If we look back a little over five years we can see the #1 subscription MMORPG in the US and Europe, EverQuest, and how things were going for it.
It was actually at its peak, with over 500K subscriptions.
It had established a pattern of regular expansions (7 by that point) with incremental changes to the game.
EverQuest was the game to study.
SOE studied the game and by the fifth anniversary had a successor in the wings. EverQuest II was poised to take up the standard.
Only EverQuest II never did come to outshine the success of EverQuest. Early EQ2 alienated a lot of loyal EQ players. And SOE hasn’t done as well as EQ2 since then.
Blizzard too studied EverQuest, and did a good job of it. Despite the fact that World of Warcraft eschewed many of the tenets of EQ, things like the need to group to advance in the game and frequent and regular expansions, it came to be the leading subscription MMORPG in the US and Europe with, by some counts, as many as ten times the subscribers that EQ had as its peak.
WoW became the new EQ.
But now the five year mark is approaching for WoW. Blizzard has certainly continued to study EQ and EQ2, so we can be pretty sure that the main announcement at BlizzCon won’t be World of Warcraft II.
Instead, the rumor mill has it that the replacement for WoW will be… WoW. A vast cataclysm will reshape the world allowing for the original game to be re-imagined in a new way. If this is true, Blizzard is attempting to revitalize its game by changing its core.
Of course, this is, as yet, still speculation, regardless of how much datamining people have done. I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to lay some false clues. It isn’t like they aren’t fully aware of how people dig through their files.
But if it is true, if this does come to pass, it will be interesting to see how well it succeeds. A change in place means that there is a guaranteed player base ready to give it a try.
On the other hand, a lot of MMORPG players are both conservative and nostalgic. I would expect to see, at a minimum, more calls for a “classic Azeroth” server.
BlizzCon is this coming weekend. I hope we get some answers!