Dark or Light

Five Ways WoW Made the MMO Better

William Murphy Posted:
Editorials The List 0

Let’s be honest.  WoW is the biggest and most successful MMO on the market.  And while it’s fun to hate on the big guy, there’s no denying that the game’s had a significant impact on the entire industry.  It’s a large part of the reason anyone pays any attention to MMOs outside of us hardcore fans.  And while we could sit and bicker all day about just how terrible the wrongs Blizzard has done to us are (hint: they’re not that bad), I thought I’d take some time in this week’s List to talk about the good things World of Warcraft has done for the MMORPG.  Maybe Azeroth ain’t as shiny and new as it used to be, and maybe we’re all ready for some newer game to come along, but there’s a lot of life left in both the Horde and the Alliance, and the following reasons should help to illustrate why.

5.) The UI Mods

Give a toy to a bunch of kids at Christmas and they’ll probably break it.  Give that same toy to a bunch of super-smart and ingenious kids, and tell them to make it even better and they’ll find themselves working at the toy company making the next generation of awesome gadgets.  The UI mods for WoW are so damned important to the game that Blizzard has basically adopted most of them into the official UI for the game as time goes on.  The original UI of WoW was serviceable enough, but through the extensive work of the modding community, the WoW of today is a much more refined and playable experience.  Now if only we could convince more and more companies to allow modding.

4.) Polish is Paramount

Before WoW it seemed like “unfinished” was the state of being for all MMOs.  They were constant works in progress with small budgets.  Blizzard came along and released an extremely fine-tuned (though not perfect) game and people have been trying to match that success ever since.  If you look at all of the genres successes since Blizzard began to dominate in 2004, you’ll see that the best received games all share something in common: they work really well right from day one.  LotRO, Rift, and many others all learned this lesson.  With any luck, more and more companies will pick up the slack and we’ll not be left paying to play beta forever.

3.) The Subscription Challenge

WoW’s massive success caused a true paradigm shift in the MMORPG world.  It took a few years, but people started to realize that unless you could offer as much game or more for $15 a month, chances are that players simply weren’t going to pay it.  WoW holds a huge chunk of subscriber revenue across the entire MMO sphere.  In effect, their dominance is a large part of the reason so many Western companies are trying and evolving into the Freemium or F2P models.  And while there are certainly things to look out for there, as a paying customer and hardcore gamer this makes me nothing but happy.

2.) More Diversity

I know, I know… but what about the WoW-clones Bill?!  I understand that there was (and still is in some cases) the prevalent nature of some companies merely aping WoW in hopes of earning a quick buck.  Hell, it’s probably why SWG is dying at the end of the year.  But by and large, what Blizzard really did (though it took a while) was show other MMO companies that to get our attention, their game has to stand out in some way shape or form.  We’re seeing more innovation in terms of mechanics and systems over the next few years than I think we’ve ever seen in the industry.  Hopefully it’s a trend that continues… at least until Project Titan releases and people begin to do ape it too.

1.) More Attention

The number one thing WoW did for all MMOs is without a shadow of a doubt the mainstream attention garnered by having 12 million subscribers.  I know that there’s a tendency to say things were better when it was “just us and our MMOs”, but I for one am happier knowing that the suits see dollar signs, because eventually we’re going to get a game that makes all of us giddy to the core and it’s likely going to be because some group with a lot of capital once heard of WoW and thought it would be a good business to dip their toes in.  Yes there are downsides to all this attention, I won’t deny that.  But for the optimist in me, I’d rather be happy that there are over 400 games on our Game List here at MMORPG.com for me to play.  And chances are that list is going to grow in size and quality in the coming years.  If we’re lucky, anyway.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.