WoW might have been Free-to-Play…

.. But it isn’t.  That alone speaks volumes of the strength that the subscription model continues to have in the mmorpg marketplace.

We didn’t want to charge a subscription, but as we researched market conditions, we realized that wouldn’t support us.” – Rob Pardo [Source]

More like, “We didn’t have plans to charge a subscription but when we researched the difference in quality of design and future development, combined with the potential revenue, we realized that we would be foolish not to.”  There’s no question in my mind that the subscription model is here to stay.

Even though I openly hate on what WoW was allowed to become, I consider Rob Pardo to be a brilliant and incredibly talented designer. Reading through his comments that he made at Paris GDC I found one statement in particular that stood out amongst the rest.  In response to how Blizzard moved forward into the MMO genre:

“Very naively, or else we might not have done it.” – Rob Pardo

Think about it.  The most successful, popular, and arguably revolutionary mmorpg (of its kind… *sprays the flame retardent*) ever made was developed by a company that was naive and probably more cautious and unknowing compared to many developers today.  The results speak for themselves.  Even as I speak I guarantee there are dozens of developers locked up in a room somewhere racking their brains trying to think “How can we be like WoW?!” or “How can we beat WoW?!”.  The solution isn’t to make your game like WoW, it’s to make your game like like WoW was made.  Make your game the best it can be with the elements you feel will make your game a success in today’s mmo landscape, and move into the mmo scene like Blizzard did.

The alternative isn’t pretty.  You end up with a game that wreaks of over thinking (AoC anyone?) the simple, yet beautiful, aspects of mmorpgs.  In many ways that is precisely why WoW took a turn for the worse years ago.  Blizzard lost the innocence and naivety.

  • I agree that Rob Pardo is the creme of the crop on Blizzard’s design team. Much of the original release of WoW had his handprints all over it.

    On the question of making a game like it should be made, I think oddly what’s blandified WoW since release is the whole ‘listening to the fans’. The strong design points from release have been consistently watered down in catering to their own market. Craft (funny, it’s in the name) gave way to profit.

    I also think that AoC’s schizophrenic inconsistencies come not having a clear and singular vision in much a similar way, having followed their forums they made changes to their design based on fan feedback and those are the changes I see that haven’t worked out well. I love AoC’s core gameplay, the rest of the game if it had followed some of their earlier plans would have been great too.

  • You know, i started LOTRO again, and it bests both.. even PvP is more fun than “PvP afk for Gear”

  • I sometimes have a sneaking suspicion that the first successful MMORPG on consoles will make a serious dent on what is left of PC gaming.

    I’ve been an advocate for PC games for some time but they’ve been falling off the wayside due to a number of issues lately. MMORPGs are the pillar which PC gaming stands on now. Once consoles achieve a successful game in this genre it will make a serious dent in PCs and bring in large numbers.

    That’s where I see the “next big thing” with MMOs. PC releases will struggle to compete with WoW. WoW has become more of a “everyone does it” game. All your friends play, their friends play, etc. Leaving is difficult due to the social nature of MMOs.

  • I disagree that MMO’s are the only thing keeping PC’s afloat. FPS’s and strategy games are still very strong in the PC market. Many are moving to consoles also or totally but there are many hardcore PC lovers, myself included, who will only dabble in consoles if we use them at all. (The Wii is looking cool for Force Unleashed)

  • i agree with Blackwings. RTS games are still strong on the PC, because lets face it analogue stick will always be inferior to mouse. And now there is a real Indie surge on the PC, things like Audiosurf and flow and games like that are getting loads of money. This all due down to Steam probably, which makes some cracking FPS games for the PC. So no PC just doesn’t have MMOs. Though even if it just had MMOs i don’t think it would do well on the console market, just because I don’t think they are ready. And do you really believe Xbox owners will pay for xbox live and an mmo subscription. Also console owners just like buying the game and playing it(well thats all the arguments i have heard for why PC suxxors and Console wins) so i don’t think they would be willing to pay monthly anyway.

  • The comment makes sense when you think about what WoW was at release. They clearly didn’t set out to make a great MMO, they set out to make a great game. Their original decisions were based on what would be an enjoyable player experience, rather than what would be a good subscriber hook or feature to boast of. As the game has progressed through it’s life cycle, it has clearly trended more to the latter points and less to the original ideas that made WoW great in the first place.

    When WoW patch notes looked more like a list of additions designed to extend playtime and less like a list of additions to extend fun, I knew it was time to get out. Not that I did of course, I played for a long time after realizing that anyway.

    I agree that any MMORPG that wants success similar to WoW needs to focus first on content and gameplay and make it fun, and worry less about a laundry list of popular or ‘must have’ MMO features.

  • Hey. What did ya think of UDA? Pretty neat once you get rolling. You should have seen what happened after you left. A ton of bosses spawned, some tanks showed up and we had total chaos on our hands. It was great.

  • UDA is a pretty cool map. The only thing I wish is that it moved at a faster pace and required more active thinking. At times it felt like it played itself.

