The Year In Review

The Year In Review
2005: A Massively Multiplayer Odyssey

N. Evan Van Zelfden | 27 Dec 2005 11:03
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But still, everyone's question remained: "Why is World of Warcraft so popular?"

The Better Mousetrap
The secret to Blizzard's success is this:

A Good Product. World of Warcraft truly is an improvement over previous games in the genre. If you expect to make your game 100% better by introducing one feature, that feature can be copied. But if you improve one hundred features by 1% each, people cannot copy you.

A Valued Brand. Gamers who would never have touched an MMOG before, were willing to trust Blizzard, and to finally see what MMOGs were really like. And once they took the leap, they found a polished experience.

And Some Marketing. This title had some marketing. And to achieve commercial success, your marketing efforts need only be a little better than the competition's. Barring a few exceptions Blizzard has had no serious competition. If another MMOG company comes along with a focus on strategic marketing, Blizzard will be in trouble.

If you truly want to make a successful MMOG, you must remember that nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.

Upward and Onward
For every sidewalk prophet with a cardboard sign of doom, there is a fresh start, a second chance, a new hope. At the closing session of the Austin Game Conference, beloved developer Gordon Walton spoke about what these really drives these games. "The thing that we're up to here, is creativity."

He added, "We're trying to do something that the customers want. And as a customer, what do you want? You want something delightful. You do want something that will titillate you in a way you're not titillated by the stuff you're already consuming.

"And we see so little of that, particularly in MMOGs. Because the stakes are higher. This higher stake thing has driven us to be more and more risk averse. And we've got to get past this, or we're doomed to have this ever shrinking pool of hardcore, crazy customers who get the vision of what online can be."

It all comes down to that vision of what online can be. Walton's closing words sum up this years chapter in the history of games. "Why do we build this stuff? We probably had this moment where we got the vision of what this can be. This is change the world kind of stuff that we get to work on."

N. Evan Van Zelfden expects great things for the future of games. Games are the greatest art form to date, he asserts. This is why he plays games, writes about them, and continues to work in the industry of games.

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