started out as an innocent conversation around the Ten Ton Hammer water
cooler. Managing Editor Cody "Micajah" Bye and I were discussing
upcoming releases--which ones excited us, which ones we thought were
not getting enough press, and so on. One upcoming release that is
certainly on every gamer's radar is style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online
(WAR). This little project from href="">EA
based on the collectible tabletop game scores of people are fanatical
about looks to be the next "big" thing. But a game isn't destined for
greatness just because it's generating a ton of buzz.

That's how the argument started.

Cody is sure WAR will be a huge success. I see potential for failure.
Hear our arguments and decide for yourself.

WAR will be huge if it offers something different--or the basic features in a very polished form.

Electronic Arts Doesn't
Care about Warhammer People

When href="">EA acquired
Mythic Entertainment
in June 2006, you can bet it wasn't to someday make a game that send
Warhammer players into joyous paroxysms. EA did it to increase its
portfolio. It was just a smart investment. Some EA exec with a nicer
suit than I have ever worn said, "It looks like this
massively-multiplayer game thing might just take off one day." Blizzard
found a way to print its own money with style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
(WoW), and EA wanted to cash in on that same market.

When EA went shopping, Mythic was a great buy. As owners of the style="font-style: italic;">Dark Age of Camelot
intellectual property (IP), Mythic was a proven entity. EA figured it
could throw some money at Mythic and have the team eventually create
some new game that would make the company piles of cash.

potential downside to the EA involvement with WAR is that I can see a
scenario in which the software giant gets too greedy. Surely a hardcore
contingent of Warhammer players would gladly buy a product that
faithfully replicated the tabletop experience. But will EA be happy
with just the Warhammer fans? That's not the business model that made
the Blizzard money-printing game. Instead, EA is going to want to rope
in all sorts of gamers, which will mean making the game appeal as
broadly as possible.

To understand why a very specific IP bent to appeal to a mass audience
is scary, one need look no farther than Turbine's style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons & Dragons Online
(DDO). With the D & D license, Turbine had a surefire
easy basket, as it was. But rather than making the game just for D
& D gamers, they tried to make it appeal to other gamers, too.
tried to reel in action gamers with a twitchy combat system. They tried
to dial down the difficulty by creating Feats that just don't exist in
D & D. A sorcerer starting with 24 hit point? That is a
game; it's not D & D.

In the end, DDO turned out to be a
good product that appeals to some gamers, but I fully believe it would
have been more successful if marketed only to D & D players. I
the same thing could happen to WAR. The core game play could become
diluted by attempts to make a mass market game. The end result would be
a game that only captured part of the Warhammer player base and a few
other gamers who decided the WAR brand of homogeny worked better than
any of the many other similar games on the market.

Premium Content Manager Danny "Ralsu" Gourley thinks EA Mythic has little room for error in a competitive market.

Reinventing the Wheel?

More than any other time
in gaming history, the market is glutted with MMOGs. Neither of my
is in economics, but I suspect I can safely make this analogy. If you
open an amusement park right down the
street from another amusement park, you need have better rides than the
competition. Every
amusement park has a roller coaster, so yours need to be taller and
faster. Every amusement park has a concession stand. Yours has to sell
better food.

The point is simple. WAR has to give gamers something the competition
can't or the exact same things better.People are not going to be lining
up for a chance to start over
at level 1 just for pure masochism.
If EA Mythic
tries to pull in customers from the competition (see issue #1 for me),
they'll be asking players to abandon the work they've invested in
another title to start from zero. WAR can't simply put a
different wrapper on the same content gamers have been playing for
years. The consumers will need a great incentive to make the leap of
faith to start a new game.

WoW is a Virtual Boomerang

World of Warcraft
has long been so successful that it is en vogue to hate WoW and the
players who love it. Despite the popularized WoW-bashing, it continues
to dominate the MMOG market. And dominate by a wide margin. WoW is
estimated to be eight- to tenfold stronger in subscriber base than its
closest competitor. And even very successful MMOGs (according to sales
and subscriptions) like Age
of Conan
and EverQuest
don't hold a candle to the market reach of WoW.

it is easy for me to predict that a few people will leave WoW to try
WAR. You know, people who are looking for the next big thing?
most of those same people will return to WoW because of the investment
or friends left behind, or when some game play feature of WAR does not
measure up to the WoW counterpart.

Of course, then one must look at the impending release of the latest
WoW expansion, Wrath of
the Lich King

(WotLK). If WotLK releases before WAR (unlikely), many WoW players who
would have tried WAR will stay "home" to play the new WoW content. If
WotLK releases after WAR (likely), then the WoW players who were giving
WAR a test spin will have more impetus than ever to return to
Blizzard's game.

Parting Thoughts

respect both EA and the Mythic team they absorbed, but I see several
factors that could cause WAR to be a quick flash in the pan. I can
easily see Mark Jacobs giving an interview in October about high box
sales and a large player base and then the game cooling off
dramatically by December. I Told You So.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016