Whenever a new big MMO was announced many people would start to talk about how it was going to kill WoW, how it would come in and take away all the subscribers. I think by now most people have realized that the strengths of WoW, those which allowed it to grow so large as an MMO, were the exact reasons nobody could ever steal away massive quantities of the subscription base. WoW has an entire culture built up around it, so many people invested in it, that attempting to just supplant them all at once and shovel them into a new culture, a new MMO that they have nothing invested in, is an impossibility. There is no doubt that games have chipped away at some previous subscribers of WoW, but most often the new MMO turns out to be highly niche based rather than a new all encompassing world. Even with all these new MMO games coming into the market, Blizzard loves to point out that their subscription base continues to grow.
I have played WoW since its release. I have loved the game for years. Even before the release, during the WoW beta which I never got into, I would follow the forums daily. You could call me an early addict. My love for WoW started to wane about half way through the TBC expansion; Guild drama, real life, major game overhauls such as the raid numbers issue, and general burnout from playing the same game for three years. I started to shop around, looking for other MMOs to play: Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lineage 2, Lord of the Rings Online, and many smaller production MMOs. None of them had enough grab for me that could take me away from WoW.
Then along came Aion. I am not suggesting that Aion is a WoW killer, just that what I used to love about WoW feels so prevalent in Aion. I must admit that I originally thought nothing of the game. To me, Aion was just another MMO on some random website with pretty screenshots. Perhaps I have been spoiled by Blizzard in that regard, but the scarcity of anything existent on many game websites turns me off. One of my friends, on the other hand, became engrossed immediately and pushed me to research the game further. I started watching the class videos on AionOnline.com, and the graphics looked amazing in motion, not just the perfect screen shot capture. I later learned that it was actually being produced by NCsoft as their next big thing, rather then an MMO from some company I had never heard of, and that made me perk up. Addition: After writing this article I headed back to AionOnline and discovered that they have recently updated their website. It is now fleshed out and I suggest anyone who has not seen the updated site should check it out.
After participating in the Aion beta, I have decided to give up WoW. There is not just one reason for my decision, nor can it all really be confined to a list such as this one. Everyone has their own opinions, but these are my major reasons for finally deciding to commit to a new MMO.
Aion uses a combo system where certain abilities are chained together and the player must decide whether they want to go for more damage, protection, or something else such as a debuff or a knock back. Age of Conan touched on this, but their combat system was based around getting off the same sequential attack in order for a devastating ending while trying to not get interrupted in the middle. Aion, on the other hand, gives the combo chain a couple branching options, giving the player both flexibility and a choice in how to use their cool downs. Aion's system is much more engrossing then WoW's. Obviously WoW is an older game and Aion's combo system is built on top of the same structure WoW uses, but the higher level of interactivity is a much needed plus. Hopefully Aions dungeons and raids will really work to compliment the games combo system.
#2 Niche Gaming
As I mentioned above, one of WoW's strengths over its competitors was how the game was all encompassing. Recently WoW feels like it is turning itself into a niche game. The only PvP that matters is 3v3 arena, the only PvE that matters is 25 man hard modes. WoW feels like it is trying to smash two different niche games into one. Aion, on the other hand, feels all encompassing, it has the same draw that Vanilla WoW did. In Aion, PvP and PvE are not fighting each other, they just sort of flow together. While that is one of the great traits of an MMO in its youth, Aion looks like the game was built around such a philosophy and will hold to that philosophy in the future.
WoW's PvP system has degenerated to arenas. World PvP was too hard for Blizzard, so they got rid of it. Wintergrasp was too hard for Blizzard, so they got rid of it. Battlegrounds were to fun for Blizzard (WSG and AV anyway), so they took all the fun out of those. Battlegrounds were originally a place for enjoyable PvP, but were then turned into just another part of the grind. Blizzard turning their PvP system into a quality e-sport has ruined large scale PvP battles. They did succeed at making an e-sport, to a point. While anyone can watch an FPS tournament and know what is going on, watching a WoW tournament takes some serious knowledge about the game. It succeeded, but it still ruined WoW PvP.
On the other hand, Aion PvP is open world, large scale battles in the Abyss, a large PvP zone. There are not any forced arenas for progression (there is an arena players can mess around in), and players actually have room to maneuver. One of the worst things about WoW arenas is the lack of space. Aion does have a "battleground", but it is a PvPvE battleground that revolves around achieving a PvE objective against the Balaur NPC race while preventing, or attempting to interrupt the other side from doing the same thing. The PvPvE concept for balancing servers is a great draw as well.
You make a good profit in a restaurant by getting people in, fed, happy, and out. Turning over the tables so you can get people who are finished eating out, and fresh customers in. WoW takes this turnover concept and applies it to game content. Raids turn over every few months, arena seasons turn over every few months, players are supposed to be happy with the continual churning. Unfortunately, it is very mechanical and rather rapid as well. Before the majority of the interested player base can finish collecting their arena set, a new one has come out. Before the majority of the interested player base can complete a raid, a new one has come out. The raid thing did not happen for Naxx, but it is for Ulduar. With all the turnover, you end up with a system where time invested does not feel worthwhile. WoW is an old game trying to put out enough content to satisfy customers. This type of practice is not a bad thing on their part, it just is not that enjoyable to play in. Aion on the other hand is a new game. They are in their first incarnation, not their second expansion, and they do not feel like a giant machine copy-pasting content. WoW feels incredibly rushed and un-blizzard like these days.
#5 The New Kid
Aion is a new game for me, and that sensation, of exploring a new richly crafted world, is wonderful. Taking the boat or zeppelin to Northrend felt this way, but the feeling disappeared shortly after. With Aion, because it is a new game, the sensation just sticks with you. There is no way to fault WoW for this, but it is one of the reasons I am leaving the game. Aion is deep enough that I want to explore it. I want to see where it takes me. Most games cannot accomplish the feat of making the player want to see what is coming next. The same can be said regarding graphics and atmosphere. Aion's graphics are top notch, and with them the game paints some amazing locations. It isn't really Blizzard's fault, and honestly many WoW zones are still beautiful. Stranglethorn Vale and Winterspring come to mind when I think on the most beautiful locations in WoW. The amazing graphics of Aion will eventually wear off, but the landscapes will still be just as picturesque.
And those are my five reasons. I did not list raiding as a reason because I have not gotten to experience any of it in Aion. WoW is still a good game for hard core raiding, from what I have seen anyway, but I have not been able to muster the dedication. As it says in reason number four, the way Blizzard appears to manufacture content these days has destroyed any drive for me to experience the raiding that they have to offer. I do enjoy raiding, but it requires more pre-planned time then I am willing to set aside.
The way I see it, one of the hardest things for any WoW player to leave behind are the other people they have met while playing. There is a not so hidden obligation that you have to be there. You have to show up, or else you will let everyone down. WoW has remained so large because of its community, but it feels more and more fractured as time goes on. Blizzard is in the process of tearing down one of the last walls of inherent community with their new faction change. At one point in WoW's history, you could feel a part of something. You were Horde or Alliance. You were in this guild or that guild. You were on this server and not that server and we do it better over here! All of the ties that made a player feel as if they were a part of something have been removed, and all that is left are the relationships players have made with each other. A guild is not even a great source of community anymore. So many of them collapse then regroup, only to fall apart again. As a player's community grows smaller, they disappoint less people when they leave, or they can even bring all of their closest friends over to a new game with them.