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Does WoW see wrinkles when she looks in the mirror?

Posted by on July 14, 2008

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.

10 Responses to Does WoW see wrinkles when she looks in the mirror?

  1. Openedge1

    Simple really.
    People can just get in and play. A large player population also helps as new subscribers can get their questions answered easily. Also, take into account a low cost entry, low system requirements, a huge word of mouth.

    I cannot see anyone NOT playing this game EXCEPT the long time player.

  2. stargrace

    The same reason all those new people have joined up with Nostalgia in EQ1 who never played the game before (and we had quite a few).

  3. Cow Nose the 50 Pound Cat

    Awww omg thank you for the mention Tipa!! Well, I’m something of a game-hopper and really no game is off-limits for me. I just love to explore new places and new worlds, and WoW’s world is as fun (and easy) to explore as any others. I would probably play EQ if it wasn’t so group-dependent. (from what I can tell)

    Some games do age with time, but I still play Ultima Online now and then. It really is just as fun as I remember, just the interface feels a bit clunky. I have been really impressed with WoW, it is a beautiful game. Stay tuned for my next blog, which will have some of the best screenshots yet!

  4. rmckee78

    I will be interested to see if the 3rd generation of 3D MMOs (I consider all of these games coming out now to be the end of WoW’s generation 2) has a backlash against the more isolated single player feel of the second generation. Of course it may all continue further bown the route to Diablo 2 too.

  5. Tipa

    Lots of games have ease of entry, new player friendliness and all that — Wizard 101, my current crush, has all that and more. You can teleport to anyone on your friends list. So if they’re in over their heads, trying to solo a boss, they can just send you a HELP!!! and in two seconds you’re there, standing beside them, spells at the ready. I have one particular friend who is always asking for help, and so I always go :) it’s fun. Sometimes I teleport to friends just to see what they are up to, and if they’re fighting, I join in because grouping is AUTOMATIC. Grouping does not take away from the experience or loot you get from a kill. But if the sides become unbalanced, other monsters may join in to even it up.

    And W101 is hardly the only next gen game out there, just the one I happen to have found most recently. See, that’s the thing. Aside from the WoW-likes, the MMO world is moving on. Now, because there are so MANY WoW-likes, someone might get the impression that WoW is the state of the art, but it’s not. It is an old game now. Other games have become the innovators.

  6. Toldain

    The one thing missing from your narrative is the efforts by SOE to have it both ways with EQ2. There was the game you knew and loved, and the new sexy one that seemed to promise a fix to all the stuff you hated about EQ. You know, no massive zerg-like raids, no griefing. You would be able to accomplish something in a two-hour time span, etc, etc. More complex and interesting tradeskills.

    Of course, most of their ideas turned out to be extremely unpopular with the players. Combined with WoW’s strategic decision to go with very low system requirements, and make solo play easily, EQ2 was sunk. Major revamps of nearly every aspect of the game. Only me and about 10 other people kept playing, I sometimes think.

  7. Tipa

    While I play EQ2 and generally like the game. I don’t consider it very influential. There are no EQ2-likes. For better or worse, WoW is the marker for that generation of MMOs.

    A lot of us EQ players thought EQ2 would be a lot more like EQ, just with all the tech improvements the devs were telling us were impossible with the EQ codebase. I enjoyed EQ2, but soon went to WoW. I was lured back by all the changes and improvements they had made. I group it in with the other WoW-likes, even though it was developed in parallel. Give it a cartoony art style and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the games in general mechanics.

  8. Cow Nose the 50 Pound Cat

    One thing I would like to mention (this is MMO metaphysics here) is that an MMO, in the true spirit of how I envision it, is more then a game but a world to itself that offers limitless adventure. Just as you can never “beat” an MMO, an MMO can never truly end! The best MMOs, the ones that fit my ideal of what MMO is, is the game that never ages and continues to grow and improve. EQ is still doing it! And EVE does it too, both these games have a lot of life left.

  9. Tipa

    Well, at least for WoW, I felt I had beaten it. I had done everything there was to do aside from BWL, and I didn’t feel like raiding anymore. Aside from running UBRD and Scholo and Strat over and over and over again, there was nothing to do, so I quit.

    The moment I decided to quit? When I was told all the different factions I would have to grind for BWL. As a holy spec priest, that was more time than I was willing to spend. I didn’t feel like farming for potion components. I didn’t like waiting three days between making more mooncloth. I had MAYBE 30 gold after paying for raid supplies and repairs, so my epic mount was never going to happen. Everyone I knew who had played the game while I leveled up had quit or moved servers. As a priest, I was targeted for instant death on the battlegrounds, so soloing was tedious, faction grinding was tedious, and this was before the honor revamp so BGs were entirely pointless. Yeah, I can say with finality that I finished WoW, and I haven’t been tempted to return since.

    Game just frustrated the heck out of me.