For years we have debated, often fiercely, over who would finally
topple World
of Warcraft
. Many thought style="font-style: italic;">Age of Conan
with their M rating for graphic violence would be able to do it. Others
thought Warhammer
with their huge budget
and RvR pedigree could possibly knock out the champion. Of course,
neither came close. Now people talk of style="font-style: italic;">The Old Republic,
saying things like, "This one can do it; this will be the game that
unseats WoW."

To all of this I say, WoW has already lost--Facebook is king.

When I think back to my early days of playing MMOGs, I remember
sitting  there in wonder staring at my screen playing style="font-style: italic;">Ultima Online.
Seeing hundreds of players running around together was thrilling, and I
dreamed about the future and where this new technology would take us.
As these things so often do, reality doesn't live up to fantasy. I
believe I know how people in the sixties felt when we first walked on
the moon. They pictured a future where we would all vacation or work
there. They would never imagine that almost 4 decades would pass
without us returning. That is how I feel with MMOGs. I saw the first
one to land on retail shelves, and a little over a decade later, I see
where our space program... err, I mean social gaming, is going.
Facebook changes everything.

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When you look at WoW it's hard not to ponder the game’s
success. I mean, the game is now 6 years old, and I defy anyone to play
it and say that it doesn't show its age. The gameplay was nothing new
or innovative, and pretty much everything in WoW can be found in other
games. So how is Blizzard able to keep the franchise growing after all
this time? WoW has over 11 million subscribers when every other MMOG
out there would love to hit 1 million. Is it some incredible crafting
system? Are the raids that amazingly well done?

I believe the answer is simple: WoW is the
biggest because that's where everyone is. MMOGs are social games and,
in order
to have a successful social game, you need people. A developer could
make the
most amazing MMOG in the world but
if my
friends aren't playing it chances are I won't either. I know that every
time I
log into WoW I will see several people I know and be able to hang out
friends. I don't care that the game is dated, and I don't care that
there are
better games out there. My friends are in Azeroth and so, regardless of
new, that's where I end up going. That is exactly why I believe
Facebook is
such a game changer and why it has the potential to kill MMOGs as we
know them.

Don't believe me? Numbers don't lie, and one has only to look at
them to realize that the MMOG model will change. WoW dominates with its
subscriber numbers, and every other developer out there would sacrifice
their first born for a tenth of those numbers (ok, maybe not all of
them, but many would). Now let's take a look at Facebook, which I
compare to Battlenet from Blizzard. Both are social networks which
allow users to interact with each other and play games with other
users. Farmville,
currently the biggest game on Facebook, has over 73 million monthly
users. That's not a typo--73 million monthly users. The game has over
27.5 million daily users. The second biggest game, style="font-style: italic;">Cafe World,
has over 32 million monthly users, and over 9 million daily users.

I know what you’re thinking: "Matt, those games are free. You
have to pay for WoW." That's true, but follow the money. Most companies
get their money from venture capitalists to fund their projects. Put
yourself in the venture capitalist’s shoes. I need tens of
millions of dollars and years of development time to produce a AAA
MMOG. There is no guarantee that it will break even, much less turn a
profit. Conversely, you can whip up one of these little social games in
a few months for a tenth of the budget and watch the cash come in by
the truckload. Which venture would you invest your capital in?

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How is that possible? How is it possible that WoW is such a small fish
compared to these games? I mean, come on, style="font-style: italic;">Farmville?
Really, Farmville?
You play a farmer, and you farm all day. 73 million people want to take
time out of their busy lives pretending to be farmers? In MMOGs you at
least get to play a hero of some sort. No matter how thinly veiled your
hero status is, you feel you are making a difference, saving a world.
Yet the game that knocks out the one that sends you on heroic
adventures, based solely on the number of people who play it, lets you
farm. If you get lucky you might find an extra cow you can share with
your friends.

The sad part is, I'm not kidding. The best you can hope for out of style="font-style: italic;">Farmville
is to find some mundane farming equipment and share it with your
friends. But that’s also the beauty of the game--you get to
share your experiences with your friends. And that's one thing style="font-style: italic;">Farmville
and MMOGs have in common.

If we are honest with ourselves, MMOGs are not amazing games as far as
gameplay goes. Single player games are better by far. I continue to
play MMOGs because of the social aspect. I put up with inferior
gameplay so I can hang out with my friends.

I don’t believe that 73 million people really want to pretend
they are farmers; they simply want to connect with friends and they
find the interaction within the game’s framework addicting.
The want to have something to talk about, and to look forward to
sharing with people who mean something to them. That's the same thing
that made WoW so popular. WoW is not the greatest game ever made, but
it does one thing better than any other MMOG out there--it allows me to
connect with more of my friends. Facebook takes that to a whole new
level. Friends of mine who would never play MMOGs are playing on
Facebook. The games don’t have to be great; they just have to
be where my friends are playing.

I'm not saying that WoW will be closing their servers down anytime
soon. I'm not saying that there’s no more room for
traditional MMOGs. But believe me, the face of MMOGs will change
because of Facebook. Odds are you’re playing a game or two on
Facebook now. style="font-style: italic;">Farmville,
and other games on Facebook, is where your friends are at, which means
it's only a matter of time before you end up playing there as well. Now
if you will excuse me, I see a friend of mine has just found a lonely
Brown Cow on her farm and it needs a new home. Score! It's like purple
epic gear has just dropped from the raid!

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016