Is Age of Conan a WoW Killer?
Well, we’ve had Age of Conan at retail for a little over a week now, and so far, it’s doing pretty well in stores. I mean, 400,000 copies in its first week is a solid start for any title. Additionally, the retail launch was pretty smooth, although some bugs were still present. All in all though, I agree with what seems to be (from my reading) the prevailing opinion that the AoC launch was arguably the best MMO launch ever.
The success of Age of Conan is a boon not only for the MMO market, but for MMO gamers everywhere. For the first time in recent memory, there are now two quality MMO titles competing for subscription dollars. With the release of Warhammer Online looming, it looks like that count will soon rise to three.
This means that there is now healthy competition in that market space, and that means that all 3 of the companies behind these MMO’s will be working hard to earn those dollars. That’s great for us as gamers, as it means we’ll get to see all sorts of new and exciting stuff in our MMO of choice.
Now, since all of this is true, it gets me to thinking about a question that is (I am sure) being debated in more than one venue, and that is this: What effect will the early success of Age of Conan have on World of Warcraft?
I think we can all agree that World of Warcraft is the 800 lb. gorilla of the MMO market. After all, at last count it boasted something along the lines of 10.7 million subscribers. Of course, prior to the release of AoC and Warhammer, I heard lots of people refer to either or both of these games as ‘WoW killers.’ I want to let you all in on a little secret: There is no WoW killer.
That’s right, WoW is nearly immortal in its own way. The only thing that can ravage it is time. However, that isn’t bad news for the other two big MMO’s. You see, WoW can easily withstand the loss of half its player base to these two newcomers to the arena. Take away half their playerbase, and they’re still left with over 5 million subscribers. With a little reduction and consolidation on the server side, WoW can continue to be profitable for years to come. Additionally, both Age of Conan and Warhammer Online should be tickled pink if they each grab 2.5 million players from WoW.
Furthermore, as has been the case in the past, players who have left WoW will likely continue to return to check out new expansions, even if it’s only for a few months. Heck, some people, like my colleague Shawn Sines, tend to hop from one MMO to another like a flea jumping around a pack of dogs.
Another thing to keep in mind is that for many WoW players, WoW was their first experience in an MMO game. I think most all of you will agree with me when I say that no matter how many games you play in a genre, you never forget your first. WoW brought a lot of new blood into the MMO genre, and I expect that many of those people will remain in WoW for some time to come, especially since many of them have massive amounts of time, effort, and money invested in their accounts there.
The biggest advantage I see for World of Warcraft is also its biggest handicap, and that is that it is the incumbent champion in this genre. The advantage is that players have an investment in it, and that the glaring bugs in the system have been ironed out long ago. Players are loath to continue playing a game that has players hitting max level in mere days from release due to exploits. However, the folks at FunCom seem to be on top of things, and are taking some appropriate measures to deal with these miscreants (Bannings and stripping of accounts, oh my!)
The disadvantage for WoW is that people are always interested in something new, specially if it is shiny. AoC and Warhammer are certainly trying to fill that bill, and so there will be an inevitable early rush of players to both games to ‘test the waters.’ However, Blizzard need not be overly concerned with this.
Simply put, World of Warcraft is in no danger of collapsing under the onslaught of Age of Conan and Warhammer Online. Perhaps some Vivendi stockholders may have difficulty making their payments on that second exotic sports car, but I think they’ll be fine in the long run. Sure, WoW may diminish some, but the only thing that it has to fear is World of Starcraft. MAKE IT, BLIZZARD! I BEG YOU!