2008. május 25., vasárnap

Is WoW an unstoppable train?

Right now? Perhaps, though I haven't really been a part of the community for over a year so I couldn't tell you first hand. Some people apparently do think so… In the future though? I just don't believe it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to pick on World of Warcraft specifically with this post, but it's a proven fact that time has been the dark red line creeping slowly towards the heart of every MMORPG to date. Time allows for competitive growth. Time leads to player complacency and boredom. Time is what makes the present become the past.

I've been checking out MMOG Chart lately and came across this interesting 2008 ION presentation from self-taught MMORPG analyst, Sir Bruce. The presentation is an analysis of MMORPG subscription growth based on some reasonably current data.

Here are some broad conclusions drawn by SirBruce on the state of World of Warcraft (based on historical trends in the genre).

* The MMOG subscription market continues to grow; 16M+ now, 20M+ in 2009 (pred. 2006), 30M+ in 2012
* World of Warcraft to peak at 11M – 12M by 2010
* Most retail-launched MMOGs have an initial growth phase during the first year, followed by 1 – 3 years of a more stable, "mature" subscription base, and then a noticeably and often sharp decline.
* New markets grow subscriptions, but expansions packs mostly cover churn and provide a retail presence.

Based on his charts in the presentation, most of the MMORPGs released prior to WoW saw a fairly large decline in subscriptions. We can assume the majority of these losses became gains for WoW. This just makes sense. It can't be denied, however, that the total number of people playing WoW last year is much larger than the sum of all previous MMORPG subscripions. This shows that WoW introduced many new players to the genre.

Sounds like common sense right? Duh? It's still nice to have the numbers tell the story.

What's to stop the same thing from happening again? It may not have happened with Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea, or Lord of the Rings Online. These games haven't had any noticeable impact on WoW's subscriptions, but that doesn't mean it won't happen eventually.

Age of Conan had over one million beta signups and released over 700,000 copies of their game, which is the largest MMORPG launch to date. They haven't announced current subscription numbers yet, but heck, it's been less than a week. Given them some time. The time is ripe for a new AAA MMORPG and I think AoC will benefit greatly from this. It's only competing against older, established MMORPGs right now, which in my opinion, is better than competing against something new. As I said, time makes people susceptible to boredom. Boredom leads to trying out new things. And trying out new things leads to the dark side of the… Ugh.

Warhammer Online will also be launching this fall and by all rights should be an enormous success. Another delay is bad news for a whole bunch of obvious reasons. Competing directly against WotLK is also bad news if they hope to capitalize on the bored WoW player-base. As SirBruce says, expansions cover churn, in other words, customer attrition. They're a stop-gap measure to keep players from leaving for greener pastures. Competing directly against an expansion trying to keep 11M people playing WoW is just a whole new level of stupid, making bad business sense. You can get high and mighty, saying your game will be done when its done, but wait too long and the strategy will bite you in the ass. Theres a point where you have to compromise.

WoW is the current king but it won't remain that way forever. Heck, Blizzard is already working on another MMORPG and it could be that title that eventually dethrones it. I will eat these words if AoC and WAR aren't immensely successful, because if either of these two titles can't do it, it may take a lot longer than I expected. Still, it is inevitable - and resistance is futile (but strongly recommended if Vivendi wants to keep its shareholders happy).

Source : thegreenskin.com

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