I have to hand it to Darren at The Common Sense Gamer. He is a man of much greater faith than I, despite a recent comment I made on his blog.
When I saw the headline up on VirginWorlds that read “Beating Warcraft at its own game,” I did not even bother to read the summary. I figured it to be nonsense and not worth my time. However, Darren did go read it and found what comedic gold it really was.
Of course, the main punchline was the three games set to vie with World of Warcraft for dominance in the MMO market. Those titles were:
- Age of Conan
- Lord of the Rings Online
- Star Wars Galaxies
All three can be dismissed readily. All three have (or will have, in the case of AoC) system requirements that are steeper than WoW. That blows the competition right there. WoW wins by default.
The system requirements (heaviest in the case of AoC), a lack of interest in the IP, and the absence of real PvP in the case of the last two, will probably also make all three games non-starters in Asia, where WoW has its biggest fan base.
Not that any of these games are bad, they just aren’t going to achieve WoW-level subscription numbers.
AoC could be big, if only because it will be on XBox 360 as well.
LOTRO has the potential to at least pass Runscape by getting a more than a million paying subscribers.
But SWG? The best part of the article is the section on SWG.
Some older games are taking on WoW too. Star Wars Galaxies is revamping to be more fun for both existing and new players.
“WoW’s success,” said Jake Neri, producer for Galaxies at LucasArts, “has meant everyone is seeing more players sign up.”
“The player base for MMO games has exploded. We see new people trying the game all the time. And we have some die-hard folks that will never play anything but Galaxies.”
All true enough, no doubt. Anybody familiar with the game will attest to the somewhat rabid core fan base. (Among other things, the New Game Enhancements, or NGE, also gave people rabies.) And the incoming tide of MMO success has raised all boats to a certain extent.
Still, given that this is Star Wars we’re talking about here, nobody is yet calling SWG a stunning success. Even John Smedley has admitted that the game should be huge with the Star Wars IP behind it, but it is not.
What we really have here is SWG being pushed into the Terry Malloy role in “On The Waterfront,” whose classic line was:
You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.
Then the comedy moves on with:
Galaxies launched in 2003 and has been tweaked a few times since as its creators realized what people wanted to do.
“Galaxies was one of the first MMOs,” said Mr Neri. “There was no handbook on how to do these things.”
Because, of course, in 2003 nobody knew anything about MMOs. Certainly not Sony. And nobody working on SWG had anything to do with, say, Ultima Online or EverQuest.
Some miracle must have happened within a year though, since the folks at Blizzard seemed to have known a thing or two about MMOs by the time WoW shipped in 2004.
The series of changes has aligned the game more closely with what players actually do.
Because the NGE represented what the players actually do?
The extensive tweaking has given Lucas Arts a “baseline” to keep everything balanced, said Mr Neri.
I suppose a baseline of discontent means that they can only go up from there.
The balance of the article has Mr Neri talking about the upcoming beast master expertise system, though he neglects to mention that a creature handling class had been in the game previously and was removed. Part of realizing what people want to do no doubt.
I do not mean any of this as a knock against SWG or its fan base. But in this list, SWG is the tragic character. It could have been a contender. But it wasn’t.
And I do not think there is any sort of Rocky Balboa comeback, to continue the boxing metaphor, in its future, despite what Mr. Neri or the BBC has to say.