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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at The jaded game designer turned corporate lackey. Feedback is always welcome.

Author: Daedren

A Case for Sanity: Killing the WoW Killer Meme

Posted by Daedren Thursday August 21 2008 at 3:44AM
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Hi, I'm Daniel. You might remember me from such other MMO articles like "It was great except for the Elves with 5 o'clock shadows" and "Tits and Fatalities aside, Age of Conan sucks flaccid donkey genitals". I'm new here; and bringing you a highly opinionated, wordy rant on the latest of MMO trends: the term "WoW Killer".

The meme itself isn't new: the first earliest recorded instance of this meme was by the scribe Pontus Sextus Alphonsus in 300 A.D, writing about the threat of an invasion from far eastern Empires into the vulnerable Roman empire. He referred to these savages as possibly the first "Rome-killer" -  yeah, ok, I just made all of that up. The term "WoW Killer" has been kicking it around since WoW first became a success back in 2004. Any major MMO release since then has been plagued with this term: "Will this game be the WoW Killer? Will this game gain self-awareness, attack the Blizzard server farm with a targetted nuclear strike, then start searching for Sarah Connor? Does this game have the potential to learn kung-fu?"

No, it doesn't. The term itself implies that WoW in fact can be killed, which it can't. Sure, it can lose some subscribers: even for arguments purpose, it's possible (though not likely) that games like Warhammer Online have more total active subscribers than WoW. Does that mean WoW has, in fact, been killed? No. It would still be the 2nd largest MMO subscriber game, and it would still be the all time biggest MMO in terms of subscribers. Even in this best case scenario, WoW would still have a piss-ton of subscribers by industry standards.

Many people say that the only thing that can kill WoW is WoW itself. I liken this to people watching too many Terminator movies as kids or possible temporal lobe damage from hearing the pre-pubescent screams of Eddie Furlong too many times. WoW can't kill itself, but it's supporting staff of humans can perhaps muck things up a bit. A lot of WoW subscribers were alienated or quit after the Burning Crusade expansion: WoW subscriptions were down to around 2 or 3 million actual subscribers and about 17 million chinese gold-farmer accounts. Wrath of the Lich King might do the same thing; and it's good to theorize that if Warhammer Online provides as good of a PVP experience as everyone hopes it does, it will take a good deal of the "real PVPers" away from WoW (if any still play) - and WoW can be happy in deluding people that the little e-sport Arena games are "real PVP". At the end of the day, though, there is still a core group of people that love WoW for what it is: whether it's because it was their first MMO, the majority of their friends play, or even it's cozy familiarity: people will always stay and play World of Warcraft, and in great numbers.

TL;DR version: WoW has too many loyal fans and addicts to ever be "killed" as a MMO. End of story.

Now that we've determined that WoW can't be killed, it's time to move on. Even though it can't be terminated, it can still lose a lot of customers, or better yet, it *is* possible that another MMO has just as big of a following and playerbase as WoW does without stealing their customers. In fact, this latter scenario is the best scenario because it means that players have been gained from outside the genre and the industry has indeed grown. This can't really happen with titles like Warhammer Online or Age of Conan because it's still stuck in the same genre (Fantasy) and is really just a rehash of the same thing - and maybe niched to a certain demographic, like PVP/RVR with WAR or Nudity and ... well, whatever for AoC.

So what can rival WoW in fanbase and subscribers? A non-fantasy, perhaps "non RPG" based MMO that is rock solid, using a known IP. Whether this is a MMOFPS or MMORTS (or even both) - this is really the only chance that the MMO industry has at ever producing something that rivals the beast of WoW in revenue and following. Using this logic, companies like Mythic, Funcom and 38 Studios actually hurt the MMO industry because they won't be generating many new players (from outside the genre) and have instead been focusing on stealing other players away from other similar games. Meanwhile, hordes of fantatical FPS and RTS players are uncatered for in our over-saturated Fantasy MMORPG market.

I digress; in conclusion, let's stop using this tired term "WoW Killer". The term is just plain inaccurate; we need to be more creative and constructive in representing the MMO industry. So, let's focus on objective reviews and previews of upcoming releases and advancing and expanding the industry, rather than throwing this lame meme into the mix with every new title that's about to be released.

Original postage: r1ft

Featured at: MMOCrunch

Like it? Digg it here!

