World of Warcraft is the big daddy on the MMO block. Hell, with the amount of money Blizzard is raking in, World of Warcraft is the big daddy on the gaming block. And what's more, it's still growing. According a report, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick stated in an investor meeting that his company had done extensive research on the MMO category, and came to the conclusion that even a game bolstered by an initial investment of $500 million to $1 billion would still probably have a hell of a time competing in the same space as the Blizzard juggernaut. This likely came as part of their research prior to the massive merger with Vivendi Universal late last year.
Kotick points to the relative failures of big companies like Microsoft in trying to develop a competitive product as proof in the pudding. Even companies with decades-long track records of extracting money from lose-lose situations don't stand to gain much from trying to directly compete in the same space. For his part, Kotick believes it's the ingenuity of the guys at Blizzard that is really the deciding factor. Since no amount of money is liable to recreate the success of Blizzard, they simply found the prospect of buying them out more amenable. If you're wondering why it seems like so many MMO development houses are scaling down their products to make them more niche oriented, this is why. Throwing money, even a billion dollars, into a competition with World of Warcraft is only likely to end in tears.