The Next Great MMORPG Battle
Sean W. Gibson / Jun 19th, 2011 No Comments
We all know who is the undisputed king of MMO games is in Blizzard’s World of WarCraft. They’ve dominated the landscape since taking away all of the users from EverQuest and have never looked back. Facts are facts – with an estimated twelve million users worldwide, each paying $15 a month, Blizzard’s profits just from their MMO are in and around $180 million … per month. That reminds me to send a memo for a holiday gift to Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime! There have been quite a few challengers to come and go in the years that WoW has dominated, but it seems that in 2011 and 2012 we might see the next great MMO Battle.
So who are the contenders of this hypothetical battle that has yet to really even take shape? Well, I’ll take a look at a couple of contenders and try to speculate as to how the next two years will go in this lucrative industry. We’ll take a look at a game already released in Rift and also one about to be released in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
In the last year we’ve seen the meteoric rise of a new MMO from Trion Worlds in Rift. The game looks gorgeous and has garnered a very respectable amount of momentum in the last six months. The team at Trion is about to release a big content update with their 1.3 patch, keeping their promise to release huge content updates on a regular basis. Reviewers have been applauding the game in various Rift reviews on the internet and the game continues to get better with patches that bring more-than-expected content for free. Although they don’t approach Blizzard’s numbers, people in the industry are taking note that there is in fact room in a gamer’s budget for more than one MMO. At the very least, Rift has taught us that people are ready to try something new, especially if it gives us a lot of what we love with MMOs, which is a good story, great graphics and tons of immediate action.
Late this year or in early 2012 we’ll finally see the efforts of five years worth of development time in the game Star Wars: The Old Republic. Although a Star Wars themed MMO is nothing new, what it does have is plenty of potential and the names we trust most for Star Wars games with BioWare. The game has an estimated 1.5 million people signed up on the beta test wish list, indicating the tremendous amount of hype and anticipation for the title. The line for this game at E3 2011 was easily the longest at the entire show and most of the pre-release coverage has been fairly positive. Our own impressions of the game so far, having played it at E3, were really good and we think the combination of heavy story, amazing brand recognition and BioWare magic can propel SWTOR to the second most played MMO in the world within six months of its release. All it has to do is not fall on its face at launch and EA/BioWare will be able to make incredible strides taking away market-share from Blizzard.
Living and working in Southern California has its benefits and one of them is that I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the folks inside Blizzard. While nobody has been foolish enough to give any details about their next generation MMO, the people I’ve talked to say that they are playing it internally at Blizzard and that it will absolutely blow away everyone when they announce it. Nobody knows what the theme will be for this MMO or what “Titan” or “Project Hydra” exactly are, but I think us veterans of the gaming industry tend to believe Blizzard when they say something huge is on the horizon.
The fight is on now for MMORPG dominance but it’s really hard to see people simply walk away from the most addicting game in the history of the industry. However, I think every gamer out there knows more than one disgruntled WoW player pining for something different. The opportunity for competition is out there and the way things are rolling, we could easily see SWTOR getting off to a hot start and Rift continuing a steady climb. Blizzard will respond by releasing more frequent expansions (2-3 a year) until they finally crush the competition when they announce their next giant MMO. The good news for gamers is that all this competition is fantastic for quality gaming content and we’ll all enjoy what all these of these game developers will bring us for the next few years.