When it comes to World of Warcraft, Blizzard is not having a good year. They just announced a loss of another 300,000 players in the last quarter and the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic is getting closer. Does this spell the end of WoW? Hell no!
You see most people seem to forget that the games industry thrives on multiple titles. For every Final Fantasy game, there are a dozen cheap knockoffs, for every Call of Duty, there is Rainbow Six: Vegas, for every Halo there is Gears of War, for every Elder Scrolls, there is Fable. Oh and for every WoW, there is a SW:TOR, a LotRO, an Aion, a RIFT, a Guild Wars and theyre all clamouring for the top spot.
There are dozens of MMOs out there, all semi-peacefully-coexisting yet theres also this negative mentality that says only one game can be king. Perhaps this comes from the fact that with many MMOs, you have subscriptions on top of the base game cost. Perhaps it's because MMOs are persistent, requiring many more people on the same server. Perhaps it's because MMOs typically have more updates than the average console title, with shorter release times.
WoW succeeded partly because it was spawned from a successful franchise with its own cult following. SW:TOR will be in a similar position when it eventually launches, what with six films, a TV series and countless computer games under its belt. Theres also a cult following, a rich mythology and a gaggle of people who will literally go to the Dark Side to play it.
SW:TOR could push WoW to even greater heights.
SW:TOR is about to go into beta and while the launch date hasnt been confirmed, Ill bet my lightsaber that it will hit before the end of the year. As as result, Blizzard are going to be on the offensive and so its more than likely that this will result in a new expansion announcement at BlizzCon. However, this also means the company is going to be keener than ever to see the launch of Diablo III.
So far, Blizzard hasnt had a good year with its WoW subscriber numbers falling consistently for the last two quarters. However, with the new Diablo game on the horizon and its epic fantasy setting, Blizzard is hoping many of its players will dive into a new game. Its not WoW but the sales end up in the same pot and theres always the promise of profits made from the actual-money auction house.
While, typically, most people only devote their time to one MMO, there is no law that says this must always be the case. I suspect that many people will dip their toes into The Old Republic, drawn either by a love of sci-fi or a fascination with the Jedi (and considering its a religion here in the UK, thats quite a large number of people). Whether they stay, well, that depends on the content, upon the gameplay mechanics and how well the game launches. I suspect - and I hate using this term - that if any game is going to be the next WoW-killer - that SW:TOR is the next big candidate. Except I do think its possible for more than one game to hold the top spot and I also think a little competition is going to do Blizzard some good, they need to remember the MMO world is competitive and, having been the big boys for seven years, they could use that reminder as it will ultimately see WoW become a better game.