With the hype train for The Old Republic picking up speed, many people are asking if this is going to be the MMO that will finally topple World of Warcraft from its throne, where it has been comfortably sitting for 7 years. So many MMO’s have been declared to be “WoW killers” over the years, from Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, to newer offerings like Stark Trek Online and Rift. In a classic case of “The boy who cried wolf” we’ve become pretty numb by now to all the claims that game X is going to kill WoW.
But perhaps we should actually consider ToR’s potential for pushing the old and bloated king out of his seat.
I think that there are three factors that together makes for a very real chance of ToR becoming a big success of WoW proportions.
1) The Star Wars Franchise
Of course the very obvious thing is that ToR is Star Wars. Though Lucas has done his best to tarnish the memory of the original trilogy, and has gifted us with a new set of films that are somewhere between “meeeh” and acceptable, Star Wars is still an incredibly popular universe. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything as cool as Lightsabers and Jedi, not to mention the chance to live out your dreams of UNLIMITED POWER as a lightning throwing Sith Inquisitor.
But we should of course also remember the lessons that Stark Trek Online, Warhammer Online and Star Wars Galaxies taught us about using a big franchise for you MMO. The lesson that simply setting your game in a popular universe is not going to be enough in itself. You have to actually wrap it around a compelling and entertaining game if you want to be a success.
2) Bioware is an established quality RPG developer
A lot of the other MMO’s that challenged WoW for position as top dog came from developers that were unproven. Bioware is a developer that has proven many times over that they know how to make a good and polished game. They have not previously made a MMO, but then neither had Blizzard at the time they put out WoW.
I think that being able to make a great game is a stronger qualification than having made an MMO before. And I think that Bioware is trying to mitigate their lack of MMO experience by not trying too hard to reinvent the wheel of MMO mechanics, instead providing a polished game that uses a lot of well established mechanics, and then throws in a bit of its own special something. This was pretty much what Blizzard did for WoW and that turned out pretty well…
3) EA is fully committed to ToR
As one of the big two game publishing houses in the world, EA has some seriously deep pockets. Those deep pockets have been available to Bioware to pull from through ToR, as it is becoming increasingly evident that EA has made ToR into something of a flagship project for the company.
Besides the development funding for ToR, EA is going to be throwing everything at us but the kitchen sink when it comes to marketing ToR. You only have to look at the launch of Battlefield 3 and the massive advertisement campaigns that were put in place for that.
It’s going to be very interesting to observe the launch of ToR and how many people will actually jump into hyperspace.
Also, the question will be if it is going to be people migrating from WoW to ToR, or if we’ll see an influx of completely new MMO gamers that are drawn in by the promise of lightsabers and UNLIMITED POWER (Okay, I’ll stop now).
More importantly, will the pull of the Force turn out to be a fickle thing that eventually wanes and leads people back to the lands of Azeroth? Will the promises of Pandas and Pokemon prove to be a match for the power of the Dark Side?