Podzilla 1985

Monday, September 07, 2009

MMORPG Doomsdays and Stale Bread

My last blog stirred up some responses, especially on my Facebook page.

A response from our dear friend Jack McNeil got me thinking about the reality of online RPG's, and the goals companies set for themselves that are so far from reality they're riding unicorns to work.

There is an evil out there that, if you listen to the living doomsday clocks that plague MMORPG.com, is causing destruction of the genre we all love so much.

I'm looking at you here, super evil mega corporation Blizzard and your genre defining/destroying World of Warcraft. Blizzard is to the Shinra of this industry, and every new MMO that pops up are potential Cloud Strifes in the eyes of many players.

Everyone wants Blizzard numbers. They all want to be riding that multi-million player count and raking in the big dough. Where 200,000 players was once enough to make you top dog, now its considered a "failure." Warcraft has upped the bar significantly and told all other comers to bring their A+ game.

That's all well and good, right? Competition breeds excellence. It worked for wrestling during the WCW/WWF wars, didn't it? Before WCW (and lets be honest, the New World Order) came along the WWF was just a cartoon collection of insulting storylines and embarrassing characters. Not at all like they are today, of course. It was big, of course. I was a wrestling fan before I could remember caring about anything else. But even I can admit that wrestling was a guilty pleasure, something to be enjoyed only by those who "got it."

And then came along WCW, with their hip storylines and mass amounts of money to spend on the best talent (And Scott Steiner). Eric Bischoff and his people at Turner changed the face of the game completely. The WWF, in more of a dire situation than anyone really knew at the time, was forced to up their game, retake their title, and stand valiantly at the top of the food chain once more. The fans benefited the most. Ratings spiked, merchandise soared off of shelves, and wrestling was suddenly the hippest thing since sliced bread (or its sequel, Sliced Bread 2:Electric Boogaloo.) <---- Mr. Show reference. Look it up.

Let me break it down for you -

WCW=World of Warcraft.

WWF=Every other MMO of all time.

Very similar paths. Before WoW MMO's were just kind of there. They were popular in the right circles, but lacked any true mainstream power other than the legends of "Evercrack." Ultima Online was a great game and will truly go down as the greatest phenomenon I've ever had the honor of being apart of. But how many people did you know that played UO, or at the very least, played it so vocally? At the time the term "Multi Massive Online Role Playing Games" were reserved for the nerdiest of nerds. They were for people who couldn't find enough other nerds to do table top roleplaying, so they found a virtual outlet for their nerd events.

Once the juggernaut called World of Warcraft came along that all changed. Ozzy Ozbourne is pimping out World of Warcraft on television, along with other...superstars like William Shatner, Mr. T, and even Jean Claude Van Damme if you're lucky enough to watch foreign TV. Games like WoW, and especially WoW, are now as popular as console gaming, which itself has seen a surge in popularity and mainstream notoriety thanks to the Nintendo Wii.

MMO's are coming out every single month and at last count they numbered in the triple digits.

So what is this plague that so many people are afraid of?

Everyone expects "the next big thing" to come and knock that evil Blizzard off its pedestal. Those who don't come out of the gate with the most well tuned, superbly polished, million + account base are deemed failures immediately and all of the "in the know" players wait patiently for the game to close its doors.

Well you arrogant little pricks, I'd like to see you do better. I've yet to see the uber MMO compilation from all of the holier than thou jackasses that like to sing about the destruction of Warcraft, yet revel in the supposed "failure" of those who challenge the throne.

And that, my friends, brings me to my most important point. Most of these games that are coming out will never reach the 1 million mark, much less topple an industry giant like Warcraft. And that should in no way take away from the enjoyability of these games. When players expect titles to take down WoW, publishers and dreamers can only hope to compete by copying. That's why every game you see now is slapped with a "WoW Clone" sticker before it can even see retail shelves.

And to be honest, yes, they are in their own way WoW clones. Just like WoW took bits and pieces of games before it to make an extremely well polished online RPG.

No game will ever beat WoW by BEING WoW. If I want to play World of Warcraft, I'll play World of Warcraft. And I don't care if you base the game on a beloved story (Lord of the Rings) or gussy it up to look like the classiest of whores (Aion), if I'm going to kill X number of something and retrieve X number of something else I'm going to do it in Azeroth, where I know I can do it the best.

Star Wars Galaxies was a great game that felt the pressure and changed its game to try and steal some of WoW's player base. What happened? One of the most infamous moments in gaming history that caused a mass exodus from the virtual world and delivered a blow so hard to SOE's reputation that it has yet to recover so many years later.

Stop worrying about competing and start concentrating on innovating. If you can't beat them at their own game, and my God I promise you won't, change the game.

Isn't it about time for the next New World Order?
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