The Daily Grind: What might the MMO genre have become without World of Warcraft?

    
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A few weeks back, MOP’s Andy mused that it would have been a very different industry without World of Warcraft. As luck would have it, that’s a topic we explored once ourselves, but it’s been more than six years, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit it, particularly in light of current events. After all, six years ago, WoW was still king of the mountain. I’m not quite sure what it is now, but after Blizzard’s lost many, many millions of players from its titles, well, it’s not that.

At the time, I argued that WoW sent us into a “sharp left turn into themepark-ville” – and away from the creativity-rich MMOs of our 2003-2005 golden age. I don’t necessarily think another game in that same time and place would’ve blown up the same way, and it’s possible our genre might have had a “much slower — and more sustainable — growth period without the spike and the crashes and burns that followed in WoW’s wake.” But who knows? Maybe something really dumb would’ve won out and none of us would still be playing at all.

What might the MMO genre have become without World of Warcraft?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Ardra Diva

I’m not one of those who claims everything is a WoW clone. I say WoW is an EverQuest clone.

So I think the MMO landscape would have been just fine without them, and it’s likely EQ2 and Galaxies would have been a greater success.

WoW has always sucked up too much oxygen from the room.

“When Rome falls there will be a cry of freedom such has never been heard.” – Judah Ben-Hur

edit: just imagine if the population of WoW was carved up and distributed to the next top 20 MMOs. They’d all be resounding successes!

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Bannex

MMOs would’ve fizzled out, battle royale games and mobas would’ve ascended sooner.

Since we’re all assholes here, this is my asshole prediction.

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* bag

Had the same thought, but there’s one big but. MTX and smartphones didn’t exist back then. I don’t think they would fly without.

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Bannex

This is like the 3rd time mop has asked this question. They’re so focused on the fact that WoW destroyed MMOs that they post this stuff after every scandal involving blizzard.

What’s funny is that hardly anybody acknowledges the possibility that WoW saved MMOs, gave MOP job security, is the reason we still have new ones coming out and now have MMO-lite elements in other games.

This site loves to bite the hand that fed them.

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

I think whatever it might have become, innovation and experimentation would have still been stifled by the marketers and suits. If not WoW, it would have been some other mainstreamed, Hollywood-polished drek.

We didn’t have the tools or ideas to progress anyway. It took Minecraft coming along before we started to see a new spin on virtual worlds.

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Ken from Chicago

It’s like the movie biz in the 1970s before

STAR WARS

And the aftermath of everyone seeking blockbuster status. The previous time that happened was James Bond in DR. NO, when everyone wanted to be urbane, dressed up and “sophisticated”. While SW had pert near every major studio looking for a big (space opera) hit.

Much like studios release WoW clones left right and center. Sadly, innovators like GUILD WARS, got overlooked.

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SmiteDoctor

Anet relied on veterans from WoW and Warcraft, there wouldn’t be an ANet if there had been no WoW unfortunately.

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Ken from Chicago

Or … without WoW, they might have worked for ArenaNet sooner.

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dreadlordwho

I absolutely loved MMOs before wow. Ultima Online was one of my favorite games of all time. You could do so much in that game. A literal sandbox. It was insane. My buddies and I still reminisce about the wars we had with other people over 20 years later. Player run towns and communities. Being able to save up for a house or one day even a castle and place it where you want to in the world. Sure there were tons of bugs and glitches and it seriously just made things more fun. The opposite of New Worlds glitches where they’re added to hurt the players and make the game less fun. Amazon’s already made all their money there’s no monthly sub, they already got their millions.

EQ1 and Star wars were also excellent games even though I don’t hold them in the same regard as UO. Same with dark age of Camelot.

I feel like theme park MMOs dumbed down the community and had people searching for a guides to do anything. No creativity all cookie cutter. Yes it opened up the genre to more people but the content is a hamster wheel.

creationguru
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creationguru

I am 100% in this same boat and to this day chase that feeling of UO

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Anstalt

Blizzard did nothing particularly new or original with WoW. They did what many big corporations do: took a promising idea, then polished it so it could be sold to the mainstream.

If Blizz hadn’t made WoW, I’m pretty sure someone else would have done the same thing sooner or later.

