Blizzard vs MMORPGs
On several occasions whilst playing World of Warcraft I’ve made statements to guild members or group mates like “I used to play Everquest” and they’ve responded with “what’s that?”. At first I was pretty shocked. I felt like an old man telling children listening to music about cassettes or LPs but then I soon came to realise something – WoW players aren’t MMORPG players, they are gamers.
Wolfshead posted a fabulous article today about his first 15 minutes of Everquest 2. It’s very insightful and will make you look at your first experience with MMOs in a completely different light. Something that it did highlight to me though, that I hadn’t considered before, was how the initial introduction to a game reveals it’s concept and ambition.
I’m by no means suggesting that the initial experience of a game represents how successful it will be – one only needs to compare the first 15 minutes of Age of Conan, which is like taking a bath in awesomeness, to the first 15 minutes of EVE Online, which is like daring one of your friends to kick you in the groin. Really hard. I absolutely believe that the longevity and overall success of a MMO depends on it’s quality and gameplay mechanics but the first introduction to one certainly shows you what the developers are intending (if Brad McQuaid was here, he might call it his ‘vision’).
To me, the fundamental difference between a game like Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft is that EQ2 assumes you know what a MMORPG is and how to play one. SOE obviously believed their main audience was Everquest players and MMO veterans and I’d bet my bottom dollar that they didn’t believe they could ever reach a target like 11 million subscribers. World of Warcraft, on the other hand, throws the MMORPG idea out of the window and presents itself as a video game. It doesn’t limit itself to a genre or require that players understand RPGs or MMOs before they dip their toe in the water. It’s a pure and unadultered gaming experience, first and foremost.
This is the real reason why WoW has millions of players. My boss plays WoW and he has doesn’t care about the “MMORPG industry” or what the genre has to offer as a whole. Out of all of the WoW players I’ve met in real life (and I know a few), almost none of them had prior MMORPG experience. Simply put, Blizzard took on the other MMORPGs and won by creating a video game that just happens to be a RPG and just happens to be online.