Guild Wars 2 will not kill World of Warcraft. This is not fact, but come back to this article in a year, two years, three million years, and rest assured that you will find I am right. Blizzard Entertainment’s 2004 MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) is approaching its eighth year of life and still remains relatively stable at 10.2 million players. For five years, I was one of these 10.2 million. But I never will be again. Even giant waddling pandas cannot tempt me back, and let me tell you why.
I recently took part in the last Guild Wars 2 beta weekend. The last time I had played an MMO was around about 6 months ago, when, like the junkie that I am, I desperately asked somebody to use a Scroll of Resurrection on my World of Warcraft account so I could get one more hit. And boy am I an MMO junkie. WoW, Guild Wars, The Old Republic, City of Heroes/Villains, DC Universe Online, Champions Online have all been my drug of choice at one point (evidently I’m also a comic book junkie). I’ve had my taste of all of these. Blizzard Entertainment, Cryptic Studios, Sony Online Entertainment and Bioware have all been my dealers. We’ve had ups, we’ve had downs. And I thought it was time to go cold turkey. Then ArenaNet entered the market with their new product; Guild Wars 2.
I’m a University student. This means that I’m poor, and that my spare time is often limited. I’m sure many of you can relate if you’re in the same position as me, perhaps with a job, or even a family that you have to support. You may not be able to relate to my bank account however, which has a strict no MMO subscription clause (it doesn’t actually, but boy would that be handy). I can’t afford to pay £8.99 a month for a game that I will play maybe 2 to 3 hours a week. Back in school I sank many hours of my life into World of Warcraft particularly, and dreaded typing ‘/played’ only to be greeted with the number of days, hours and minutes of my life that I would never get back. And that was just on one character. Thus, Guild Wars 2 is perfect for me.
The lack of subscription alleviates any pressure to get my money’s worth from the extortionate subscription I’m paying. I can drop in and drop out without wondering if that session was worth the £3.56 it probably cost me. Although, this doesn’t necessarily make a blind bit of difference if the game is a steaming pile of nothing that is going to be left behind with The Old Republic and the like, begging for spare change as World of Warcraft walks past in his tailored suit, apologising because he can’t spare any change. He only carries notes. From what I played of the Guild Wars 2 Beta, it was excellent. I genuinely never thought I would return to any MMO, until after that weekend. It got everything right. What it did right and why it hooked me is for another article entirely, we’re here to assess in a Minority Report-esque assessment when and why it will achieve the ultimate; killing World of Warcraft.
Put your glove and your snooker balls down Tom, you don’t need them. Everybody talks about the next MMO to come out as if it should be a ‘WoW-killer’. But how do you define the ‘death’ of an MMO? If any MMO makes a substantial dent in the WoW subscriber-base, is that a death? Or a minor injury? Surely a genuine death would mean that WoW loses all of its subscribers to Guild Wars 2, forcing Blizzard to shut down the servers, delete the WoW website and write a small entry into the obituary of the local newspaper. Of course, this is ridiculous to even contemplate.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Guild Wars 2 won’t be exceptional. It will. I for one can’t wait to begin playing it from the day of release. But it will not bring about WoW’s demise. Firstly, Mists of Pandaria, the forthcoming expansion for World of Warcraft will probably see a return of those players who have abandoned their characters temporarily, eager to see the new content, Pandaren race and Monk class that Blizzard has to offer. I for one will not be returning as I have exhausted WoW of everything it has to offer. It will seem fresh in the beginning, it always does, but eventually the hope and excitement of something new and shiny will eventually dissipate, revealing the same monotony and tired formula that has always been apparent in the game.
A new race, class and continent is great, however WoW’s ludicrously long life has begun to expose the age of some of the content, namely Outlands. Players will eventually realise this, it may take a month, three months or even six, but players will cause the inevitable spike around the time of release to slowly level out again. Guild Wars 2 however, feels fresh. It invigorates the MMO genre with something that feels new, unique and exciting. This may well be only a short-term novelty, although I predict that ArenaNet know exactly what they are doing with their upcoming title. They don’t want it to be a so-called ‘WoW-killer’, that is not their intention.
ArenaNet knows what I know. We think alike. We both know that it is not necessarily up to subscribers to kill an MMO. There are ways in which an MMO can curl up into a defensive position in order to protect itself from a drop in subscribers (free-to-play models for example). There is only one body that will ultimately determine the death of WoW. It doesn’t matter whether it is dead to me, dead to you, dead to your grandma, WoW can be destroyed by one thing; Blizzard. The steps that Blizzard has taken in the past to expand WoW, making the game easier and more accessible in order to attract new players have left the older, more ‘experienced’ players alienated. Blizzard brought WoW into our lives, into the sphere of existence, and it is up to them when they decide to kill their behemoth, whether it be through choice, or through error.
It won’t happen soon. This isn’t a prediction as to when it will happen. But it will happen. The only ‘WoW-killer’ already exists. Stop calling new titles ‘WoW-killers’. ArenaNet’s upcoming MMO will succeed because it does not aim to battle the WoW leviathan. It will stand side by side with WoW in the MMO space not as an enemy, but as an equal.
Hopefully I’ll see you guys in Tyria, where we can create new memories that will be in our hearts, right next to those forged in the lands of Azeroth.