Monday, May 3, 2010

War of the Failures

Lately I have come to the realization that two of the biggest failures of 2008 are now two of my all time favorite games.

Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.

But, a battle royale is coming next week between these two newer generation MMO's. Age of Conan will be releasing their new expansion, Rise of the Godslayer. May 11th to be precise. Why does this create a field of war, when these two games are not so much like each other?

Originally both games were heavily PvP oriented. But, Warhammer took a different approach by making it all about the large open Realm vs Realm combat. Age of Conan went for a guild based "siege" mechanic (I do not want to argue semantics here either. We all know WAR has sieging, but AoC definitely does not have factional PvP...yet.) and one on one dueling. WAR had scenarios and AoC had CTF style arena based 6vs6 style combat.

Age of Conan took a different direction eventually in late 2009, focusing more on a gear grind based PvE system, but still having PvP. Just, it seems to me that PvP really has no "purpose" when you kill for the sake of killing. WAR though has always focused on a "sides" based system. When a particular "faction" has won the day, rewards for all in that "faction" or realm was included. Age of Conan is the every man for himself or his guild fight. WAR is for Order or Destruction being in control.

Differences abound, but the similarities of these two games could not be more adequate.

These games were truly failures of their time.

Both games were hyped beyond compare from their respective game directors, and were not quite up to what was stated about them. Both games opened to acclaim by many and sold as man copies as to try and compete with that powerhouse known as WoW. Both though slowly degraded and were denigrated for many broken systems they had in place.

Eventually the mighty two toppled to where today they each struggle to keep themselves alive.

But, a sea change is on the horizon for one game. Age of Conan  has started to gain a larger following. Reviewers of games and many a blog have touted the games turn around. Sales of the expansion have been brisk. And as noted on Xfire, growth is hitting the game before the expansion launch.
Recent numbers show Age of Conan at roughly about 908 players on Xfire. In a previous post from last month, ( The Xfire Game ), AoC was at 677 players. This is important, as using the calc system I discuss in that post, Age of Conan is hitting around 110k players / subs per month. (As I must always note, these estimates are part of a game, using the Xfire tracking system, and are not 100% accurate, but do give a good glimpse of popularity).

WAR had made progress as well with the game, but continues to live with setbacks. Servers were closed overseas. A Large billing fiasco made Mythic the brunt of bad news. And finally a most recent newsletter makes mention of a mechanic that has not existed in the game since launch, having Order and Destruction characters on the same server...which has led to speculation of more server merges.
Using the same Xfire gaming system for sub counts, we also see what effect this news is having on Warhammer Online. The previous count (from March 29th) had WAR at roughly 621 players. This converts to about 75k subs. The game is now hitting 590 Xfire players, or around 70k subs. (Note, this number is interesting, as many a quote has suggested that roughly this many were affected by the billing fiasco...but, that is speculation. I may discuss that more on Twitter later).
Seeing I am playing WAR, I can also feel the difference from when I launched to now. Less Scenarios opening up, less full ORvR groups...basically a feeling of more emptiness.

My thoughts are that when Rise of the Godlsayer launches, that even though WAR and AoC have been neck and neck on will start a larger tumble for WAR. The number of players will fall, and unless something drastic happens soon, WAR could see an end to it's glorious rebound.

What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment. I will be opening wide the comment floodgates today as well, so feel free to "express yourself".


Longasc said...

Right now AoC does a lot better than WAR, with promise for more. RotG inspired a lot of people to return.

Interestingly, both games seem to have more followers in the USA.

Warhammer and AoC are rather dead in Germany, many Germans switched to the EU-English pvp server "Fury", and the player numbers for the German servers Aries and Mitra are below 100 and barely more during the weekends. Someone posted player numbers on the forum every day he logged on.

Till the tourists can go back to yet another round of WoW in Cataclysm, some of them and new players might be dragged in by Rise of the Godslayer. It might deliver the content-hole less post-Tortage experience that scared people away.

I tried to make two of my buddies return to AoC and play RotG with me, but they have no time and are not interested either.

I am also still playing STO, which defines fail in an entirely new way. AoC ranked #47 on Xfire today, Warhammer around #65. STO and CO were 97 and 144 with MUCH lower player numbers and minutes. And they are rather new games, after all.

Funcom also seems to have changed its advertising strategy: They don't mention much about Rise of the Godslayer. They mentioned features like the riding tiger and so on already ages ago, but imagine you are a new player and want to get ROTG info on the AoC webpage, you barely get info besides the not so informative video.

Maybe they will this time convince with positively surprised players and word of mouth propaganda rather than setting high stakes and expectations that crash down once players leave Tortage?

AoC has a much better chance to recover and grow than WAR. I cannot help, but Bioware/Mythic did not announce anything for WAR, and the Cataclysm is coming.

I think people who were stuffed enough to shell out 25 bucks for a sparkly horse should have no problem to pay around the same price for a fully fledged expansion.

I hope for positive reviews of the expansion, then I might be able to convince some buddies to play with me. Probably on Fury, the German servers seem to be awfully dead.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Funcom has definitely reined back on the hype this time around for RotGS. I'm really hoping they can launch the expansion successfully, a lot of people are returning to AoC now and this is really their second chance to make an impression. They deserve it though, it's clear the devs have worked hard to bring the game to the state it is now, which is much more playable than it was at launch.

We Fly Spitfires said...

I've pre-ordered Rise of the Godslayer and I'm looking forward to it quite a lot actually. It's definitely time for me to get back into Conan.

I've said it before but I think AoC always had a stronger foundation than WAR. WAR doesn't have enough uniqueness or immersion to make it stand out from the crowd whereas AoC, although flawed, always had a certain charm and appeal to it which the developers could capitalise on.

Yasmina said...

I hope Warhammah does survive long enough to refine and keep up with some of the good, innovative ideas it had to begin with. At the very least, I hope it becomes like that unsuccessful album which everyone quotes as a major influence 10 years later.

Meanwhile, I'm messing around with Conan again to make sure everything's in place when the expansion arrives.

Max said...

I can't see a lot of people giving WAR much of a chance as it continues to fail after the billing ordeal. I heard people were charged up to 40-50 times in some cases and had huge overdraft issues. Even if the game play was top notch the idea that someone might screw you over with billing errors is enough to keep many many people away.

Wasdstomp said...

I am still playing WAR, but I still think the city changes are not going to fix the game.

You still have to spend many hours in Orvr for little rewards.

Chappo said...

WAR made so many mistakes it makes your head spin. The main problem was they were far too ambitious and expentant beyond reason about how well their game would go.

If WAR had started out as a much smaller budget game, with a definite focus on RvR, and with a very high level of polish, then it could have evoved into a beast.

But I guess you can suppose and theorise forever, but its not a good feeling watch so many MMOs fall on their faces, while WoW presents such a bad example in so many ways of what a good MMO could be.