Ipcryss writes:

Yes, wouldn't life be more enjoyable if the term "WoW Killer" were magically stricken from our lexicon.  <<Sigh>> I agree with you and with others who have made the logical agrument that the MMO industry will not draw substantial subscribers away from WoW unless Blizzard dramatically FUBARs the game. That's not likely, those guys are too smart; they know there genre, their game, and their audience too well to screw it up.  Sure, TBC turned some people off, but more have joined the game, and the same will happen with Wrath - many will leave, many more will join.  Net/Net the franchise will continue to grow in the short term.  IMHO it will not be a known IP that slices into the WoW cash pie; it will be Blizzard's own follow-up MMO.  They're advertising for it; developers, programmers, and artists all being hired for this new project.  Blizzard, at a time of their own choosing, probably 3-5 years from now will unveil their own "Wow suppressor" with enhanced graphics and probably a brand new IP and gamers will flock to it like rats to the Pied Piper. btw, props on the eddie furlong tag

Thu Aug 21 2008 5:56AM Report
Daedren writes:

I aim to please. ;)


Thu Aug 21 2008 6:55AM Report
Sirmaki writes:

Wow. And I do mean wow as in shock, surprise, etc. That was actually an intelligent blog. I think it may have caused a paradigm shift in my brain. I have to go lay down now.....

Thu Aug 21 2008 8:35AM Report
Azmaria writes:

Heh, I think I've gotten spoiled by Daedren's blogs - most of the others on this site are nowhere near as thought provoking or intelligent.

@Daedren: Thank you for posting this.  The MMO genre needs to stop focusing on taking down the goliath of the industry and instead focus on making the best games that they can.  Instead of rehashing on an overused concept and playstyle, make something new and innovative.  Oddly enough, if they finally let go of the concept of being the "WoW killer", they could possibly make a game that had that very same effect. 

Thu Aug 21 2008 9:41AM Report
Daelus writes:

I declare this blog post the blog-killer!

But yes, the phrase "WoW-killer" is a rather silly one, because another game will never canabalise WoW's subscriptions to the point that it's "dead". The only thing that can kill wow is the people running the server farms, and even then someone would probably set up emulated servers.

Thu Aug 21 2008 10:44AM Report
MagicManICT writes:

I love a nice, lucid arguement in the turbulent blogoshpere, even if it is obvious to those in the know. We all know that WoW is great for the industry. It sucks in casual gamers who have never played an MMO or even an RPG before and turns them into hard-core gaming addicts that need a better fix. Most of the 'hard-core' MMOs have seen an in-flux of subscribers because of this. Would Age of Conan have seen 1+ million in unit sales without the existance of WoW (despite its 18 and older game requirement)? Has it significantly hurt WoW? I would think that AoC has pulled players from all games, not just WoW, which can really hurt the smaller companies. I think Warhammer will create the same statement with its release here in a month.

I will have to disagree with the statement about the fantasy RPG genre, though. Games like Warhammer and Conan will bring in new players from their own fan bases much like WoW did with many of the Warcraft/Starcraft fans that hadn't picked up an MMO before. On the horizon we have other games such as Star Trek Online, Stargate Worlds, and other IPs that will attract new players from their own fanbase. There have been several non-RPG MMOs developed, but many of them fail (in my opinion, not financially) as solid games due to their microtrans financial models, simplistic web-based interfaces, or complete lack of depth.

Thu Aug 21 2008 11:33AM Report
BlackWatch writes:

In the end, there will be cockroaches, fallout, some dust, the Rolling Stones, and WoW. 

Nicely written blog.  Great style.  One could nearly taste and smell the sarcasm and dry humor... nearly prompting them to see if the blog was actually scratch 'n sniff or not. 

Quit your day job and write more.  Better yet, do the world another great service.  Donate the remainder of your days to providing proper educations to the warped and fragile minds in WoW: Barrens Chat.  If ever there were a true WoW Killer... Barrens Chat might be that terrible cancer within the (World of)World of Warcraft.  You may very well be the last and only hope... well, you and Chuck Norris, [Dirge], and soccer mom's.

Thu Aug 21 2008 11:52AM Report
zonzai writes:

I love  a good semantic argument.

Thu Aug 21 2008 1:29PM Report
darkradu writes:

Great post, man. I love your style.

Thu Aug 21 2008 5:42PM Report
UnSub writes:

Your Digg link is both a good idea and a hilarious mis-type:

There's a WoW Killer Mime??? ;-)

Thu Aug 21 2008 11:12PM Report
Daedren writes:

Thanks for the positive feedback everyone. ;)

@BlackWatch: While I question the lucrativity of blogging for a living, I wouldn't be opposed to it. The main obstacle here is that every major site I've inquired to about being a writer or correspondant has either ignored or rejected me. The excuse? I'm too "hostile" against the MMO industry.

So much for objective journalism, eh? ;)

Fri Aug 22 2008 2:47AM Report
Daedren writes:


My French spellchecker thought it would be funny to replace "meme" with "mime" because I was missing the accent on "meme".

I agree that the results were unexpectedly humorous.

I think I'm going to roll with this Mime thing..

