Expand Or Die
After having signed up for the endless trial, I was a little bit shocked when I logged into Warhammer yesterday for the first time in 18 months to discover that were only 2 English EU servers. It was quite a sorry sight as I remember there being dozens of servers when the game was first released, most of them so popular that sometimes Destruction players had to queue over an hour before logging in. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Obviously the unsuccess of WAR was due to a lot of factors and no doubt the subscription numbers after the first initial free month somewhat resembled swarms of rats escaping a sinking ship but I just can’t but wonder if Mythic’s lack of any sort of expansion was a contributing cause.
Back in my school days I remember being taught about the life cycle of products and how, no matter what, demand and consumer interest will start to waiver and dip over time and the way to counter this is by releasing “new” products every so often. This is why you constantly see silly new flavours of coke and things like wasabi and soy sauce flavoured Kit-Kats (they exist, I kid you not). New products not only provide consumers something new to rejuvenate their interest but also come with their own natural hype and marketing.
The MMORPG genre is no different from any other type of product and combats declining demand in their own way by using expansions. Although perhaps never achieving insane stellar success, Everquest, Everquest 2, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Anarchy Online, Dark Age of Camelot and Star Wars Galaxies (plus no doubt there are others) all used frequent expansions to maintain or increase their subscription numbers successfully.
Even Blizzard have admitted that World of Warcraft suffers a substantial subscription loss in between expansions and patches (which are sold almost like mini-expansions) and there’s no surprise when their player numbers soar after each one is released. I’m sure they’re under a lot of pressure by the money men to churn out those expansions a lot more frequently… but that’s a different topic all together.
Unfortunately we then have games like Vanguard which, even after having been out for over 3 years, never managed to eke out even a single small expansion and is now on the verge of total shutdown. It’s a shame too because I really feel that if some more resources had been poured into the game and a proper expansion released and marketed, VG would’ve been able to resurrect itself a little.
So naturally I’m more than a little worried about the future of Warhammer Online. To drop down from over 50 servers to just 5 in 18 months is quite, well, astonishing really and with no expansion in the works (or at least that’s been announced) I have to seriously wonder how long WAR can hold out.