The End of the World… of Warcraft

You knew this was coming. An entry about WoW. In fact, I’m pretty sure Jesse actually wanted one when he asked me to write some stuff for the revived GA blog. Well, here it is. The title of the entry may be a bit deceptive. I’d be a pretty big emo bitch if I were to say WoW is on a decline. While you could make arguments that certain aspects of the game may not be as shiny as they used to be, the game overall is still striving hard, beating the shit out of any other MMO that tries to stick their foot into the door. I mean, look at Age of Conan. Poor, poor Age of Conan. The title is not to say that WoW is ending. The title is there to say WoW needs to end.

I played WoW for a hella long time. Although I was barely playing at all toward the end, I still ended up with three level 70s (pre-WotLK), and two level 60s from the vanilla days. A lot of time was invested into those characters, and a lot of good times were had. My characters are all there, ready to be picked up and leveled to 80 if I so chose to dive back into Azeroth. So why would I want the demise of the game?

Find out after the jump…

I’m going to digress first. Before I go into why World of Warcraft needs to fall, I’m going to explain why it has been so successful. Let’s be honest. Not everyone plays World of Warcraft, and many people think it’s a crappy game. But it’s not. If it was, it wouldn’t be the most successful PC game ever made. Blizzard does an excellent job supporting the game, and while it is not perfect, it’s obviously good enough for 11+ million people around the world. I certainly enjoyed the game when I played it.

A lot of people criticize the game because they say it tends to get old and it being just a grind after awhile. First of all, it’s an MMORPG. Grinding comes with the territory. Compared to other MMORPGs of the past, the amount of grinding in WoW is not nearly as rampant. Second of all, while it is true the game can get old, you have to look at that with a little perspective. Nowadays, game development is an expensive endeavor. With production values improving in all departments, the amount of people required to make a quality game has grown significantly over the years. Yet, creating a game is still cost prohibitive. So with the rising cost of developing a new game, you’re either going to see a drop in quality, or a drop in length. Most good developers choose the latter. Because of this, a lot of games nowadays don’t go for more than 10 hours of played time the first go around. RPGs are still mostly above that mark, but they are much shorter than the RPGs of old. To counteract this, achievements and other incentives have been added to artificially increase each game’s life span.

Anyway, the point is that in WoW, 10 hours of played time is nothing. If you’re not new to the game and know your way around, you could probably hit level 40 in 10 hours of played time. For most people that play WoW for the first time, they’re probably still at level 20. And a new player is still in Azerothian utopia at level 20, or even 40 for that matter. You don’t start hitting the real grind until you get to the level cap, which is currently set at 80. For your every day person playing WoW for the first time, getting to level 80 could easily take 10-15 days of played time. So that’s 240 to 360 hours of fresh gameplay just to hit the cap. Then there’s a myriad of new content at the level cap to go through. People who quit WoW and complain that it got old shouldn’t be complaining because they most likely have put in at least 20 days worth of played time into the game before declaring the game as being “old.” If you played most other games for 480 hours, you’d hate it with a passion. The fact that WoW can even keep a player captivated for that long is already a testament to its quality. Never mind the fact that 20 days is very little compared to what a dedicated WoW player puts in. While I have never even came close to reaching 100 days on any character (I get bored and make new characters), there are a lot of people who have.

Okay, that being said, let’s get to the point. World of Warcraft needs to fall off its pedestal. It came into the market with a new way of running a MMORPG, catering much more to the casual demographic. By simplifying the gameplay and time required to advance, WoW opened itself to a much larger population than previous MMORPGs. All of a sudden, you could log on for only half an hour, and actually finish a quest or three. This strategy of reaching out and hitting the casual demographic has also proved amazingly successful for Nintendo. The only difference is, WoW has not (yet) entirely abandoned its hardcore population, while Nintendo seems to want to continue to crank out and support “games” like Wii Fit and Wii Music that actual gamers have no use for. Anyway, that’s a rant for another day (Can you tell I’m steam of conscious-ing?). With this new strategy, WoW was able to scoop up a huge market share, and Blizzard has done nothing but increase that share since.

That share is too large. Not only has the WoW behemoth squashed competition within the genre, but the genre has almost molded itself to fit WoW. MMORPGs coming out now are copying a lot of what WoW did, in an attempt to recreate the magic. However, all it really does is make the entire genre stale. I really think part of the reason so many people stick to WoW is because they have no other option. It’s either WoW, or this other WoW-clone that isn’t as polished. There are a lot of great games out there, but not everyone wants to play FPS until their eyes bleed. People who are looking for MMORPGs have very little to choose from. You can almost see this when a new MMO comes out, and a large chunk of your friend’s list jumps ship, only to come back one week or one month later, depending on the quality of the other MMO.

Competition is what drives innovation, and the only thing keeping this genre alive is the fact that Blizzard actually has some pride in its product and does indeed put some effort into it. However, having played the game extensively, I can’t help but feel that they could do so much more. Not to mention the word through the grapevine is that Blizzard aims to turn WoW 100% casual. For MMO players who like the hardcore aspect, they would have nowhere to turn, as there really isn’t any other alternative.

I’m not really calling for the demise of the game, I’m simply saying, someone has to “beat” World of Warcraft. What other gaming genre do you know of that is defined by a single game? Blizzard has kept itself up for the most part, but how long will that last? I’d fear that it’s only a matter of time when WoW gets watere’s next-gen MMO that is currently being developed. I’m hoping that is not the case, and a new one comes along to give Blizzard a run for its money before then.

[DISCLAIMER] I have not played Age of Conan or Warhammer, so my opinions there are based solely on second-hand information. I know Warhammer has its perks, and I’ve read rave reviews about the game. But there is something to be said when three guilds from my WoW server left when Warhammer released, saying they’re done with WoW, then checking a couple months later and seeing they’re all back.

1. WoW gold is worth more than the Japanese Yen.
2. There are more Google search results for WoW than all previous MMOs combined.
3. Wrath of the Lich King expansion sold 2,000 copies every minute on launch day.
4. Whichever developer/animator created the female Dranei “waggle” was a genius.
5. Professional WoW arena tournaments did not take off until mid 2008, and in just half a year, $800,000 in cash was awarded. This does not include non-cash prizes like the HP Blackbirds that MLG awards.


3 Responses to “The End of the World… of Warcraft”

  1. It would be amazing if Blizzard had a massive, world-ending ingame event.

    I imagine they wouldn’t do that until they had something to foist onto people once they left the game, though…

  2. Obligatory WoW post is great!

  3. Josh,

    City of Heroes did that with their “invasion” storylines, and apparently it was awesome.

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