This is an original opinion piece written by someone who has been following Warhammer Online since November 2007. Comments are open on page three.
Many people claim WAR is a total fail-whale of an MMO. I can see sides of their argument, but I don't believe it's completely true. The "fail" perception mostly comes down to the expectations that were set by Mythic and EA and then never fully delivered upon. It's no secret they were aiming for 500k+ subs and then missed the mark (by about 200k), but it got me wondering... Who is/was WAR's target audience? Was their potential audience actually big enough to support their aspirations?
Let's go back. Waaaaaaaaaaay back. Let's pretend we were a fly on the wall in a Mythic/EA/Games Workshop boardroom as they were discussing the original vision and design direction for WAR. One of the first steps you take before developing any product is to define your target audience or demographic. Knowing your audience gives you better direction and allows you to focus your efforts and design decisions more clearly.
So let's pretend we were eavesdropping on that conversation. What sorts of audiences do you think were being thrown around?
- Gamers aged 19-34 - That's a pretty broad audience. I think we need to narrow it down more.
- Current MMO players - Hmmm, that's a bit more defined, but what games do they play?
- Players of World of Warcraft, Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest, Age of Conan, EVE Online, etc. - Uhm, all those games appeal to different people for different reasons.
- What about DAOC 2.0? - Mark Jacobs "No way, dudes. Been there, done that!"
- Fans of Warhammer TT? - Sure, but how many Warhammer tabletop players actually play MMOs?
- Fans of RvR/PvP - We'll never compete with WoW by aiming our game solely at the PvP crowd!
- Fans of RvR/PvP and PvE - All right! Sounds good! Let's go with it!
Mythic's original vision for WAR was heavily focused on scenarios and the beta testers screamed bloody murder at the lack of open world RvR (late 2007). This was a key point in WAR's development. This was the first time Mythic really deviated from their original vision in a big way. Was it a mistake?
Mark Jacobs did not want to make DAOC 2.0 and yet many of his more vocal and early testers were ex-DAOC players. Mythic constantly kept pushing the term "RvR," which has become synonymous with "DAOC." How could he really hope to make a new RvR game and not make it DAOC 2.0? Bear in mind, DAOC 2.0 would be an more refined version of the key concepts of the game, not the lore, races, classes, setting, etc. They had the WAR intellectual property for that.
And then there was WoW. Mythic never made any bones about wanting to take on the big boy. It was simply a given: MMO studio with lots of experience. EA giving them boatloads of cash. Marketing on a scale we had never seen before in the industry. Rights to the original Warhammer IP Blizzard loosely based their Warcraft franchise upon.
They had all the tools to make it happen, but really, how could you ever dream of taking on WoW without trying to appeal to the WoW market?
What is the WoW market anyway? I'll keep things basic here, but WoW players obviously love PvE, instanced PvP, open-world PvP (on the PvP servers), smaller group sizes, casual friendliness, somewhat cartoonlike graphics, humor, phat lewt, etc.
Take a look at WAR and try to pick a single item from the above list that is missing from the game. You really won't find one.
The problem with WAR lies in the execution of it all. To have the broadest possible appeal, Mythic needed to appeal to the DAOC crowd who adored RvR and abhorred PvE (Google "ToA debacle"). They also needed to appeal to players of the biggest MMO on the planet who had major love for engaging and strong PvE.
These two crowds are polar opposites.