it. It has bled and the faith has shaken. It is a bold new era where MMORPG developers will have to rely on their own strengths and innovations instead of trying to be a “me too” title. En era where “similar to WoW” just isn’t good enough. It is an era not unlike when WoW released and EverQuest was the only PvE game in town. Only time will tell what will happen.
I look forward to raging against the next evil empire MMORPG. Will it be Star Wars the Old Republic? Perhaps so but, whatever it is, I’m done hating on World of Warcraft. My elderly adversary, I salute you. The age of “me too” is dead, long live the MMO!