Why Warhammer hype works so well.

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.

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34 thoughts on “Why Warhammer hype works so well.”

  1. Odd
    Estimations put LOTRO at about 200-300k though. Now…do you maybe have a scoop we dont?…lol
    As to differences…I think EQ2 and WoW are similar, but mechanics are slightly different, and each offer their own unique experience.
    LOTRO takes mechanics from both games and made their game…and in doing so, made a lackluster copy in my opinion…overly boring and the whole pretty on the outside, ugly on the inside analogy works for that game.

    Now, speaking of analogies…YOURS….lol….talk about nail/head. WAR looks and has the feel of WoW (their acronyms are even each the 3 letters…lol). But, then if people do NOT go to WAR (haha…funny…I made a pun), I think there may be a MAJOR shakeup in the MMO field. Eventually people will get sick of the MMO play style, and move on to to other avenues of entertainment. All things come in cycles (Disco, Parachute Pants, Presidents, Consoles), that eventually if there is not “change” then it will be lost and forgotten…
    Either that or Blizzard will finally release THEIR next MMO and start domination all over again.

  2. Last figures I saw were from last fall and were about 400k, and I figured they would have hit 500k by now. And as to whether or not LotRO is a fantastic game, well, *I* was bored, but the 200k EQ2 subscribers vs the 400k (or whatever) LotRO subscribers tell me that I am wrong. I am willing to concede that having tried all three games, WoW players, LotRO players and EQ2 players have all chosen the game that works best for them. The fact that I believe EQ2 is twice the game of any of those is, clearly, just my opinion.

    Parachute pants are coming back?

  3. I do think your being alittle harsh on AoC and Misogynist’s (thank you for linking the definition) everywhere. We’ve been beating and decapitating nipple-erect, topless men forever with no grips. However, with times as they are I’m sure it won’t be too long after AoC is released that some goober in Oklahoma (no offense to any Oklahoman’s intended) is emulating the game in some horrid fashion.

    I do think that AoC is going to flop bad no matter how many times they push the date back or how much they try to polish it. Of course I’m the same guy who thought that Cindi Lauper was going to be a huge break out star and that hussy Madonna was going to fall to the waist side back in the early 80’s so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    I was never a big fan of Warhammer or table topgames so the branding holds no weight for me. I looked at their site though and thought it looked alittle too cartoony for me and dismissed it without much of a second thought till the hype machine you mentioned kicked into play.

    Finally, I don’t think it’s WoW players necessarily looking for WoW alternatives. I think other MMO’s are just trying to take some of their core base. They probably feel that WoW has cornered the market and the only way for them to be successful is to take what the base that WoW has. I think any MMO developing companies need to focus on their love for the game they are making and make sure that love show’s through during development long and long after the game’s released. But again, Cindi should be a shining star right now so, what do I know :-)

  4. Well, of course MMOs want some of WoW’s base. There’s two ways of getting it — make an excellent game and hope WoW players discover it, or target WoW directly and say if you liked these parts of WoW, well, WE’LL do them better.

    Pre-EA, Mythic was doing the former. Post-EA, the latter.

    I don’t remember decapitating anyone in any game I have played. I doubt I would play that kind of game. I don’t really fantasize about how to kill people in gruesome ways. And I am not really objecting to the nakedness of the women (I’m pretty used to naked women by now) so much as the depersonalization of my entire gender. Maybe if the game had to decide if male monsters and NPCs would have penis lengths at just one foot or two to three feet and what happened if you were to cut them off, you’d sympathize. Cuz that’s how I feel about this game.

    And now that I have entirely driven away the male readers of my blog…

    Thanks for reading :)

  5. Parachute away

    Oh NOES!!!11

    As to LOTRO…the game that almost made me QUIT MMO’s…The issue has been the revolving door issue for the game…content is not king for the game, and people hit max too fast, and just leave as otherwise they must play the same 2 (or maybe 3 now) raids, with minimal selections of races and classes (no altoholics for that game)…but, some stick around for PvMP..overall, the game bleeds customers as fast as it makes them..based on various sources..

    Hopefully they get it together.

  6. Do that, and be controversial and you’ve got instant headline coverage across the blogosphere.

    Question, is this the reason you don’t think enough people stick with alternative MMOs to WoW?

    “It’s because these games are simply not popular enough. How can they take a chance on a game that only has 500K subscribers?”

    If so, then I have to disagree. Considering most server caps are around 3-5k players, you’d almost never feel as though you’re playing an underpopulated game.

    The primary reasons I think people have a hard time giving up any MMORPG:

    — Investment – They’ve put in so much time, it’s hard to give up all their accomplishments and start over from scratch

    — Familiarity – When people have played a game for so long, they become attached to the look, feel, and mechanics… it’s very hard to move into a new, alien environment

    — Nostalgia – When the majority of your peers are playing a game, it is much more difficult to jump into a new one… MMORPGS are meant to be social, but just like in real life, we don’t easily (or want to) make new friends

  7. Hey Tipa I think you hit the nail on the head I have always wondered why people look down on everquest 2 and lotro and it prolly is because “everyone is NOT doing it”. So the question arises will you (random person who reads this) be able to overcome your lemming/cattle instincts and see through the hype to what is really there in each game and pick the best one for you? :) (btw I enjoyed this article a lot ty for it)

  8. No, I don’t write articles just to be controversial or widely read. It’s just, when I do talk about WoW or WAR, it gets more interest than if I talk about, say, EQ2. Just the facts of life :) Now, if I were making money by writing, I might do it more often on purpose….

