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Ten things WoW players should know from E3

Mike Schramm

Blizzard, as you probably already know, was not at E3 this year (officially, anyway -- they did have at least a few folks wandering the exhibit halls). But that doesn't mean there wasn't anything for you WoW fans: both Elizabeth Harper and I were there from working with our sister sites Joystiq and Massively, and as WoW fans, we saw plenty of awesome games and demos that you should know about.

So even if you haven't been paying attention to E3 information on other sites, here's a quick wrapup of ten different things you should know from last week's big convention if you're a WoW player. There were no big expansion announcements or hints at future Blizzard releases -- they're saving all of that for BlizzCon this year. But there were a few games to watch, a few booths to marvel at, and a few trends to notice that you'll want to be aware of even if you're spending most or all of your gaming time in Azeroth. Hit the break for the first four.

1. Activision was there in force. Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero, Modern Warfare 2, Tony Hawk's Ride, Transformers, and racing game Blur were some of the many titles Blizzard's partner company had on display. And a large display it was -- they took up a good part of the West Hall with giant video screens surrounding a massive, extremely loud stage, full of periodic game demos and displays. In fact, this is probably the first E3 in which Activision was bigger than even EA, and very likely the biggest non-console maker in the house. The company Blizzard shares a name with is not small, and though they declined to be a part of the show floor last year, they were definitely there showing off multiple sequels and giant titles due out later this year.

2. Star Wars: The Old Republic looks great... so far. Let's see -- an MMO put together by an all-star developer, based on an extremely popular IP that's already played host to a few popular games? Sure, that could describe Blizzard and Warcraft -- or it could describe Bioware and Knights of the Old Republic, their old Star Wars property. Everyone wants to see what they'll do with the MMO genre, and from the little bit we saw at the show, the game likely won't disappoint: they're planning to run different Bioware-style campaigns across the world for each class, so that as you play each class (Smuggler, Jedi, Bounty Hunter), you'll never do the same quest twice. Oh, and have you seen that trailer? You've still got a few years of WoW left to play, but when it finally does come out, The Old Republic will be one to watch for sure.

3. You've got your shooter in my MMO! We didn't see much in terms of fantasy MMOs this year, but the newest trend seems to be mixing in some action/shooter gameplay to the MMO genre. APB, The Agency, Global Agenda, Fallen Earth, and Jumpgate Evolution are all planning to give MMO players a little extra action rather than the swords-and-sorcery gameplay that we've seen in MMOs like Warcraft and others so far. Blizzard has certainly experimented with some more action-oriented gameplay (with varying results, to say the least), but if one of these MMOs really takes off, we might see some of their ideas translated back into Azeroth.

4. Final Fantasy Online is coming back. One of the biggest surprise announcements of the show was that Square Enix is aiming to release Final Fantasy XIV, their second MMO title in the series, next year. It was quite a shock (especially since number XIII in the series isn't even out yet), but it'll be interesting to see what they do. Final Fantasy XI Online, while it never really competed with WoW's numbers, was and is a very popular MMO, and you have to think that, a few years later, Square Enix will try borrowing some ideas from Blizzard's big game. We doubt it'll draw too many players away (you probably already want to play FFXIV or you don't care too much), but it bears noticing that FFXI was released just months before WoW. What will another Final Fantasy online game look like post-WoW?

5. Nobody much cares about competing with WoW, anyway. A few years ago, whenever you talked to an MMO developer, all they could talk about was how different their game was from World of Warcraft, and how they were going to pull players away from it. But this year, we almost didn't hear the game's name uttered -- it was used for comparisons in terms of classes and mechanics, but really, everyone just seemed to assume that WoW players are playing WoW and that people who want to play these new games will play these new games. That could be for a few reasons: first of all, WoW is now the granddaddy of MMOs. Many companies have spent lots of money to pull players away from Azeroth, and it just hasn't worked, so most devs have just stopped trying. Of course, it could also be because these devs don't really consider WoW a threat any more -- why should they bother competing against a four-year-old game? Truthfully, we like it anyway -- it's much more interesting talking to devs about their game than about how it compares to World of Warcraft. And people will always play what they want to play.

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