World of Warcraft: loved by many, loathed only by those whose lives it has ripped away (everyone who has played it?). For many, WoW is the game that introduced them to the wonderful world of MMORPG. Before WoW, the genre was nowhere near touching a mainstream audience; most gamers didn’t know what a MMORPG was, let alone ever seen or played one themselves.
The genre was considered geeky, boring and buggy – and with good reason, most games were overly complicated, incomplete or sparse on missions and things to do. Then, born out of a successful RTS gaming franchise, WoW swooped in, and became a huge success in the eyes of both critics and consumers, overnight.
Now WoW has over 6.5 million subscribers, making a huge amount of profit every year, if each person buys an original copy of the game at £25, then pays a monthly subscription of around £9 a month – the turnover is nearly £500 million a year. Despite the fact that a MMORPG requires constant financial maintenance, it has possibly been the biggest financial success in the industry and single handedly saved publisher Vivendi from going bust.
A recent study, conducted by an analyst group called DFC intelligence, went into great depths to find out what exactly World of Warcraft has that makes it stand out from the crowd and whether that business model can be duplicated in other games. We've been through the study and summarised why they think World of Warcraft has been successful below:
Blizzard made World of Warcraft a lot like a traditional game, making it so that the game can be enjoyed as a single player experience, which makes the game less daunting to begin with.
Many quests allow the player and their group into an "instance" of the game world, where they play outside of the virtual world in their own "court". The game doesn't rely on a dynamic world to provide a good gaming experience.
The report discusses the elusive 'fun' factor, claiming that it is within the reach of most companies providing they have $25-50 million dollars to spend on development.
The largest factor is probably Blizzard's experience and reputation as a quality game developer. The company had one of the best reputations in the online gaming market before WoW was released with their RTS strategy franchise.
Blizzard has tailored its marketing of the game specific to the region they are operating in - this has lead to massive success in the USA, China and Europe. For instance, in Europe, Blizzard employs 450 people with 22 different nationalities.
Who can beat WoW?
Surely, having worked out what Blizzard are doing right it should just be a simple case of replicating it and, Bob's your uncle, you have a hugely successful MMORPG. Sadly, that is not the conclusion the analysts come to - they claim that the success of WoW will be extremely difficult to reproduce. In fact, the way they describe it make it seem neigh on impossible. However, as you will discover over the next few pages, quite a few games developers would beg to differ - read on to discover what upcoming games really pose a challenge to WoW...