Tuesday, August 14, 2012
A War is Coming
Today, I could talk about many things. The latest round of stress tests, tomorrow's impending stress test (3-7 EST), the latest round of information about the worlds on launch, but instead I want to focus on something more profound.
World of Warcraft is scheduled for a major pre-expansion patch, and the release date of this patch was announced today. The date might sound a little familiar to you, August 28th. The exact day that Guild Wars 2 launches, something that just sounds too perfect to be a coincidence. Or how about the tombstone in the world of Tyria that references World of Warcraft "I played WoW and look at me now, if only I had been like you and stuck to playing GW2." (found by Chronicles of Tyria) Both sides are certainly playing with each other.
Whether you believe it or not, I do. There is a war coming. I don't forget, and let me assure you I am fully aware that there have been several major MMO releases that have attempted to challenge WoW, and all have "failed" (at the very least to dethrone WoW). However, something just feels different this time around. An emotion that has been hurdled around by the community for quite some time. But evidence for this "supposed war" cannot be equivocated by simply my feelings. And yet, all we have are feelings. The hard facts that will be able to prove it's existence will be near impossible to find until several months from now. Instead, I offer a brief identification of the sides, the major players if you will, and what will the legacy of the war bring, if it comes. They might not be what you expect.
However, first let's identify the players. Instead of the two sides being centered around two rather similar games, we have fundamentally distinctive oppositions this time around.
I'm not just talking about two games here. I'm talking about ideologies, that threaten to change the MMO landscape for decades. On one side, you see the banner of the old, conventional wisdom. A force that has chosen a subscription based model, gear treadmills, and the holy trinity. On the second side, you see a rising tide of new growth. A crest of a buy to play model, with the audacity to innovate a stagnant system. A challenger that tackles PvE content dynamically by stripping away the holy trinity, and a plateau of power at the end-game with an aesthetic treadmill.
People have claimed that Guild Wars 2 (and for that matter countless other MMO's before it) to be the next WoW-killer. However, especially after the recent failings of other MMOs, the majority of opinion has shifted, and most believe WoW cannot be killed by any new MMO.
I argue something very different. Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft just happen to be the banner men of the war, between two sides that have two radically distinct approaches.
You can try to argue that Guild Wars 1 was the first major MMO to release in a buy to play fashion. Or maybe you want to say that The Secret World (or "your MMO of choice") was something radically new and belongs to a third side. But, these other games pale in comparison to these two armies.
Both sides have amassed large numbers of supporters, and the bells of war have begun to toll. By choosing one of these games, don't be deceived. You aren't just deciding between two games, but two ideologies. The stakes couldn't be higher for the companies on either side.
Now some of my readers, might say, "Yeah, I think both games are very different, but I will probably play Subscription based MMO X with Guild Wars 2" My response is this, in a war there doesn't always have to be a winner and a loser. Occasionally, both sides take very heavy losses, or even have very narrow victories, and instead of a clearly defined victor, we have a stalemate. This could very easily, and in my opinion, be the most likely scenario. Both ideologies will compete for years to come.
However, once you go to war, no one forgets it. They will always be fighting each other for our (the embodiment of the consumer) time and money. The amount of justification for a subscription based MMO will never be higher than after Guild Wars 2's release. Only time will tell if games like World of Warcraft will be able to do just that. And only time will tell if Guild Wars 2 is a big enough hit to change a stagnant empire.
What side will you fight for?