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Recent Unanswered & Unanswerable Questions

Richard Aihoshi Posted:
Columns The Free Zone 0

While I won't go as far as to say it usually happens, neither is it uncommon that when I look back at the recent past in order to decide what to write about, I end up with unanswered or unanswerable questions. This is at least partly due to how my mind works in relation to the MMOG space;  I seldom take what I see or hear at face value. Some of the titles I've had cause to wonder about lately are Overwatch, Dawngate, WildStar and Otherland.

What business model(s) will Overwatch use?

It's difficult if not impossible to remain uninterested when Blizzard unveils a new title. This one is a competitive team-based shooter rather than an MMOG, which is what I'd have wished for. Realistically though, that isn't going to happen - if it does at all - until sometime in the future. I'll admit I wasn't expecting a new game announcement, but neither was I completely shocked by it.

That said, I'm also only mildly surprised to see the studio shifting genres and introducing a new IP. I suspect it will be a while until the next full Diablo or Starcraft game is revealed. Had I been forced to bet, I'd have put my money on Warcraft IV. However, Blizzard had shown an interest in doing something more action-oriented before. While Heroes of the Storm can certainly be considered a step in this direction, it seems reasonable to think the honchos could still have been lured by the idea of more directly tapping the huge pool of squad-based shooter aficionados.

Be that as it may, one of my first thoughts was about how Overwatch will be monetized. Blizzard apparently said no decision has been made. My hunch is that although this means the matter hasn't been settled, some possibilities have already been either back-burnered or eliminated. For now at least, I'm guessing that in this market, the game will be buy to play with micro-transactions including some form of monthly package. In various other regions, however, I think it will be free to play.

In addition, my curiosity has been renewed about Warcraft IV. The third full release in the enormously popular RTS series shipped more than 11 years ago, so even considering Blizzard's well-known penchant for taking its own sweet time, the presumed next game - I don't want to imagine there won't be one - has been quite a long time coming. The clock is obviously still ticking with, unfortunately, nothing yet visible on the horizon.

What was up with Dawngate?

Also outside the core MMOG space, EA revealed last week that it has decided to cease development on its initial foray into MOBAs. I haven't played or even seen Waystone Games' title, which means I can't comment on it from a hands-on point of view. Neither did I hear or read much about it at all. Consequently, my primary impression of the project is that I basically don't have one.

This strikes me as more than a little curious. The MOBA audience is both substantial and growing. Since EA is too late to be among its pioneers, entering in such a low-profile manner seems like a pretty questionable strategy. My first thought would have been to “go big or go home”. If Dawngate didn't warrant such support, I can't fathom why it was greenlit in the first place.

What's the near-term prognosis for WildStar?

Nearly three weeks ago, Carbine Studios laid off a substantial portion of its staff. Parent NCsoft said this was part of a corporate restructuring. Some reports have said 60 jobs were cut out of 100. If this is in the ballpark, one would have to surmise that the WildStar team took the biggest hit, possibly by far, within the company. 

There's no way I can tell myself this portends favorably for the game's future. Indeed, it seems like quite a negative omen. Naturally, speculation immediately ramped up that despite having reviewed fairly well, the five month-old title is continuing to fall well below its player and revenue targets. Last August, I opined that WildStar would shift to F2P within two years from launch. Now, I'm wondering if that projection will end up being overly optimistic.

Will Otherland make it this time?

Back in 2000, I had the pleasure of doing the first interview for Dark Zion, an MMOG that featured, among other things, the participation as a creative consultant of author Tad Williams. The project didn't find a publisher and died within only a few months, but not surprisingly, it showed considerable imagination. This gave me additional cause to be interested when the Otherland MMOG was announced back in 2008.

Sadly, it was canceled too... or so it appeared until last month when the endeavor was apparently revived by Polish studio Drago Entertainment an German publisher IME. Should you wish to know more, a bit of information may be seen here. Naturally, I'm hoping the game will come to fruition this time around. However, I've yet to see enough to gauge how optimistic or pessimistic I should be.

Closing queries

  • What monetization strategy do you foresee for Overwatch, and why?
  • Do you think there will be a Warcraft IV, and if so, when will it be released?
  • How much had you heard about Dawngate? Would more visibility have improved its chances of surviving?
  • What kind of future would WildStar have if it were to become F2P? What other changes would be required?
  • How do you rate Otherland's chances of making it to launch in its second coming? And of succeeding?


Richard Aihoshi

Richard Aihoshi / Richard Aihoshi has been writing about the MMOG industry since the mid-1990s, always with a global perspective. He has observed the emergence and growth of the free to play business model from its early days in both hemispheres.