Monday, 11 January 2010

The Escapist's Five Reasons Why The Old Republic Is a Threat to WoW

Over at the Escapist they've published an article titled "Five Reasons Why The Old Republic Is a Threat to WoW". It, surprisingly, gives five reasons for why SWTOR might be a threat to WoW. As the article put it though not in the sense that it's going to be a "WoW Killer", but in that it might take a sizable chunk out of WoW's subscriptions and comfortably settle at No. 2.

Let me briefly list each point (you can read their full explanation by following the link) and five my own quick thoughts.
#1 - Fans: Now, when I say fans, I don't mean fans of Star Wars. Everybody loves Star Wars, sure, but if a massive pre-existing fanbase were all that an MMOG needed to achieve superstardom, we'd probably be writing about what games could possibly challenge the unquestioned rule of Star Wars Galaxies and Lord of the Rings Online. No, I mean BioWare fans - specifically, fans of Knights of the Old Republic.
I have to agree with this point. After all; that's why I'm still here. There are a number of things that I've seen so far that I'm not at all happy about, but I'm a BioWare fan (if not specifically KotOR) and thus I have to see this game, I have to play it. I knew that I would buy this game since I heard the first rumors that BioWare was making an MMO. That's not to say that I'll stick around for a long time, that completely depends on how the game itself actually plays and how much the negatives I perceive truly affect the experience, but I will play it.

And already I hear a number of friends and acquaintances say that they intend to play it as well; not directly because they're so interested in Star Wars or in BioWare, but because it seems that so many are looking to play this. This is something that I haven't seen in WAR, where the enthusiasm was largely confined to the community. So I can definitely see this point as being true.
#2 - Funds: BioWare is, as we all know, owned by Electronic Arts. Yes, the very same EA that is the second largest videogame publisher in the world, beaten only by rival Activision. EA's pockets are very, very deep, and there is more money being pumped into the development of The Old Republic than you or I could ever know. The voice acting alone is surely costing a very pretty penny, and that's just one part of the overall budget.
This point is a bit more tricky because, as the author states, money doesn't equal quality. Oftentimes it feels that the bigger the company and the more money is involved with a product, the less willing it is to take risks. Which is ironic because I fervently believe that to make it big you have to take risks.

Even so though, if one can believe that BioWare knows what it is doing then the money certainly doesn't hurt and likely will help a lot in making this a finely polished product with a high production value. After all, how many MMOs have crumbled because it was released in an unpolished state before it was ready?
#3 - It's Not WoW Lite: It's true that the IP of Lord of the Rings and Warhammer both predate Warcraft, but the problem with those games was that they follow the WoW formula - or rather, the EverQuest formula that WoW refined and polished.
I'm not entirely sure what to think of this point. On the one hand I agree because I've seen that very problem with WAR; people seemed to come in expecting WoW2 and then left when they found out it wasn't, while at the same time people looking for something different found it too similar to WoW.

But on the other hand I've not actually seen anything that makes me believe that it sets itself apart from WoW. Sure, it is a different setting, but I'm not convinced that's enough. Isn't it too thin a veneer? I've played a lot of MMOs in a lot of different settings, but in the end all too often it just felt like it was doing what every other MMO is doing.

Even so the author is probably right in that just having a fresh setting can go a long way for a lot of people.
#4 - It Could Be Something New: This is very much related to point #3, but while TOR is strongly based on "not being just like WoW," it also earns points on "doing something fairly different in the MMOG space."
This point I do agree with. The one point that SWTOR has that no other MMO has (to the same level) is its story focus. And I agree that unlike what most MMOs offer as unique feature it's something that should be immediately apparent from the start, drawing people in from the beginning. This was clear from playing Age of Conan where the first twenty levels were just like that (only I'm sure SWTOR will do it a lot better; in AoC it was almost coincidence since they originally intended those levels to be a single-player experience).

So it's understandable that they've been pushing that above all else; it's the one thing that truly makes it stand out in a way that no other MMO has done. It's a risky strategy as they'll have to make absolutely certain to provide such a massive amount of content that people feel like they'll never be able to run out. But the money and dedication being thrown at the game should hopefully achieve just that. And if they succeed in that then the rest of the game only really needs to be solid without needing to do anything truly new (much as I hate to admit that).
#5 - Lightsabers: Fwp-shhhhsssss... wronnnn, worrrarrang. Wrorr-K-SHH! K-SHHkrilkrklkkrlk, wrooonn, wroaonng.

I think that point speaks for itself.
I'll be honest and say that the Star Wars universe doesn't really interest me all that much; at least not any more than a number of other great settings (and less than some close to my heart). It is in many ways fairly generic sci-fi with spaceships, lots of weird alien races, far away planets (with exactly one type of climate), etc. The Jedi stand out as something different, but even there without their lightsabers they're just sorcerers in space. It's certainly not unique (the Mass Effect setting has all those things and does many better). Again I hate to admit it, but four out of the eight classes could exist in pretty much any (sci-fi) setting.

But there's one thing that Star Wars has that no other setting does and that's lightsabers. And I don't know what it is about them, but there's something intrinsically appealing about wielding a "laser sword". No other setting has really managed that as anything close is just copying the lightsaber.

So I have to say that I largely agree with the point, though I'm not entirely convinced that it proves that SWTOR is a threat to WoW. As the article notes many games have gone before making similar claims and I've seen a lot of explanations as to why that game was a "WoW Killer" or anything of the sort. And most of it sounded imminently reasonable at the time as well.

As such I'm interested in seeing The Escapist's second article next week which, in true "we're just covering all our bases" style, is said to list five reasons why WoW has nothing to fear from SWTOR. I'll post it when I come across it.

[link] to article at The Escapist.

1 comment:

Brian Inman said...

I think the biggest will be the Knights of the Old Republic fanbase along with all the Star Wars Kids.

It will draw alot of people from that alone just like World of Warcraft from their Warcraft games. It will have a much bigger pull than the Warhammer Ip because it didn't have a prior video game base to draw from.

Word of Mouth is going to be huge for SWTOR also, but like all the recent hyped games it better start off good, or it will just be another failed WoW killer.

No game is going to kill WoW except for Blizzards own new MMO IP.

I definitely look forward to playing SWTOR just because the market has seem really dry of an MMO that makes me want to take three weeks vacation at launch.