Press Released: The Sampler Platter

Sean Sands | 17 Oct 2008 17:00
Op-Ed - RSS 2.0

This week, so full am I of opinion and the need to share, that I offer a topic smorgasbord, an hors d'oeuvre tray from which you can sample delicately. Try the crab puffs, they're delicious!

World of Warhammer

This week, Gamesindustry.biz was among the many news organizations that sat down with Blizzard big wigs to talk shop with one of the most successful developers in gaming history. Among the more interesting topics, the apparently temporary migration from World of WarCraft of players who wanted to experiment with a new partner, only to discover that their one night stand was a temporary tryst.

Says Blizzard COO, Paul Sams, "The good news is that we've seen a significant number of people, well over half, that cited Warhammer as their reason for leaving - they've already returned." This comes, for all intents and purposes, before the recent and massive patch that paves the way for Wrath of the Lich King.

Let me say this about Blizzard: yes, it knows how to make a quality product, but perhaps its greatest strength is its ability to maintain position as a leader. For most MMOG products, after the first weeks of retail, retention is the Holy Grail. Just look at Age of Conan and now, apparently to some degree, Warhammer Online. But, not Blizzard and World of WarCraft. Years after release, it is not just retaining, not just growing new users as evidenced by virtually every PC NPD sales chart in two years, but continuously compelling lost customers.

I've spoken with Mythic's Mark Jacobs before, and he's very realistic about the market. He knows that there is an 800 pound gorilla in the room, and for now everyone is just playing for the #2 spot - not that he wouldn't like to be a surprise dark horse that steals the crown. Frankly, Mythic is the antithesis study to FunCom's abysmal self-destructive post-launch shenanigans. No one is better positioned to siphon from and retain Blizzard's customer base, but even its unique and compelling game will likely play a distant second fiddle to WoW.

I know that after two weeks of Warhammer, during which I was constantly amazed at how clever a game had been created, I have been lured back by Blizzard's pre-expansion ramp up. Blizzard is a master of adaptability and on par with Valve at getting to the top and staying there.

Getting Real

I will play Dead Space with the lights on.

This is pretty much the same way that I've played horror games dating back at least to Doom III, which I played with the lights off simply so I could see the damn game. And, while the creep factor of Dead Space's multi-limbed abominations is a compelling, if grotesque thing, I increasingly wish that game developers would dial down the photo realism, particularly in violent games.

I did not like Grand Theft Auto IV, and I've been on the record from day one that among my primary complaints is exactly that element that seemed most laudable to others - its gritty realism.

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