  • Not trying to derail the conversation but figured I’d post what I said in a Digg article a few weeks ago that discussed the decline of PC gaming:

    There have always been peaks and valleys in the console vs PC gaming wars.

    I’ve always been a defender when PC was in a rut that it would bounce back. My views recently have changed.

    There are a number of things that stack up against PC gaming right now:

    1) Piracy (torrents) provides an easy way to download PC games. The case could be made for console games but the impact is minimal due to the small number of users that hack their console to allow this. For investors this is scary.

    2) Consoles have mass market appeal now. It’s now “cool” to own an XBox360. The mass market appeal grew more with college buddies playing online with the new generation of consoles. It’s still not cool to say, “Dude, my PC is totally pimped out!”. Not the same effect at all…

    3) End user cost. $500 for a console that will be good for 7 years to come or $2500 for a high end gaming rig that will need parts replaced within two years.

    4) Development cost. The amount of configurations available for PC hardware is astounding. With consoles you have one platform and configuration to support.

    5) Gameplay experience. Again with the single configuration on consoles it allows the developers to provide a consistent gaming experience for all their end users. PCs everyone can get everything from a great experience to an unplayable one depending on the computer.

    Right now what is holding PCs up is the MMO market. Practically any decently selling game on the PC now is an MMO. Once this genre of game begins to latch hold into the console market it’s hard for me to see PCs bouncing back.

    The world is changing. For the better I’d probably argue now. I’ll always remember those classic PC days though.

  • Might I add (to point 2) as well as consoles now being cool, it’s cool to play them at parties and stuff, as well as just with a mate or two. This is especially true because of the Wii and it’s huge sucess as a mainly multiplayer console. And I’m sure MS and Sony won’t be far behind on catching up on that front. Expect a PSWii out within a couple of years! 😛

  • Piracy…Already beaten. Did you know Stardock puts no cd protection on its games or anything like that and did you know it has more people buying the game then pirating it.No I didn’t think you did, PC games might not be in the public consensus anymore but they are far from dying. Just look at sales of Sims games on Pc versus them on the consoles.

  • Might I also remind you Sylar that we’ve yet to a see a next-gen Sims game. The Sims games on the previous-gen were but a fraction of the full PC versions. And whilst sales of no cd protected games rise, so too does the piracy level, but there are no stats for that.

    But I don’t think PC games will die. We’ll just be made to use programs like Steam, or will require regular online authentication. I don’t mind doing it, as long as PC games continue to be made. Crytek’s announcement was sad, though I think it was purely financial.

  • WoW was set to be a success (at the very least a momentary, monetary one) right out of the gate. Blizzard had the backing of their well-known Warcraft intellectual property, their phenomenal reputation in the gaming community, and a real lull in the MMO market. The trick is, from there they backed it up with a polished, largely bug-free game that was capable of running on low-end hardware, with gameplay accessible to PC gamers of various skill levels (for better or for worse). And they’ve kept it going.

    I’m not saying WoW is perfect, but it has done a lot of things right.

  • @Gordo: Yet despite Crytek’s announcement in April that they won’t be PC exclusive anymore, a few months later they announce that the upcoming sequels to Crysis will still be… PC-only.

    When it comes down to it, certain developers will stick within their element. The amount of piracy and the dent it makes is a big shame, but developing for next year’s PC still has its perks above last year’s (or the year before that) console hardware. A sequel to Crysis wouldn’t sell too well on consoles, it’s main selling point is being cutting edge.

    And what about Spore? I expect, just like The Sims, instead of porting the full game to the consoles, they’ll make Spore-like console ‘experiences’ to sell on the name.

    PC gaming is still varied and doing well, it’s mainly the metrics that aren’t as easily measured for sales. Box sales vs digital distribution and a greater grey market.

    Is there more easy money in consoles? Yes, but there’s a bigger barrier to entry for developers too. Most of the developers I know have in fact migrated to the consoles just to avoid a lot of the related issues with developing on PCs, but it took them awhile to dig themselves into a position to be able to do that.

  • Rog the upcoming Crysis Warhead was in production before the announcement. They said that all new projects wouldn’t be PC-only.

    I think that although it’s harder for a PC company to start working on consoles, once they’ve made their first console game, making subsequent ones (especially on the same console) is much easier. Whereas in 6 months you could be working on 2 PS3 games, no adaption of engine needed, a game that was started production on, 6 months after the predecessor was released on PC would have much greater expectations of an improved engine.

    As I said, we’ve not seen the Sims on the next-gen, not seen what’s truly possible, and similarly, we don’t know how much of Spore it’s possible to replicate on the current-gen consoles (PS3 & 360 I mean – Wii will undoubtedly have a watered-down version). It may well be possible to recreate the whole game, and I’m fairly sure Spore is a game that would work well on a console. I’d probably still go PC, but purely for the cost.

  • Not about thought it would be fitting to post under this thread :).

    Just wondering your email and how to get in touch with you guys (via chat program or w/e).