The lead designer of EverQuest thinks that one day, an MMOG will do to WoW what WoW did to the industry - completely eclipse its subscriber base - and it might be through social networking sites like Facebook.
In the four-and-a-half years since WoW took the world by storm, it's faced potential would-be "WoW killer" after "WoW killer." Warhammer, Conan, Vanguard, Guild Wars ... the list of challengers is long, and none of them have succeeded. Still, Ryan Barker - current lead designer of the MMOG grandfather EverQuest - thinks that one day, it'll happen, but it won't be from a challenger we see coming.: Whatever knocks WoW off its 11.5 million-subscriber throne will be "something totally different that we haven't even thought of yet."
The main problem, Barker thinks, is simply getting people into the game and not intimidating them with long-time veterans and powerful player characters. "At some point someone will dwarf those numbers with a game. If we can get passed some of the barriers that are keeping people from playing with their friends, just because their friends happened to start the game before they did, and maybe started on a different server or whatever, if we can start to get rid of some of those social blocks, I think it can get even better."
So, he suggests, why not something like Facebook? "Facebook doesn't care how long you've been on Facebook ... Things like that show us that there are a lot of people out there that are interested in being involved in an internet community, especially with all the apps on Facebook, in playing casual games. At some point someone's going to do an MMO that really caters to that group, and is going to have a billion subscribers or whatever. There's another ceiling somewhere that we haven't hit yet."
A billion subscribers? Tall order there, Ryan.
Of course, once we're all plugged into the Matrix, I suppose that it'll be like an MMOG, and we'll all be playing. I guess that'd have more than a billion subscribers, sure.