Over at WarhammerOnline.com, they have a little ticker that shows how many beta applicants they have for Warhammer:Age of Reckoning. As of this writing, the number actually shows 416,853.
I find this interesting, as I am not aware of having this kind of beta interest since World of Warcraft. Now, I'm not saying that this is going to be another WoW. Far from it. I don't think it will ever get close to that kind of subscription number (currently over 8 million players worldwide, according to Blizzard.) I do think it's an indication that people are looking for something, anything to hitch their wagon to.
At the Austin Game Developer's Conference this week, Gordon Walton of Bioware gave a speech about the 12 lessons on making MMO's in the "post-World of Warcraft" era. In an article on Gamasutra, these 12 lessons are summarized.
I'm of two minds regarding his assertions. I do believe that his pragmatic view of the current climate is mostly right-on. I think he misses the point on a couple of his points. First, in "Lesson 4," he asserts that people will only play MMO's until the solo content runs out. While that may be true in the beginning to middle of the game, I'm yet to see an end-game that effectively supports solo play. So his point is not exactly correct, as if it were there would be a lot fewer subscribers still playing WoW than there still are. Second, in "Lesson 9," he says that characters on canceled accounts should be deleted to make more "name space" for new players. Sure, if you never want people to resubscribe. I just resubbed to EQ, of all things. Had my 3 or 4-year-old characters not been there I would have turned around and immediately canceled. I don't think this is a good idea.
The reason I brought up these subjects together is because I believe that to have 8 million subs, you have to have a perfect storm of the game, the community, and the brand. No one else has all the ingredients to do that. The only ones close are SOE, and they lack the reputation and community support.
WAR has a chance to be a great MMO, although I don't think this means anything like 8 million subs. I'm encouraged to see some excitement for the upcoming MMO titles. I don't see any of them unseating WoW or becoming the legendary "WoW-Killer." From what I am reading about WAR, I think it has a chance to become a strong contender for market share.
For now, WoW is safe. I don't believe that the "WoW-Killer" is in the pipeline.