WoW isn't special
Mar 08, 2006 21:03:00

Six million is a big number. Six million jellybeans is a big pile o' sugar. Six million carpenter ants would make a mess of your house in no time flat. And six million players worldwide must indicate world domination of the MMO market, right? When one considers the fact that Sony has sold over 100 million PS2's, it becomes clear that World of Warcraft is a shining star, albeit in one remote corner of the gaming galaxy. Everyone is saying that Blizzard has brought the MMO genre mainstream by exposing millions of new MMO players to that magic that so few of us enjoyed before the fall of 2004. Is this true? Only Blizzard could say for sure, and even then only by surveying the playing habits and MMO history of six million players.

Six Million Immigrants
As of the summer of 2005 MMOGChart reported just under 9.5 million total active subscriptions across all surveyed MMOs. The trend since 1998 indicates an additional 600,000 MMO players arrived on the scene every six months for the last 8 years. We can assume the total has crossed the 11 million mark by now. Lineage 2 had a reported 4 million players and even now in the face of WoW Mania, the Lineage series still claims 3.8 million. Sony's EverQuest Classic had around a half million players at its peak and DAoC and Ultima Online have been claiming their share for some time now. Today, we suspect EverQuest Classic and EverQuest 2 are struggling, but only Sony knows for sure. No one seems to know their subscription numbers. Nevertheless, between the two games, it is probably safe to say they still have 500,000. Guild Wars has 1.3 million box sales and is showing no signs of slowing that climb. Blizzard didn't create 6 million players out of thin air. They were already there.

Eleven Million Fish in the Barrel
Amidst all of this, plus many many popular but smaller titles (Eve Online, Second Life, and City of Heroes to name a few domestic titles), Warcraft reigns supreme as it seems to have dipped its toe into everyone's pond and come up with plenty of keepers. The question is, are these in fact new players or have the homeless UO, EQ and DAoC players of yesteryear come to roost at the steps of the best show in town? If there are indeed 11 million MMO players worldwide, it is more than fair to say that over half of them would be inclined to investigate the hype. This is not a unique scenario. Sony Online Entertainment could have made a similar claim regarding the domestic MMO market between 2000-2003. NCSoft's bragging rights are pretty much assured for life after the dominance Lineage 1 & 2 displayed at their peaks. Likewise, what percentage of video game players who like football games haven't played Madden? How many RPG fans skipped KotOR? RTS players who haven't seen Starcraft and FPSers who took a pass on Half Life? Not much chance of finding any of the above. Logic would follow that the MMO space needs a current champ too. In the face of the existing competition, those 6 million players have seen fit to stay for extended periods to chew up the lovely content, and wait around for an expansion or something better to come along, which to date, it hasn't. Please don't forget that a good percentage of those 6 million probably have accounts in other MMOs as well. MMO players are not a monogamous bunch.

If World of Warcraft was never released, or was still in development, we would see some other system(s) enjoying its own golden age. Perhaps it would be EQ2. EverQuest 2 is pretty much WoW on mild steroids and a darn fine system in its own right. Perhaps DDO would be in a position to be king of the hill. Perhaps Asheron's Call 2 would still be up and running, and maybe Eve Online would have found its legs earlier. Regardless of what is going on in parallel universes, Blizzard, del
ivered the right product at the precisely the right time (as EQ was fading and before EQ2 or anyone else could establish a foothold in the US and Europe), but it is still an MMO. It has the same failures, perks, nuances, mechanics, and yes, player base as all the other MMOs. It has the right marketing, the right look, the right depth, and the right competition and all have allowed it to be the success it is. It probably IS the most complete, fun, and accessible MMO available today. Blizzard has done a fine job, they have executed well and deserve credit, but on the other hand, WoW isn't special.

Submitted by Brent on Mar 08, 2006 21:03:00 CST (comments: 0)


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