    There’s a lot of reasons why people stick with games, and your points could be applied to almost every game; people talk of EQ1, Ultima Online, Asheron’s Call and DAoC with the same sort of investment, nostalgia and all.

    Social factors, as you suggest, can be a powerful reason to stay with a game. I don’t have a problem with that — that’s the entire REASON to play MMOs. That’s what they are for, and if you play to hang out with friends and have a good time — that’s great.

    But that’s not whom I’m talking about.

    I’m talking to the people I met so often in WoW. The ones who can’t conceive of a life without WoW, who seem to be playing the game all the time, who may want to try another game but because it is not WoW, they cannot. They have an insatiable hunger for loot (even though a new expansion may trivialize their accomplishment). They have no patience with new players. They will use their guild until it no longer suits their purpose, then move on.

    Every game has these types, but I’ve never seen it in such numbers as in the World of Warcraft. Seriously. These people need to step away from the computer and do something else. Someday they will wake up and realize that all their virtual accomplishments are worthless, and they let a game take over their life.

    I can’t tell you how many people I saw who fit that description as I leveled in WoW. When I started raiding — oh my god — can people be this way?

    They need an intervention. Warhammer is aimed right at these people. Paul Barnett is saying right on his video that he hopes people will make this their hobby and put a lot of time in it. He’s saying, here is a game that welcomes the obsessive you. Maybe he’ll get some people off WoW and into WAR. It’s cartoony like WoW, has hot bars and mana bars and stuff like WoW — and once a player finds they can play another game, maybe WoW’s hold will be broken and they find they can enjoy other games, or even maybe some real accomplishments.

    Games for social ends — fantastic! Games to pass the time — definitely! Games because you feel you have no choice — that’s bad.

  9. I am going to have to agree with Snafzg’s on this one. Personally I cannot wait for WAR to hit, but that’s mostly because my friends are going to be coming with me to play it (we are more into the pvp/rvr it offers). I am a little in disagreement about people playing MMOs to just follow the crowd as you have put out, but who doesn’t want to play a game where you are going to see a lot of other people? I have played LoTRO, and have actually really really enjoyed it. The RP, deeds, and titles you can gain are actually really fun to pursue, even though they could be construed as just another time sink (character customization is fun!). However, none of my friends (IRL or I have met through WoW and previous games) have any interest in the game. That to me really puts a damper on the game, and makes me question whether I am going to continue to play it after my 7-day trial is up.

    Also on another note, a lot of the MMOs out right now other than WoW have pretty unpolished UIs. To me, before I get anywhere in the game the UI pops out at me, because its the first piece of the game you are going to have contact with for the rest of the time you play (other than your actual avatar). I know it’s one of those silly things, but it really irks me for some reason. It’s the little things, the polish that goes into an MMO that really attracts big crowds, and WAR by all accounts is going to have those little things, that polish, that made WoW successful. To me part of the fun of these games is playing out a story (or escape) with your friends, and if the little things don’t add up, well, it’s not a very believable story. I think that is also a large part of the WAR-hype (for me at least).

  10. I”m referring to the marketing tactics mentioned previously where you say that pre EA, Mythic was doing the former (being making a great game and hoping that the WoW players notice) and that post EA, they’re doing the latter (being pointing out what WoW did great and saying they’re going to do it better).

    I haven’t seen an interview (and I’ve watched them all) where any member of Mythic says “We do x better than WoW.” In fact they always say “We’re not trying to beat WoW, we can’t beat WoW, so we’re going to be something completely different.” I just think your statment is flawed for saying that.

  11. I’m not going to be able to give my opinions on WAR beta cos of NDA reasons – but I have played a lot of other mmo’s, I played both EQ’s a lot, and I dabbled in WOW so I’ll try and focus on those.

    I think the biggest problem with the EQ’s and SOE in general, is that they dont particularly bother with how the game plays and ensure that they release a polished product. My opinion of this company is that they release expansion after expansion, and many bugs remain still. I understand there are a lot of variables when you’re trying to create an MMO, but someone should at least focus on consumer satisfaction.

    This is WOWs biggest strength and I think it comes from Blizzards overall mantra – they wont release a game until a good proportion of it is done. I cant tell you how often I’ve played an SoE expansion to find content barely finished [Hey SoE… remember Sleepers Tomb? Yeah I loved killing the mob lovingly named !StaticShoutOne :)]

    I lost interest in EQ2 after awhile, but regained it when some old guild buddies of mine brought me back into the fray on Nagafen server – The pvp was great, and running with Onyx was pretty cool too.

    So for me, RVR will be great given how much I found out I really enjoyed PVP that matters. Especially since there were artificial limits in EQ2 to stop high level people ganking you for no reason or benefit. That was one of my main gripes with WOW.

    Also, EA Mythic has already demonstrated their prepared to push back the release of their game to make it great. Just add some great imagery – The artwork we’re seeing on their website is pretty sweet and some of the models are great.

    So verdict? Yeah I’d say WAR is going to be huge… I’m even going to probably guess its going to go past that million subscriber number given almost everyone I’ve spoken too has either heard about it, and many (if not most) of those people are wanting to try it. Marketing has started the snowball, I think the momentum of the hype surrounding WAR will be enough.

  12. I wouldn’t consider WAR a self help game. It’s more along the lines of replacing cocaine with heroine. Sure it’ll get you off the first but then your going to be pulled in a little deeper.

  13. Tipa said, “They’re going after a niche market, misogynists“ about AoC.

    Tipa… do you sincerely think of me as a misogynist? If not, then that’s kind of a broad, uninformed, and generalized statement, no?

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