It comes up shockingly often. Someone or some post talking about such and such being a WoW killer. World of Warcraft is a game with 12 million players. Each of these players pays 13-15 dollars a month to play. Simple math leads us to believe that they make over 150 million dollars every month. It’s probably a bit less than that, but even so, it is a rather large pie that other companies would like to get in on.
Oh how they have tried. Turbine, Sony, Mythic, Cryptic, ArenaNet, NCSoft… They all want a piece of the WoW domination. They have all done fairly well in various aspects, but none have even come close to the level of WoW. The funny thing is, every time a new MMO comes out and every time a new company starts up, there is always someone who says “This is gonna be the WoW killer.” They said it about Guild Wars. They said it about City of Heroes. They said it about Warhammer. They said it about Age of Conan. And while all of these games share a measure of success, they are no where near WoW killers.
Some people point to gameplay. The gameplay needs to be better they say and so hope to kill WoW. The thing is, WoW covers a wide and varied set of gameplay. Don’t like farming dungeons? Do quests. Don’t like questing? Pvp. Don’t like Pvp? Try being an auction house mogul. WoW has nearly everything, and has 10 years worth of polish to it’s gameplay. Gameplay alone will not kill WoW. But it is vital that the game being made looks to WoW to see what has been cut, and what has been added.
Some people point to graphics and beauty. Graphics are important. But if your graphics are so powerful they fry video cards (I am looking at you Champions.) then your player base is cut. There is a reason WoW is designed to run on older machines. There is a reason thy focus on low poly high rez texture models. If it were graphic alone, Aion would be top of the pile.
Some people point to licenses. They say, well Warcraft was an established license. We need that too! To that I respond with Star Wars Galaxies. Not a WoW killer, with a much more recognizable license. True, I don’t think that license was handled well, but it was still far bigger than Warcraft with a much more rabid fanbase.
So how do I think you kill WoW? I don’t know the exact answer. I don’t have the magic potion to throw into your game and make it the WoW Killer. But I might know the question you have to answer:
How do you convince someone who has What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been to stop playing WoW and start playing your game?
Okay, that question is a bit specific, but it gets the point across. How do you convince someone to leave a game they have invested years in to come play yours? What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been is an achievement that takes a full year of WoW playing and determination to get. The reward is a large, beautiful mount that flies faster than all the other mounts in the game. It’s not easy, it’s not for the faint of heart, and it is a great badge of pride once you have it. But it took you a YEAR to get. So why would you leave it moldering on your WoW toons only yo go play another MMO, and have to start over from scratch?!?
I am a lifetime subscriber to Champions Online. I like Champions. I like the art style, I like the skills, I like the fact I don’t need a mount I can just FLY. I love the character creation too. I might even be convinced that visually, Champions is a prettier game. The super hero license appeals to my sense of fantasy. And the gameplay is solid and seems a bit more varied than WoW. But I only played Champions for about 3 weeks. Then I went back to WoW. I had this moment, while trying to get mats to make bigger bags in Champions where I went… I have done this. I have leveled this skill. I have leveled this character. I have done this exact thing before. All I have to do, is log out, and log back into WoW and this problem is solved.
The path of least resistance leads me back to WoW. Where my characters are already max level, have lots of gold, have maxed professions, have purple gear that makes them look awesome, and have the vanity items that makes people whisper me going “Where did you get that?” And even more WoW has my friends, who I don’t have to try to convince to come play another game with me.
Solve that problem, and you have solved how to make a WoW Killer. Of course, while you are solving that, people are earning more cool things, leveling more characters, getting more gear… and generally becoming more entrenched in WoW.