World of Warcraft can't be beat - That's not just fanboy talk, that's the opinion of several high-ranking employees at some of the world's foremost MMOG studios.
World of Warcraft is a monster. It's a behemoth. It's a juggernaut. It's pretty much any term for a huge, unstoppable force that tramples everything in its path that you'd like to insert here. Remember Age of Conan, or Warhammer Online? They're still around, somewhere; to borrow a famous line, they can breathe okay, as long as nobody unplugs them. Now, even as a new generation of MMOGs begins to line up for a shot at the title, some industry insiders are conceding that the only way to succeed in the WoW-dominated genre is to stay out of its way.
"World of Warcraft has captured the entire monthly subscription market," said Jack Emmert, COO at Star Trek Online developer Cryptic Studios. "There's little room for other games to succeed in that environment. To compound it, companies try to replicate WoW's gameplay. That's silly. If someone wants WoW, they'll play WoW."
"No game will topple WoW," he added. "But I expect Star Trek and Star Wars to do well. The only thing that will topple WoW is time or technology."
Wes Platt of Icarus Studios, the company behind Fallen Earth, shares that sentiment. "Considering one of the major new MMO titles will be World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, I think it's unlikely that anyone will dethrone WoW except for WoW," he said. "There are MMOs coming out that have awesome potential, but WoW's pretty safely entrenched at this point."
So what's a poor MMOG developer to do? The secret is simple, according to Jagex COO Rob Smith: Don't mess with WoW. Many games have tried to take World of Warcraft head-on and failed miserably, and Smith thinks developers are finally starting to clue into the fact that they need to try a different tactic. "Unlike in previous years where publishers have aimed directly for Warcraft's audience, the outlook for 2010 looks remarkably different," he said. "A game to topple WoW doesn't have to come from the fantasy genre. Just look at the success of FarmVille to see how popular casual MMOs can be."
Cataclysm, the third expansion to the world's most popular MMOG, is currently in development. No release date has been announced.