Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Is WoW hurting the gaming industry?

There have been a few analyses lately that seem to indicate the spectacularly popular World of Warcraft (WoW) MMORPG appears to be hurting the gaming industry.

Read: CNN, NYTimes

The reports mainly cite how WoW, with its subscription-based model, has made it difficult for other developers in the gaming industry to compete in the already tight market, either with other subscription-based games, or with one-time-payment games.

That's honestly a little ridiculous. WoW isn't the first overwhelmingly popular MMORPG to hit the market; EverQuest did that years ago. Just as EQ eventually died down, so will WoW eventually be replaced with another game. That's how the industry cycle works.

The more important issue here is the lack of quality games to compete for the gamer's dollar. Back when EQ ruled the MMORPG world, there were still plenty of quality games being released to compete for the gaming dollar. Nowadays, however, there just aren't enough good games being released.

Don't compare games like Matrix Online and City of Heroes with WoW; MO was never good to begin with, and City of Heroes started its slow slide into oblivion when the developers couldn't keep up with the demands of their hard core gaming customers. Even non-subscription-based games have seen a slump (50 Cent: Bulletproof?! Seriously, now).

Additionally, games are taking longer, and requiring more resources, than ever to create. Once upon a time, a game might have been created in a matter of months; nowadays, any serious effort seems to require developers upwards of three years to complete. This is largely due to the additional complexity required in new generation games. However, this means that each development company will be working on less games now than they would have, say 5 years ago, which again contributes to the lack of quality alternatives out there.

So, here's my take on things: Does WoW's success make it harder to compete for the gaming dollar? You bet it does. Is this bad for the gaming industry? Hell no; it just means developers have to work harder, and more importantly smarter, to create good games that will attract the gaming hordes away from WoW. When did competition ever hurt the industry? What we really need now is for developers to step up to the plate and start looking at the gaming public as customers who demand more bang for their buck, and not just cash cows looking for the next hot game.

GuildWars tried to be the WoW-killer, but the reception's been very mixed. So, who's next?

Innovate, or get out of the way.

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