Why is Guild Wars 2 so popular right now?
Sure, it’s got dynamic events, cross-profession combos, WvW, great lore – and it’s just so gosh-darned pretty.
But why do people like it, when other games before it have failed to impress?
Seems like a stupid question, but hear me out. The answer might not be as simple as “it’s good,” which is, admittedly, entirely subjective, but because “it’s time.”
Or, to borrow from ArenaNet‘s vernacular, Guild Wars 2 is releasing when we, as gamers, are ready for it.
We’re all — mostly — on board the hype train for Guild Wars 2, but as previous big-name MMO releases have amply demonstrated, that train can be quickly derailed. Quality is an obvious reason for a game’s success or failure, but one can’t entirely overlook the belief people have that a new and shiny MMO must succeed because “everyone” is talking about it.
And then there’s the “WoW factor.” “Everyone” is tired of World of Warcraft, so “everyone” will flock to the new game, right?
For a game – and a genre – that “everyone” has been tired of for years, there sure are a lot of people still playing it. So why would that change now?
Throughout the recent spate of recent “WoW killer” MMO releases, I’ve thought that — while a number of people are dissatisfied with WoW — they’re probably in the minority – just like the vocal minority of PC gamers who don’t like all the “casuals” that they’re unquestionably outnumbered by, both on the PC and in the gaming world in general.
(Don’t think that’s the case? Consider this: Console games outsell PC games by about a 10-to-1 ratio, which is only slightly smaller if digital downloads are fully taken into account. And the best-selling PC games? The Sims and The Sims 2.)
Maybe, just maybe, though, we’ve finally reached critical mass.
I think that the combination of the “WoW factor,” along with the recent WoW-like releases that have failed to adequately capture MMO players’ attention, might have finally tipped the scales in favor of a game that’s still in the MMO mold but different enough from previous releases.
MMO gamers have been burned by hype plenty of times in recent years, but I think a lot of that is because they weren’t quite as ready to move on as they thought they were, either individually or as a group. We’ll soon have multiple seemingly solid choices that go beyond what we’re used to in MMOs, and maybe that vocal minority will become a majority.
GW2 isn’t the only upcoming game going down this road. The Elder Scrolls Online seems to be borrowing a fair deal from GW2‘s playbook; The Secret World is notably different; and there are a load of MMOFPS games, like PlanetSide 2, DUST 514, and Firefall on the horizon.
And while it’s certainly done all right for itself, one wonders if EVE Online was releasing in 2013 instead of 2003, whether it would attract even more people to its initial nonconforming premise, instead of having to fight through the scores of EverQuest, and later, World of Warcraft, fans who were still voraciously devouring the content of first- and second-generation MMOs.
I think it would.
That’s why I think Guild Wars 2 isn’t going to be “just like” all those other games that have failed to impress. Sure, quality is important, but if you’re going to try and break the mold and offer something different, you have to do it when enough people truly want something different.
We may have finally reached that time.