A common thread runs between Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, Star Trek Online, and, perhaps, Lord of the Rings Online.
Each game evoked intense anticipation in a fairly large audience. Sadly, none of the games met those expectations (except, again perhaps, LOTRO). Age of Conan and LOTRO are now free to play. STO and WAR are essentially defunct.
I will admit, Conan is not my kind of game. However, LOTRO and WAR were both fine, as far as I was concerned. Maybe not great, but certainly fine.
So what’s the explanation for their lack of success? Let’s call it the WoW Effect.
World of Warcraft has been in existence since late 2004, and Blizzard has constantly updated their MMO from jump. In addition, Blizzard opened up WoW to player modifications, and has incorporated many of the best of those addons into the game UI.
The point is that WoW has evolved over its seven years of existence. Much of that evolution was slow, some of it painful, and at this point it seems as though the game may have reached its apex and plateaued, if not begun to decline. Regardless, World of Warcraft, for better or worse, has set the standard for MMO’s.
What all of this means, though, is that whenever a new MMO appears on the scene, we all expect it to have, at a minimum, the features we’ve grown accustomed to in WoW. And that’s at minimum – in actuality, most of us expect more features. Frankly, that’s just not realistic.
My expectation? New MMO’s will continue to fail far more often than they succeed. And that trend will continue until MMO developers release games with a beyond expansive suite of features at launch. That, or create a completely new paradigm of MMO.