Sunday, May 20, 2012
Our Last Hope?
Often World of Warcraft has been placed on a divine pedestal, a model of perfection by investors, while the new game scrambles to gain any sort of traction in the community. I ask you to revisit this relationship, who really is the God and who is the mouse?
Many have given up on the MMO industry, and looking at the past couple of major titles it is very easy to see why. Games have been hyped months before launch only to end up failing to live up to the millions of expectations. When I tried to introduce Guild Wars 2 to my brother and friends, I was often met by a single, sarcastic response. "Oh great, another one."
After discussing further, I realized how they had become disenchanted with the MMO industry. We had Warhammer, DC Universe Online, Rift, SWTOR, Age of Conan, TERA, soon to be The Secret World, and now I was offering to them yet another MMO. Many would say that these list of games failed, while others would argue some merits of success in Game A or Game B. However, no one can argue that the industry has deteriorated in both innovation and complexity. How awful is it when devs spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a game, and give us so little. The developers of Guild Wars 2 have promised something different than a WoW-Clone, and with so many disappointing games in the past, it will be up to ArenaNet to provide the proof.
We cannot blame investors for looking at the creation of a MMO as a business. Investors dream of replicating the financial success of World of Warcraft, and this has led to the quagmire we are in now. This replication has transferred over to the industry as a whole, and creativity has stagnated. The cost of an AAA MMO is too much for developers to have risk in their investment.
ArenaNet has dared to try something different; a risky venture that has challenged the traditional features of games like World of Warcraft. The developer's manifesto video was a call to the entire MMO community. However, will we listen to their call?
I'm not sure. Every attempt to change my friends' minds have been uphill battles. Some have listened with critical attention, others have argued that grinding, treadmills, and the holy trinity are the only way for true salvation. (like what I did there?) The numbers don't lie either. Hundreds of thousands have pre-purchased Guild Wars 2, though, the specific numbers are quite obscure at the moment. With these numbers we can only speculate the amount of players at launch, but maybe those figures don't really matter. As word of mouth spreads, for good or worse, that number will grow or plateau. Unless ArenaNet chooses to release the numbers of active players, we won't have an accurate measurement of 'success'. It's not like we can just look at the number of current subscribers like other MMOs.
If ArenaNet fails, would you still have hope in the MMO industry? Or if Guild Wars 2 succeeds, will we see innovation and creativity return to the genre? Or would it just offer a new era of GW2-styled clones?