Fri Aug 22 2008 2:49AM Report
cosimusta writes:

I want to rant too!(no offense)


I hate the idea that the fantasy-MMORPG has reached its peak.  That WoW is king and that there isn't much room for growth, so all you can do is try to be WoW or go a different route like FPS or sci-fi.

I liked WoW, played it about a year and got bored so I stopped. I played lots of other MMOs too, some for much longer.  It isn't the best at everything.

I quit AoC about a month ago and am not playing an MMO right now, and I haven't found anything that's available or even in the works that looks interesting to me so far.

My first MMO was EQ and I've played many since then.  When will there be another fantasy MMO that goes for more of a hardcore gamer approach and primarily focuses on giving the player an immersive challenging world?

And AoC didn't do that, they didn't try.  They thought about trying, they almost tried, but then they just tried to remake WoW with an R-rating and a goofy combat system.

/not on

Fri Aug 22 2008 3:08AM Report
Daedren writes:

@Azmaria: Thanks for the feedback. I agree the quality of blogs here at is definately not very good. I've pushed to try and have a "Featured Blogs" section (where they real blog authors can stay highlighted)... no luck.

I've talked to Jon Wood about trying to get some sort of Quality assurance or moderation going on here... again, with no results.

Seems for now we're stuck sifting through the one liner, useless blog posts and the blatant spam / advertising blogs.

I guess it's not a high priority at, but hey, what can you do? :)

Fri Aug 22 2008 4:31AM Report
Azmaria writes:

@Daedren: I guess you can do what all of us must do and find a few authors that you know to be good and just always look for their work.  I'll click on titles that sound interesting, but then am usually disappointed (but that really only happens when your blog is idle and I'm jonesing for some discussion =P ). 

@Cosimusta: Have you tried Vanguard recently?  I was never an EQ player myself, but I've heard many people call it an upgraded EQ.  It's pretty, questy, long, content filled, and takes for-*#&@$ing-ever to level <_<  You could get into it hardcore, if you did so desire.  Also, I think you're missing something when you say that the fantasy MMORPG genre has peaked.  It may not be able to expand outwards too much more with new features, but it certainly can improve those features to the point where they feel like new.  Like a real diplomacy system, or a crafting system that emulates reality even more than Vanguard/SWG (pre-NGE).  There is room for them to go, but it's not out (features), it's up (improvements).

Fri Aug 22 2008 7:38AM Report
triste writes:

just wanted to say I agree with the above poster.

This blog is better than most the stuff they put on the front page. =)

Fri Aug 22 2008 8:30AM Report
jindra81 writes:

Agree also but then again I could be a bit biased :)

Fri Aug 22 2008 8:58AM Report
cosimusta writes:


I played Vanguard at launch for a few months then started it again in the few months before AoC.  It was better, but still lacking in too many departments.

And you're right, you did miss something.  Or rather, I wasn't clear.  "I hate the idea that the fantasy-MMORPG has reached its peak."  I hate the idea because I personally don't see how it's true, but that's impression I get from developers, players, etc.  I see big developers make games like WAR, to me that says, "we're throwing in the towel on innovation because it's the only logical thing to do, and instead we're going to supe up what's already out there."  WAR has some stuff that you will only find in WAR,, but their vision is to be WoW's next door neighbor, and they tell you that right up front.

So I guess it's all up to me to rob a bank in Switzerland and form my own MMO company to show them.


Mon Aug 25 2008 11:23AM Report
Daedren writes:

@cosimusta: Sounds great! I know what you mean about the Fantasy genre. I guess I've been very vocal on not liking yet another fantasy mmo, but you're correct saying that if it's innovative enough, no reason it wouldn't work.

However, I stand by my reasoning that a non-Fantasy MMO would attract more non MMOers to the genre, which could be a good thing. Why worry about stealing the WoW playerbase when you have 70% of the gaming market still playing other stuff?


Wed Aug 27 2008 8:46AM Report
cosimusta writes:

Somehow I still think you can make a successful fantasy-MMORPG, without having to steal from WoW's player base. 

call me crazy

Wed Aug 27 2008 10:34PM Report
Azmaria writes:

@cosimusta: I think you're right, you can make a succesful fantasy-MMORPG without stealing WoW's playerbase initially.  However, I think that if your game does become as succesful as we're talking, then the WoW playerbase will migrate anyways.  I would say the only thing holding companies back from making this sort of MMO is a lack of imagination and enterprise to go through with it.

Thu Aug 28 2008 7:06AM Report
cosimusta writes:

I take it back that no game in development looks interesting to me.

Bring on the Darkfall.(now that i'm convinced it's not vaporware)

Sun Aug 31 2008 9:43PM Report writes:
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