I was thinking some on what I briefly touched on the other day; the explosion of WoW information available among the online community.
What I was considering was certainly nothing new. WoW has a massive following of dedicated players, and many of those people, like myself, enjoy the game and our long-distance friends within it so much that we talk about it outside the game incessantly.
There are probably thousands of websites at this point hosting opinions and information about everything to do with WoW.
Some of them, like MMO Champion and WoW Insider, take it to the next level and become sources you can depend on for the latest news and info as to what is happening to the game RIGHT NOW. Server down? Wintergrasp crashing every 15 minutes? Chances are quite high that checking either of them will tell you if it’s just you, or a more widespread problem.
Some sites like Wowhead and Wowwiki provide data and information that is, and I sincerely mean this, absolutely essential for serious “I want to know what is available in game” questions.
And still others find a single rich topic of info and focus on it, and do so to a brilliant degree, like Petopia.
Whatever it is, there is a TON of information available about WoW, a supporting framework around their game that Blizzard, in their wildest dreams, could never have imagined or created.
And here is what I was thinking, my unoriginal thought; it is the community that ensures that the chances of my leaving to play another MMO is somewhere between slim and none at all for a very long time to come.
Age of Conan, Warhammer, City of Heroes… any of the up and coming MMOs like Champions and the DC Universe.
They all have solid things they either brought or are bringing… but the one biggest draw for me in playing isn’t just isolated to the game itself anymore. I am not kept in WoW because of the rich lore, the available player classes, the races, the quests, the game mechanics, the PvE or PvP gameplay, or the graphics.
It’s the massive community that has built up around it to help me feel that no matter what question I may have, or what enthusiasm I may feel overwhelm me… there are lots of other people all over the web that either have answers, or want to talk about it and share it too. And not just on asshat-ridden official forums.
The information is there to help me play the game smart, if I only were to reach out my hand and grab it. The data to help me make informed decisions. The people that share the same enthusiasm that write about it and share their knowledge, experiences, and fun.
I don’t care how good any other MMO is going to be… I don’t care what killer graphics they are working on, what new gameplay mechanic they are planning on implementing, what neat new class ideas, PvP scenarios, rich Lore from an already established fan favorite genre, what accessories or big name design talent they are bringing to the table.
None of them will have the insane depth of community in place like WoW does, and so I won’t feel all that tempted to try them.
Many, perhaps most other players probably don’t feel the same way. They might see them as games that stand alone, seperate from any community, and really don’t care if there is a Wowhead out there or not. And as soon as they get bored with WoW, they are eagerly looking for the next game to distract them with shinies. It’s just another thing to put $50 down and have a little fun with.
That’s cool, and it might even be the most clearheaded way to look at the game.
It is, at it’s heart, a video game like any other, after all. It’s a very good one, no question, but it’s still just a video game. When it came out, it was running head to head with Everquest II, and few folks thought it would stand the test of time against a juggernaut like the Everquest community.
But they weren’t up against the Everquest community… because you couldn’t transfer your Everquest characters to EQ2. It was a new game, with different everything… and it stood up agaisnt WoW on it’s own.
WoW seems to pretty clearly have won that battle, yes? And the original Everquest is also still going strong… but why would that be, with new expansions still coming out for it, when they had a new graphics engine and everything else for a ‘better’ more up to date game in EQ2 already in place to move to?
Could it be that the community just refused to pull up stakes and move on?
I think that IS what has happened… and what truly sets WoW apart from all the other games that have come since is the sheer, crazy size of the interactive community, and the high quality of websites that talk about all aspects of the game.
And that the game itself is still good enough despite it’s age.
Oh, and when I talk about the quality of community websites, no, I don’t mean this website. The other websites. You know, the good ones.
It sometimes amazes me that Blizzard often seems to act as though their game is so massively successful based solely on the brilliance of their game design. They seem to either not be aware of the powerful draw of the community, or even to wish it would go away and leave them alone.
For example, Blizzard has long shunned WoW Insider, for completely unknown reasons, to the extent of occasionally granting exclusive interviews to gaming news journals that barely have anything to do with WoW or MMOs, and leaving WoW Insider in the cold. Blizzard absolutely does not court WoW Insider in any way, or reach out to help share news and upcoming events with them, so as to reach even more of the community.
A damn strange behavior to consider if Blizzard understands the role such news and opinion sites play in strengthening the sense of community WoW players share.
It makes me wonder… does Blizzard understand that, in many ways, they should not be breaking their arms patting each other on the backs over their long term success? That it is not just the excellent quality of their product that keeps people like me coming back all the time?
Do they really understand that it’s not the occasional Californian Blizzcon that I’ll never get to go to that makes me feel part of something bigger that is hard to walk away from?
I don’t know… maybe they really do feel over there that their game is just THAT much better than every other new MMO that has come out.
Regardless, I really wish the other MMOs that are being developed success and good fortune. And I hope that the design teams are putting serious thought into more than just new graphics and gameplay innovations.
Becasue you aren’t just fighting a successful game when you want to bring players over from WoW.
You’re trying to break up a relationship.