Darren over at CSG really has one prediction for 2008: Warhammer Online is going to be the game to beat in terms of PvP. He lays out what most of the other major MMOs will have to do to confront EA and Mythic at the PvP game when it comes out. And what exactly can they do? If WAR is really as good as Mythic claims it's going to be, nothing, really-- his best advice is for Age of Conan to dodge the blow, and he says that Pirates and Tabula Rasa still have too many factors at this point to figure out how they can compete with a game that hasn't been released into beta yet.
But my question is this: who says PvP matters in the first place. Look at the two MMOs this year that trumpeted their PvP: Vanguard and Fury. They're suffering, and it's not just because they couldn't provide a great PvP experience-- it's because they couldn't provide a great experience overall. PvP isn't the only thing WAR (or any other MMO trying to become top dog) will have to do right to succeed-- what it'll have to do is make sure that there's a core gameplay experience there (be it PvE or PvP) that will push people to stay with the game. Endgame PvP means nothing if no one wants to play enough to get that far.
Now, Warhammer does look like it has some excellent incentive to play-- even if the core gameplay suffers, players may fight through it just to see the RvR stuff (and if the Warhammer devs are smart and talented enough to make RvR the core gameplay, all the better). But it's not just about comparing one game's PvP to another-- the way a game becomes popular is that the core gameplay itself (whatever it consists of) stands on its own.