The fan wars have, of course, already begun. The debates rage in comments and in forums about how WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online will be going head-to-head in the arena of 2014. Who will win?
Well, World of Warcraft will win. It's spent a lot of time winning, and it's a firm enough establishment that even if a game launched tomorrow that could actually be the Next Big Thing, it would still be several years before it actually mattered. So if you're really concerned about the whole "which game wins" nonsense, then there's your winner.
But that misses a fundamental point, which is who cares. This isn't football. One team doesn't win while the other one loses. It's entirely possible for both games to launch this year to rave reviews and solid subscription numbers, and it's entirely possible for both to launch and flop badly. I doubt that will happen with WildStar, but I'm well aware that the game could launch and then become the next Warhammer Online in a matter of weeks, regardless of ESO's fortunes.
Oh, are we judging just based on reviews? Because that has problems too.
This isn't a situation in which every MMO player is sitting around choosing between one or the other, nor is it even a case in which most of the people who will play one or the other are somehow undecided. That guy showing up in the comments to say how the game will never stand up to ESO? Yeah, nothing you say is going to convince him to play WildStar. His choice is made. And that's fine, good for you, glad you know what you want, guy. Have fun.
What I want from WildStar is a series of updates. I want ongoing stuff to do in all the arenas of the game. I want to have fun playing it. I want it to be around for a long while. And pretty much all of that depends on the quality of the game that Carbine Studios releases and the marketing done to promote that game. Produce a solid game that isn't riddled with bugs and enormous issues surrounding the central gameplay along with reasonable forecasts for subscriber numbers, and I can see the game being profitable enough to just keep humming along.
At that point, seriously, I don't care. Does it have 10,000 subscribers? 50,000? 5 million? Whatever. If I've got people to play with no fear that the game is going to go down some idle Friday never to come back, I'm good. (Not that subscribers are even necessarily indicative of that, as we've found out many times over the years.)
Do I think WildStar will have the staying power to entrance people over ESO in the long term? I don't think that's an actual problem. I think WildStar needs to have staying power to convince people to stay long-term, and there are so many MMOs out there that no one is wanting for options. Trying to develop that staying power specifically by looking at what ESO is doing doesn't produce a game that stands on its own merits; neither does producing a game specifically meant to counter what World of Warcraft is doing or Star Trek Online or any game you can think of.
We're talking about a game that isn't out yet that is launching into an astonishingly rich environment. There are more different sorts of games out there than even existed in the past. Wurm Online and Neverwinter are two games that could not be more different than one another, and they both are part of the same overall genre, doing their own things. The greater risk is fading into the background and becoming uniform.
So I don't put any stock in the whole back-and-forth of asking which game is going to "win" during this year. It doesn't matter. Sure, a smart business strategy takes into account the launch dates of other games, but WildStar's biggest development goal has to be about being awesome on its own merits. I don't want WildStar to "beat" ESO. I want it to launch and be fun to play, and I want it to keep going for a long while.
Fortunately for me, the game seems to be providing me lots of compelling reasons to play. So I think we're good.
As always, feedback is welcome down in the comment section below, or you can mail me something at email@example.com. Next week, I'd like to talk about WildStar's general build-it-yourself atmosphere; the week after that, I'm going to dive back into lore and talk about the factional conflict as a whole, having looked at every playable race at this point.
Here's how it is: The world of Nexus can be a dangerous place for a tourist or a resident. If you're going to venture into WildStar, you want to be prepared. That's why Eliot Lefebvre brings you a shiny new installment of The Nexus Telegraph every week, giving you a good idea of what to expect from both the people and the environment. Keep your eyes peeled, and we'll get you where you need to go.