WildStar is one of the most well-rounded and feature complete theme park MMORPGs in years. Love it or dismiss it, there’s no arguing that it’s had a rocky road since launch. Despite critical praise, a loyal and even rabid (or jabbit?) fanbase, Carbine’s MMORPG hasn’t been able to really keep up a decent population. But that could change today, as WildStar hits Steam. Will Nexus be saved by Valve’s storefront the same way TERA and other MMOs have been?
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of WildStar, even if I’m far from the game’s original target market of “hardcore raider”. I love the art, I love the combat, and I love the sheer wealth of content in WildStar. Quite simply, it’s just a game and a world I like being in. It’s actually, despite the “hardcore” marketing message, one of the more casual friendly MMOs out there. There’s something for everyone, and almost all of it can be done in manageable chunks of time. If you like theme park MMOs, and you like stylized visuals, there’s no reason not to enjoy WildStar.
But then, why do so few people seem to stick with the game?
You could point to any number of reasons, but almost all of them would probably also apply to other MMOs that haven’t had as much trouble maintaining notoriety. You could argue that maybe, with a new IP, WildStar should have launched as a Free to Play game and taken advantage back then of the good will people have when trying a new product. But that time’s past. We can argue about why it didn’t stick for ages, and I think on these very forums we have.
Now is now: WildStar is on Steam. Like TERA before it, can Carbine’s MMORPG find new life there? The road ahead is already an uphill journey for Carbine. NSCOFT cut their staffing, finally tired of spending money on a promising but ultimately unsuccessful product. Steam is literally the last place NCSOFT wants to put its products because they now have to give 30% of their earnings over to Valve. But as anyone with basic math skills can tell you, it’s better to have thousands more customers and share the profits than be circling the drain because you don’t have enough of an audience to keep the lights on.
I logged in to WildStar today. My level 50 Stalker still has loads to do, and all of Arcterra to uncover, which is arguably the game’s best level-capped play space yet. The reason I never stuck with WildStar for long isn’t because I don’t enjoy the game, it’s because there are so few people to enjoy it with. MMOs with big wide open worlds like Nexus need people to feel alive, they need people to fill the instance queues with, and they need people because that’s what MMOs are about. Here’s hoping that the Steam launch can put a nice healthy stream of folks back into WildStar.
There are already too many MMOs closed before their prime. I wish nothing but the best for Carbine, WildStar, and all of the Nexus Explorers out there. Will you be playing around with your Steam friends in Nexus?