If that someone had been a bit later than WoW, then the “age of experimentation” might have been allowed to continue a bit longer which would have been a big positive for the genre. It might even have carried on long enough that the sandbox design could have evolved a bit further before getting shelved.

Things could always have been worse though. Just try to imagine if EA, rather than Blizz, had been the first big success…… /shudder

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Toy Clown

At the time WoW released, I was playing Everquest 2. There were only a couple of MMOs, and probably more MuDs, in operation in this time frame. When Everquest released, I remember many people I played with in Ultima Online left to play it and it came with player acclaim. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) ended up being the reigning gaming company of that time with their further releases of Planetside, Star Wars Galaxies, and Everquest 2. (Weirdly, I had never heard of Runescape until about 5 years ago.)

Over 20 years ago, Everquest was considered the “WoW” of its time, often reporting over 200k players. Twenty years ago that was a large number in MMO games. Everquest demanded so much of a player’s time that very few people could compete, unless they had few real-life responsibilities.

Prior to EQ1, I played Ultima Online. Eventually, it was the PKs and all the griefing that drove me away, which is how we ended up playing EQ1. But it was obviously missing the element I found most fun: Housing.

Fast forward a few years and Everquest 2 released, which I was looking forward to. It offered robust character customization (unheard of at that time!) and housing. In the first month, a lot of people were playing it, but it was plagued with (what I like to call) design issues that made the game stupidly hard. There were lots of complaints on the forums and the dev tone at the time was “It’s intended, we’re not fixing it.”

I first learned of WoW in EQ2’s zone chat. It was often talked about and many players claimed they’d be moving over since EQ2 proved not to be that fun. When WoW released, there was a notable exodus of players from EQ2 and it felt so quiet compared to release.

WoW took a formula already in place (Everquest 1) and made it more accessible to people with real life responsibilities. I feel that is why WoW was so successful. Many people who wanted to get into MMOs didn’t have the time, but WoW gameplay was designed that you could do that. Their population exploded and brought people into the MMO-verse that were unable to with the current games on the market. After WoW’s successful release, EQ2 devs quickly began lowering the difficulty levels of the game, but it was too little, too late.

I have often wondered if EQ2 had planned their game design to be a little bit more small-group, solo- friendly, if they might have ended up with the success that WoW did. But… then I remember what a bastard John Smedley was when he led SOE. Twenty years ago we didn’t have much choice of what to play and had to stick with certain products if we wanted to play games. SOE was working hard to monopolize the MMO-sphere back then. I still cringe thinking about the hacked outage that shut down all the games for nearly a month…

In conclusion, I think it was just a matter of time. We didn’t have a lot of choices back then and SOE was trying to force everyone to live their games, which knocked people out with real life responsibilities. When a game came onto the market that fixed all the issues people had with MMOing to begin with, it skyrocketed in popularity. That’s what I attribute WoW’s success to and I think any game that would have come along with that particular formula would have done the same.

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MesaSage

We might have had the Multiverse well underway by now. The weight of Warcraft and the competitive copycat direction of development led away from cooperative development platforms. I had a friend who was working on one such platform prior to WoW, during WoW launch and subsequently. By 2008 his plans were dead in the water from failure to attract any sort of developer momentum around the idea. Those guys were one of the few that could have pulled it off. I was privy to a few other, including MSFT. Even the Linden’s might have had a shot at it. I think we would have in any case had a Multiverse with Avatars that could explore a variety of styles and genres.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I do think that other games wouldn’t have been held to such an absurd standard for “success.” I’m sure a fair few launched to “EverQuest” level sustainability, but not to the many, many millions of subs that WoW somehow achieved. And were summarily executed as “failures” for not achieving the impossible.

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Axetwin .

It’s difficult to say. I think without WoW, Guild Wars 1 might’ve been more popular (more so in the beginning, I mean). Before WoW, MMO’s were a slog. They were these grindfests that were built around ALWAYS being in a party. The reason I single out GW1 is because it released only 6 months after WoW, and so the success of WoW didn’t shape the initial state of GW1. There’s a lot of things I see in modern MMO’s that started with GW1. Like more soloability through content, encouraging players to team up, but not making it mandatory. It also didn’t have an emphasis on “endgame” like WoW has (and still has). I feel like GW1 might’ve set the pace of Post-EQ MMO scene.