I have nothing against old MMOs. In fact, I spend most of my time in one of the oldest. But I know that EQ is old, and I play it now not to see new things, but just to reminisce about all the good times I had in it.
People have been going off to World of Warcraft for years, and starting their adventures in Azeroth. I’ve even done it (and my gosh, has it been three years already?). But I’ve been reading the adventures of Cownose, who recently starting in WoW, and Ogrebears, who is just starting, any my first thought for them both was, why would they want to start out with that old game?
And I startled myself thinking that, because it was the first time I had even thought of World of Warcraft as being old. And yet, it is. It’s no longer the young upstart, it’s something they market to older people. When your spokesmen are a 60s scifi television star and a 70s action show star, you have to wonder, who are they targeting with WoW? My PARENTS?
At this time in EverQuest’s history, it was just about to release its fifth expansion “The Legacy of Ykesha”, which was widely seen as a shrewd move to reposition the aging game toward more casual players. WoW’s *second* expansion will likely release around its fourth anniversary. *cough* But this isn’t about the pace of expansions. It’s that by 2004, EQ was the market leader, but it was showing some cracks, cracks that WoW’s release later that year would widen and split entirely apart.
WoW was the better game, but more than that, it was the newer game. People had done everything in EQ — many, many times — and unless you were in one of the top raid guilds, you probably were still angry that Planes of Power had been mostly a raid-guild-only expansion (and though the casual player-focused LDoN was just about to come out, the expansion after that, Gates of Discord, would cement that raid-only mentality). In short, many EQ players were looking for a change, and with the news that many raid guilds would be jumping over to WoW en masse based on the phenomenally popular beta, it was clear the torch had been passed. EQ was now the “old” game, and WoW was the fresh young debutante, flirting with her suitors.
WoW is now where EQ was then. It’s old, people have done everything there is to do in WoW, many zillions of times, and the game itself is being marketed toward an increasingly older population. It’s still as great a game as ever, but will that matter when someone is looking for a new fresh game, and WoW becomes the game their parents play?
WoW may weather WAR and AoC, but it can’t escape time. With AoC and WAR being so similar to WoW and being marketed to the same aging demographic, those games entirely skipped the demographic of upcoming, new MMO players (especially WAR — fans who have played the tabletop game for a half dozen years and people who played the equally aged Dark Age of Camelot form the bulk of the people who aren’t just looking for a WoW-like to play in general).
Unlike fine wine, games do not improve with age. Instead, they narrow themselves to focus on the players they already have in a struggle to keep them from leaving. I find the same freshness and energy in Wizard101 that I remember from the WoW beta, though W101 is in no way attempting to be a huge, expansive game like EQ or WoW. But the energy is there. And that energy, or the lack of it, is what dooms all older games and is what will doom WoW.