Aside from World of Warcraft, the most popular MMO in the US today is… The Lord of the Rings Online, which from what I understand, has about 500K subscribers — about what the original EverQuest had at its peak.
LotRO was clearly the breakout hit of 2007.
But all we hear about is WoW, all the time, WoW. Because as successful as LotRO has been, it’s nothing compared to the behemoth that is the World of Warcraft.
This year, we have two new shinies coming out — Age of Conan and Warhammer Online. AoC would be wildly happy, I imagine, if they got 100K subscribers. They’re going after a niche market, misogynists, and don’t expect WoW players to flock to their game. (Sorry, Bildo. I just can’t support a MMO whose big controversy recently was whether their women could both be decapitated and have visible nipples. In the US, that answer is “yes, the naked women you decapitate will have full nipples, proudly erect for your enjoyment”).
Warhammer has loftier goals. Since Mythic was bought out by Electronic Arts, simply making a more modern update to their groundbreaking Realm-vs-Realm MMO, Dark Age of Camelot, was taken from the table. EA/Mythic is just as large a company now as Activizard, and their goals are just as large to match. You may like pie, but why settle for a slice when you can open a pie shop? Your friend just opened a pie shop!
Microsoft, after all, killed its Marvel Online superhero game because it just wasn’t going to be WoW level. And we can look back a couple of years and wonder if that was the real reason they gave up on Vanguard — because it just wasn’t shaping up to be a WoW killer (among the obvious problems with the development team itself that we’ve all heard about).
So now, the hype machine is in full motion. People are slitting their wrists and selling their souls to be part of the beta. EA/Mythic is whipping people into a frenzy through skilled marketing. And people are buying into it so much, that even though EA/Mythic is quite upright and says, this is the game to play if you want to have the snot beaten repeatedly out of you, and in which you can do some aggressive snot removal of your own if you put enough time into it, make it your serious hobby, people everywhere are saying, finally, an alternative to WoW.
Let us, in our teaming millions, wave sadly to Orgrimmar and sell our farms in the Westfields. The Defias Smugglers have won. Let the fires of Ironforge be banked. Let the undead citizens of the Undercity return to their rest. Let the endless snows muffle the cacophony of sword and spell on the slopes of Mount Hyjal.
Because Warhammer is the promised land.
The question isn’t why people expect Warhammer to be anything like a WoW replacement or WoW 2.0 when, aside from a similarity of visual styles, they are very different. Rabid Warhammer fans will insist they look nothing alike and anyone who says otherwise is a doodoo head, but come on.
The question is, why are people so desperate for an alternative to the World of Warcraft, that can’t be satisfied by one of the many OTHER fine MMOs out there? LotRO and EQ2 are both absolutely fantastic, popular games with enough similarities to WoW to be easy for a WoW player to pick up, yet different enough to give a new experience.
It’s because these games are simply not popular enough. How can they take a chance on a game that only has 500K subscribers?
It is the best interest of every World of Warcraft player to buy into Warhammer and MAKE SURE it has millions of subscribers. Why? So they can finally quit WoW with good conscience. Get on WoW and tell someone you’re leaving WoW for EQ2 and you’ll be laughed from Ratchet to Gadgetzan. Get on and mention that you’re going to be heading to Warhammer when it comes out, and all you’ll see is a chorus of “me too!”.
Warhammer isn’t just a game. It’s being marketed to WoW players as step #1 in a 12 step program to help wean them from Warcraft. Finally, a way for them to stop playing WoW with a clear conscience. Look! Looks kinda WoW-ish, has all the battlegrounds you love so much, and you don’t even have to group up to do some quests!
And then when they find out that Warhammer really is quite different than WoW, they’ll be able to more easily move on.
People love Warhammer because it is the MMO world’s first self help program. And that’s all there is to it.