With the recent and highly acclaimed launch of SW:TOR the World of Warcraft finally looks to have gained a worthy adversary after seven years on the market. While the fabled title of “WoW-killer” should probably never be tossed around in any seriousness SW:TOR’s rampant and undeniable success seems to raise the very legitimate question of whether or not the Sith’s return to a galaxy far, far away threatens more than just the existence of the Jedi. Now obviously it is much, much too early in the game’s timeline to predict an outcome but everyone who even remotely follows the ranting and ravings of the MMO world has probably kindled a thought or two along the lines of “by the gods…the Star Wars MMO is really here!”
(Un?)fortunately for me I haven’t even a passing interest in Bioware’s new game whereas the rest of the world seems content to play and enjoy it to a massive extent. Literally my entire World of Warcraft friend’s list has taken the leap through hyperspace over to the Star Wars universe and left me alone to find another guild and a new set of active players to play with. While I’m definitely a staunch fan of the fantasy genre with not even a passing interest in science fiction I have found myself a bit jealous of that “new mmo smell” everyone and their mother has been clambering about and the “vanilla WoW” feel many of my closest companions have described to me. I’ll never touch the game, this much is certain, however I can’t help but feel a bit helpless now that the interlude between expansions has hit WoW, what will become of the game in the intervening months before Pandaria while SW:TOR has an unadulterated run at the market?
Is Lucas going to deal the killing blow to WoW or will this situation be like nearly every other that the immovable giant we all know and love to hate has faced over the years? Will players flock back to the fields of Azeroth when that new expansion hits and continually play the content as its released or will The Old Republic take up the mantle of the old guard?
Honestly I have no idea what will become of the two, and that unpredictability is, admittedly, quite exciting. In theory. It should be exciting yet at the moment I’m not quite sure that is exactly what’s going on, from the standpoint of healthy competition that is. Usually we can rely on marketplace competition to accomplish, at the absolute least, some form of beneficial innovation but SW:TOR doesn’t necessarily do anything that WoW or Blizzard will learn from (in my opinion). Voice overs are an undeniably wonderful addition to the genre (as is the ability to skip them) that most gamers can either appreciate or argue are vital for every major MMO hitherto but no developers beyond behemoths like Bioware (backed by EA) or Blizzard can ever hope to consider including this feature in a full blown MMO.
Will Blizzard include voice acting in Titan now because of SW:TOR? Not if it wasn’t planned from the start considering Titan’s projected release window. Will Titan be a sci-fi themed game? Actually…that one might come to fruition. I could go on with the theory-crafting but my point remains the same irrespective of the outcome; Blizzard is unlikely to directly change any of their directives based strictly on the competition, they’re just too big to be concerned with what their competitors are doing at this point in the game.
Couple that with the fact that SW:TOR potentially becoming the new “big bad” changes absolutely nothing concerning the status quo of the most successful MMO versus the less successful ones and any form of excitement I could have gleaned from SW:TOR’s launch has essentially been quashed. The only thing left in that void is the subdued fear that it will kill my favorite MMO, a fear that I’m sure most readers don’t share, a fear that I assume is actually elation for most MMO players.
Regardless of what happens between these two colossal titles I’m beginning to think worrying about WoW’s end of days scenario is a bit melodramatic. The power of WoW’s legacy alone will mar(k?) the genre’s landscape for years if not decades to come and our lives for just as long. This point was proven to me just a few nights ago when I was visiting with some of my oldest friends and the topic of WoW came up in the discussion. As the drinks were passed around and everyone fell deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole conversations about our histories playing the game together flourished, and I was extremely surprised to see so much passion being expressed! Every MMO we play we all subconsciously compare to our time spent in Azeroth, all the new social experiences seem to pale in comparison, and the fondest comments spoken about SW:TOR were basically analogies to time spent in the vanilla flavor of WoW. It was quite a moving scene in all honesty.
The servers could shut down tomorrow and the sun could fade forever on the World of Warcraft yet the embers of its existence would still be felt throughout the industry and culture. That to me proves that WoW isn’t going to really die off for a long, long time.
Although I wouldn’t mind some sort of lightsaber though, if I’m being brutally honest.