September 12, 2004
I’ve been seeing previews of your new “World of Warcraft” game, and I think you’re wasting the rumored 50 million dollars you’ve put into it. It’s nothing but a clone of the market leader, Everquest, and there’s really no way you can overcome the huge advantage EQ has on you in terms of subscriber base and development time. They’ve had over five years to constantly refine and improve the game experience; you’ll be starting out where they were five years ago, and doing nothing but playing catch-up. You’ve got the same “Go kill 10 rats” gameplay and the same endgame, except you have almost no raid content ready and I hear that your “innovative” PVP system, using the same “instancing” technology that Everquest implemented years ago in their Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion, will not be ready at launch. Only something totally new and radical will work — have you considered making it over into a twitch-based FPS game? Just doing what’s already proven to be popular and genre defining, but doing it better, cleaner, sharper, and faster, is no recipe for success. Originality is far more important than competence, and building on your competitors work and taking advantage of all they’ve learned the hard way, and then bettering it, is a foolish gambit. Only the totally new and totally unproven, especially if it’s not what customers have previously demonstrated they’re willing to pay for, will win the game. You may want to look at Tabula Rasa, which has been in development since 2001 and will probably release soon. It’s so original and groundbreaking even the developers aren’t entirely sure what kind of game they’re making — that kind of shattering of genre boundaries is the best way to have a mega-hit. I feel sorry for the developers, artists, and so on who will be laid off when World of Warcraft bombs, dismissed as just another Everquest clone in a field already crowded with them (Asheron’s Call, Dark Age Of Camelot, Horizons, etc). I wish you luck — you’re going to need it.
For those wondering what the hell that was all about, it’s a response I posted on this Slashdot page which was itself discussing this article about how KOTOR (Knights Of The Old Republic) was going to fail, fail, fail because someone who played part of one starting zone which is still in beta didn’t like the quests.
I’m not claiming it won’t fail, mind you — just that if the arguments you make for its “inevitable” failure are exactly the same as arguments you could have made (and I’m sure some people did make) in 2004 to Blizzard, you might want to check your premises.