Ask Massively: Wrath vs All Comers

Never let it be said that Ask Massively doesn't give everyone a chance to be heard. We believe that everyone should have a voice, and it is in the interest of providing that voice that we bring you the following question.

Dear Massively

I am SO SICK of all of the coverage of Wrath of the Lich King! I demand that someone at Massively write about something that isn't World of Warcraft related this week. Non-WoW players aren't interested in an expansion for a game that they don't even play. Someone throw me a freakin' bone here!

Sarah P.

Someone hasn't been paying attention, have they... Now that we've taken care of Sarah, let's talk about the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Unless you've been living under a rock, or on the Presidential campaign trail, you are aware the Wrath of the Lich King drops next week.

If, unlike our friend here, you have been paying attention, you are also aware that the rest of the MMO world has scheduled everything around this release. Some games were rushed to market to try to gain marketshare ahead of time. Others have delayed a while in the hope that the flurry of activity surrounding this release will have died down by then.

What does it mean for the MMO industry?

You've heard me say, many times, that there will never be a "WoW Killer". While it is the job of others to disagree with that assessment, the fact remains that any company that can affect the development and marketing schedules of its competitors can assumed to be dominant in the marketplace. Nobody in their right mind disputes the fact that World of Warcraft is king of the MMO market, but can they maintain that dominance?

Unfortunately for would-be WoW-Killers, the market conditions that existed at the launch of World of Warcraft will never be repeated. There just aren't enough gamers out there to expand the market the same way WoW did. Even if there were, the rise of the console gaming market means that it will be harder to draw new MMO players into the market. The MMORPG genre was barely developed when Blizzard made their splash into the market. Now, everyone and their grandmother has an MMO title out there. The market is mature, and it is far harder to steal customers than it is to create new customers.

Bear in mind that older games' subscriber numbers have held fairly steady since WoW's release after the initial sharp dropoff experienced immediately after launch. In other words, "Everquest ain't dead yet." Even if a game like "Copernicus" manages to be the greatest game in the history of MMORPGs, even if Lucas manages to keep his ham-fisted creativity killers away from BioWare long enough for "Star Wars: The Old Republic" to succeed, even if Star Trek Online manages to boldly go where no game has gone before, they're not going to match the dominance of the marketplace that World of Warcraft enjoys.

I don't know if I can say this any plainer. "No other MMO will ever gain more than 50% marketshare in the MMORPG space." There is too much (good) competition and the market is too mature to expand far enough to make such dominance possible again. if Lich King is even remotely as successful as Burning Crusade was, and I don't see any reason why it won't be, you can expect World of Warcraft's dominance to continue indefinitely.

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