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r1ft Gaming Blog

A mirror of my gaming blog at r1ft.com. 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

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