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How to Kill a Giant

Keith Sarasin Posted:
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Mayson's Musings: How to Kill a Giant

In this edition of his column, Keith "Mayson" Sarasin takes a look at how PvP could be used to try to kill the giant that is World of Warcraft with its 8 million subscriber base.

Editor's Note: This is a new opinion column penned by Keith "Mayson" Sarasin. The opinions expressed in "Mayson's Musings" are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

I stopped viewing PvP as a mechanic of a game a long time ago. Many people believe that PvP is something that is added to boost sales and try to strike at a market that developers believe is very small. I now view PvP as a sort of litmus test of the team that will be working on the game. When a guild makes a decision to move from game A to game B they look for certain criteria. I know many guilds that left games like Shadowbane and UO to move to World of Warcraft. They knew that PvP was an afterthought but what the developers still don't seem to have figured out is that the PvP market didn't just expand a little in the last four years, it exploded.

Eight million subscribers later and Blizzard is figuring out what we have said all along, "PvP is not a niche market." For years now players have been saying that once they got a taste of the competitive nature of PvP, they wanted more. The truth of the matter is that the community is out growing the stale, redundant PvP that many companies are cramping down the throats of their players. Its no longer just PvP the community craves but it is the entire concept of risk and reward. If other games are going to compete with the giant of the mmo industry then they are going to have to think so far outside the box that they change the way people look and play games. This is done not by raising another giant but by neutralizing the giant's assets.

What makes a giant is their intimidation and strength. Giants have strength and our current MMO giant ,World of Warcraft, boasts a staggering 8 million strong, which is, to say the least, intimidating! Most MMOs cannot compete with that but they can lure people into their brand of gaming by offering what World of Warcraft does not, risk and reward style PvP. Risk and reward style PvP is a concept that might be new to some players because of the fact that many companies avidly avoid it like the plague.

Risk and reward PvP is basically giving players the opportunity to risk their assets, whether they are gold, gear, towns etc by engaging in PvP. The spoils are given to the victor. This brand of PvP allows the player to change the face of the game by controlling their opponents and manipulating the economy of the game. From full out wars to guild-related political intrigue the players are given the ability to make the decisions and PvP is the center of the game not an addition to it.

This concept does not work well in gear-based games like World of Warcraft. If this concept were implemented in WoW, it would crash because WoW requires an immense amount of time to obtain the gear that you need to progress. WoW is the epitome of a PvE game and it takes only seconds to see that the limited suppressed PvP that is implemented is structured in such a way that it becomes yet another grind for gear. The team at Blizzard has made strides to improve their PvP, but once a games concept is in place they cannot alter the game so drastically that it becomes something that was never intended. For the many who are now exposed to gaming because of World of Warcraft, you must understand that this is an exception to the rule, not a standard that games before it followed. If a company embraced the PvP community and give them what they long for then they might break the mold and chip away at the giant.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear, WoW has done something that is extremely good for the PvP community. It has injected the community with a passion and player based that will carry on for years. WoW has helped build the PvP community, and as irony would have it, it's the same community that burns for a different structure of PvP. Concepts are the key to innovation in this business, and small companies who connect with their audience can be the small rock that smacks the head of the giant. The old adage holds true, "Do not fight fire with fire." Fight this giant by creating a movement, a concept, an idea that captivates the millions who play MMO's so that in the end, the rock that struck the head of this giant was created by the millions who were oppressed by it.


Keith Sarasin