The man on top of the mountain did not fall there.

I’m wondering what Blizzard will release as a counter to Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic; it is still my belief that they aim to time their game releases around those of their major competitors in order to cause maximum disruption, and thus not allow said competition a free run at gaining a foothold on the subscriber mountain. Many companies have tried to climb that mountain, and always there has been Blizzard, a few feet above, putting the Boot of Marketing in their faces and firmly but relentlessly pushing until yet another pretender to the title of King of the Mountain falls. Some MMO companies are sensible enough to not climb too quickly and use safety ropes on the way up, and thus when they fall they remain swinging, albeit helplessly, at the lower levels. Many others have fallen to their doom.

With SW:TOR looking to be heading towards an ’11 release date, what wrench will Blizzard throw in to the machine? Will they reserve Cataclysm for the duty, announcing later this year a delay to the expansion in order to ‘further improve the content’? I think that’s entirely feasible given the much-vaunted scope of work that is being undertaken.

Or will they, towards the end of this year, drop the bombshell announcement of their new MMO to be put into beta next year?

I imagine it will be the former, but I do wonder just how seriously Blizzard are taking the competition from Bioware: should they choose to use Cataclysm as their wrench and find that SW:TOR crushes it effortlessly between the cogs and gears of its own intractable machine, Blizzard will have that much more difficult a time regaining a footing with their new MMO against the newly established King of the Mountain.

The recently rumoured details of Blizzard’s new MMO, be they truth or fiction, come to light now, after Blizzard have managed to keep things pretty much entirely under wraps up to this point. Could this be the very first trickles of water leaking through those gigantic bulging, straining walls that dam the potential flood of hype water sitting behind? Did Blizzard themselves make the hole; have they armed the charges at the base of the dam; do they stand poised, detonator in hand, ready to unleash hype hell?

I think 2010 will probably not be a great year for MMO releases, but as far as MMO hype is concerned it’s going to be biblical, and the company that has built the biggest ark will find itself perched on top of the subscriber mountain when the floods subside.

4 thoughts on “The man on top of the mountain did not fall there.

  1. Melmoth Post author

    Hmm, interesting! Diablo could be a contender, although it is one of those games that seems to fall between the cracks of definition of MMO and ‘online multiplayer game’.

    Which may not matter, depending on whether Blizzard feel that they need to fight like-with-like, MMO with MMO, or whether a huge franchise online multiplayer game is good enough in their eyes to spoil Bioware’s party.

  2. Stabs

    It’s quite tricky for Blizzard because people have started to wise up to this. When Vanguard came out it was surely just happenstance that Blizzard released The Burning Crusade. When AoC launched it was a tad suspicious that Blizzard announced Death Knights amidst a swirl of hype at exactly the same moment. (And I loved Gevlon’s theory that a major gold farmer purge just as AOC launched was an effort to send these pests over to their rivals).

    But when Warhammer launched it was very obvious that Blizzard’s dark gothic expansion with a RvR area launching a month later was aimed squarely at their rival. Indeed Wintergrasp was probably a better instanced single serving of RvR than anything in Warhammer Online. (Subsequently Wintergrasp has quietly turned into a battleground instead of open realm warfare now that it’s done its job).

    To sabotage SWTOR they will need to push something out against its main strength: story. Otherwise as Syncaine recently pointed out people will grab SWTOR, play the stories that interest them then uninstall it until the next expansion which may be a perfectly good business model. The non-persistent MMO.

    I don’t actually think anything in Blizzard’s locker really does the job. No one cares about the story in WoW except some very silly nerds. If you like game-IP related fiction then there is much better stuff out there such as most of the Warhammer/Warhammer 40K novels. There is no reason to like Warcraft lore other than it’s Warcraft. The stories are terrible.

    For instance the Blood Elves had Paladin like heroes because they had kidnapped an angel and hooked him up to a magic farming device. They’re addicted to magic like drugs. They weren’t Paladins though, they were Blood Knights. Then after a year of all the players calling them Paladins, they gave the angel back, no hard feelings were felt, in fact the angels made them official Paladins and helped the angels invade the Sunwell. That’s just terrible writing, contradictory, confused, implausible and dull.

    I don’t think their other franchises have much story either. Diablo is actually a one-word story, once you’ve read the word “Diablo” meaning Devil and know it’s a computer game you’ve got the gist of the entire plot. Starcraft is Warhammer 40K but without any of the lore.

    I also think that the voice acting will be a big part of the SWTOR delivery and there are no indications that Blizzard have a major voice acted project in development.

    So they can’t offer a comparable product and SWTOR is specifically designed to be picked up, played obsessively for 6 weeks then put away for a year which is a much harder business model to sideline than a MMO which demands marriage.

    So I don’t think Bioware Mythic will fall into the same trap it did in 2008 again.

  3. Melmoth Post author

    It’s a fine point: can Blizzard actually do story? I mean, they can write good lore and a nice story, but can they actually stick to it, rather than throw it all away and retcon everything in order to crowbar in a new shiny? If not, what do they use to fight TOR? More of the same, or something new? Would Diablo 3, as Spinks suggests, be a strong contender, or do they need to fight like-for-like.

    I was going to say “Can even Bioware do an MMO story?”, of course they’ve managed pretty well with their single player RPGs, and what with LucasArts controlling the IP with an iron grip, it’d be hard to go around totally re-writing everything at a later date because you wanted to add a new class in to the game.

    That all said: Midichlorians


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