War of the MMOs

More than seven years back Blizzard launched the World of Warcraft. What initially started off as a small campaign within the Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne game, suddenly shadowed the entire Warcraft RTS series … Blizzard had struck on a gold mine with the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG), a game which would later on be synonymous with the entire category … World of Warcraft took the real world by storm, and at its zenith it was known to have more than 12 million monthly subscribers.

Yes, the bad part about this was that there is a monthly subscription to play the game, and more than 12 million people were gladly willing to part ways with their 15 USD per month to fight the forces of evil and defend the lands of Azeroth.

Over the period of years, the game put on several features and became easier to play … this attracted a lot of new users (including me!), but it also detracted a lot of the previous loyal following that the game had. After 3 successful patches (Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm), the game’s growth in popularity suddenly started sputtering. After over a year’s launch of Cataclysm, the game subscriptions started dipping … now at a figure of 9 million users (that’s a drop of 25% in users folks!), the people at Blizzard are getting worried about the launch of their next patch … Mists of Pandaria.

With this drop in users, there came in a distinct need for other MMOs, something which would stave gamers’ need for playing online games. Thus followed a slew of MMORPGs … Guild Wars (I and II), Rift, Dungeons and Dragons, Vanguard, Star Wars, Torchlight 2 … the list seems to go on.

I have seen quite a few of them and though most of the games differ slightly in game play with World of Warcraft, I think almost every one of those games have borrowed elements from the game. Mounts, factions, guilds, dungeons … these are the things that the good folks at Blizzard had already thought of … to make a WoW Clone goes ahead and fuels WoW’s popularity … in the end, the only game which ends up winning this War of MMOs, is WoW … not because of only being the first successful MMO, but also it has become the de facto genre defining game.

All the other MMOs that I have seen copy from WoW. If a new MMO were to be launched which would be drastically different from WoW, I wonder what would happen to its popularity? Or perhaps, thats what the hush-hush secret Project Titan is intended to do.