Comic MMORPG War Looms: NCSoft vs. Marvel vs. DC
If Microsoft’s developers manage to solve these game play issues and stay away from automated content generation, a MMORPG based on the Marvel license is a 99% guarantee for success. Of course only if they don’t screw it up royally, this is always a possibility when the expectations are as high as from fans of this license. Personally I’m looking forward to such a game, if it is released on PC. Not everyone owns an X-Box 360, so maybe we’ll hear more about a Marvel PC MMOG in the future.
Creating a multiplayer title based on Superman, Batman and other DC heroes appears to be equally complicated. The heroes usually do their heroic deeds alone and the amount of character customization options in a DC MMOG is going to be more limited than in a Marvel competitor. The DC game is scheduled for release on console and PC in winter 2007, so until then, SOE will have to deal with various issues. Firstly the same ones Sigil Games have to deal with. But primarily, SOE have a problem called bad publicity. SWG has turned into SOE’s public nightmare due to game changes that caused uproar in the player base and left many players disgruntled, swearing to never touch a SOE game again. This bad publicity might hurt them in the long run when their DC superhero game is trying to build a community. On the other hand, the ideological battle between the DC fan base and the Marvel followers has been infamous for years and both fan groups are quite large, untapped potential for huge MMOG communities. If the DC fans can forgive the mistakes SOE have made in the past, a DC-based superhero MMOG is also destined for success.
Lastly we have NCSoft, who can be called the creators of the superhero MMOG genre with their highly successful game City of Heroes. I played it and had much fun while doing so. Considering how securely NCSoft placed themselves in the market with their stable of MMOGs, it will be hard for Marvel and DC to compete with CoH and CoV. There is not much that can be said against NCSoft’s superhero MMOGs. Their games are mostly fun, the superhero feeling is very authentic, character customization options are excellent and numerous. NCSoft have earned the image of a very professional MMOG studio with all their games. If Microsoft and SOE want to do it right, they should look at City of Heroes and City of Villains.
Of course, there is always room for improvement. Personally I never liked the auto generation of content, since I grew bored relatively quickly, doing the same missions over and over. If Microsoft and SOE can improve that, we’ll see potent competition to NCSoft’s games on the market. However it is still a long time until both new hero games will be available and in Microsoft’s case, it is uncertain whether the game will be available on PC at all. If the Marvel game is scheduled for release on PC, their lawsuit against NCSoft, which was settled in favour of NCSoft recently, becomes a whole new meaning…
The battle between DC and Marvel goes into a new round. Will they succeed against NCSoft’s stranglehold on the market? Will the games be fun to play without bugs and good balance? We shall see… I for one am looking forward to more variety on the superhero MMOG front and if Microsoft releases the Marvel MMOG for PC as well, I’ll be one happy nerd. However they should not forget that there are also players who prefer to play the villains and monsters. If they don’t cater to those who (like me) prefer to play evil, their games will not be as successful as they could be. By the time Microsoft and SOE release their hero MMOGs, CoH and CoV will be old news and NCSoft might well have a sequel in the making. Competition will be fierce, just as it should be.
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