WoW is dead… but it got better. What kills games that aren’t WoW?

We had some fun over the latter part of last week with our WoW coverage, poking a little fun at the doomsayers who always assert that WoW is dead with every fall in subscriber numbers.

We’ve spoken in the past on GAMEBREAKER about what it would take to kill WoW, but I have to say I think WoW is an exception. The conclusion in the comments of that article in case you’re wondering was that WoW will eventually slowly peter out, losing subscribers to other, newer titles. The likelihood of one single game killing WoW is slim. WoW is dead? Not just yet.

But what kills games, that are not WoW?

Jason Winter recently wrote an article about overhyped MMOs, talking about the tendency some developers have to brand their games as WoW killers, or allow them to be branded as such by the media, and generally over-hype new MMOs. The likelihood of any MMO getting over 9.5 million subscribers in, say, the first quarter, is very slim, so when that inevitably isn’t the case these games are seen not to have failed, but not to have toppled the behemoth. Does this early hype actually work against new games?

Apart from that, what else causes games to fail? Poor gameplay has to be a big one, bad mechanics, bad cameras, bugs, and the like. Those frustrate new players, and cause bad reviews and general bad press, which games sometimes never recover from.

But we’ve talked a lot about new games, what about old ones? What causes servers like those for City of Heroes to finally, finally be shut down? Just a lack of funds? What do you think? Personally, I think it’s easy to forget that games have to work somehow as businesses, and that hard decisions have to be made sometimes.

What do you think?

  • Chris

    The amount of hype that these new games get definitely hinders their success. Hype creates such an unrealistic expectation of what a product should be, that it’s impossible for a developer to match it. This has happened with every big MMO to come out the last nine years, and I fear that the same thing will happen to TESO as well. 

    Everyone wants a WoW killer, but they expect a new game to be in the same shape as a game with nine years of post-launch development behind it. I think what the industry really needs right now is a game that doesn’t take a lot of time invested to reach that “end game content”, while at the same time creating an all around good game. Time investment (leaving that character you spent so much time on in your other game) and quality are the two biggest hurdles MMO developers have to battle. 

    • Olivia Grace

      I totally agree – I have had several good friends tell me that TESO will be a WoW-killer, and every time they do I tell them to stop doing it. I wish TESO the best of success, I’ve been a fan of the franchise for years and years, I’ve signed up for the beta, I’ll buy it and play it when it launches, so I’m not a hater. But, calling it a WoW-killer is unrealistic, and sets expectations too high. So, I tell them to stop, for the game’s sake. Hopefully it’ll work!

      • arenasb

         I find a lot of the wow-killer talk actually originate from wow players themselves. Usually it’s in derision of the new mmo, mocking it.

    • Elias Rowan

      I don’t completely agree that too much hype is going to be a bullet for ESO. By far, it’s not getting anywhere near as much media hype as many other games, most recently GW2 and it almost seems to me the developers are trying to purposefully stay a little more quiet and under the radar than other games that have come out over the last few years. This is how it’s coming off to me, at least, and I think it may actually work in their favor if – IF – they can pull off what is being hoped for by players that are hyping it for themselves.

      I think everyone is looking at it wrong. Why do we want a WoW killer? (I personally don’t want a WoW killer. WoW is WoW and will always be WoW. And it’s still a fun game that does what it does exceptionally well.)

      I think what players want is a new “world” that they can get attached to in the same way they got attached to WoW. However, I don’t think MOST of those players consider how their lives outside of WoW have actually changed in regards to how that affects their ability to invest in a game the way they once did with WoW and end up simply blaming it on a lack of in-game element that may or may not actually be missing.

  • Tim Ginger Panda Whitehead

    The obsession with DLC to the point where the initial game suffers because they want to sell you content that should have been with the initial release!

  • Mafiagryphon83

    I see Star Trek Online not SWTOR but we still love you Olivia.

    • Olivia Grace

      Oh rubbish! That’s what I meant…. I knew I’d get those confused xD I wish I didn’t have to do these videos in one take sometimes… I just actually facepalmed IRL.

      • Mafiagryphon83

        Truth be told I was playing STO while watching your chat bubble and wondered why you were copying me.

  • Peter Windey

    I think aside from what Chris is mentioning there ( which I think is the big one). Two other reasons that come to mind is either a lack of ‘endgame’ or a lack of customizing We all know that small minority plays endgame in WoW ( be it competitive pvp or raiding )but it needs that to be there and *work* so everyone else has something to work towards. And for the customizing part you see the ‘industry’ that has sprung up around WoW when it comes to addons, contentcreation ( machinima), people calculating stuff,.. this is the kind of stuff that keeps people involved outside of their playing time. It keeps people coming back and it creates community.

  • Elias Rowan

    What has killed so many games:
    1. Trying to be WoW. That’s been everyone’s mistake over the past 10 years. There already IS WoW. We don’t need nor want another WoW. The WoW formula works for WoW. If we want the WoW formula – we will play WoW!
    2. Resting on your IP/Company name and not paying any attention to the feedback you are getting from your possible player base at the time it is given.

    • Olivia Grace

      That’s a really good point! Don’t try to be WoW… I wonder how Blizzard will get on with their All-Stars that appears to be trying to be LoL…

      • arenasb

         you have players wanting a game to not be like wow, and then those same players complain when the game isn’t like wow

        they can’t win

  • Emilio Aguinaldo

    Simply, Gold Bots. Enough Said.

  • Jason Jenkins

    rawr you called star trek star wars nerd rage!!!!!!!

    nerd rage aside games kill themselves with a combination of things, bad updates (reusing old content too often, recoloring old gear models, anything along those lines.)  taking forever to release updates, not dampening the trolling ways of the bad gamers/community.  But for me personally the number one mmo killer to me is when friends quit the game.  while i have been enjoying pandas and pokemon alot in mop all but 1 friend quit after the cata debacle and none have returned and even that one friend is wanting to quit to go to a free to play game. so for me what is “killing” wow is no one to hang out with.

    • Olivia Grace

      I’m sorry I’m sorry! See my comment below about the IRL facepalm I did when Mafiagryphon83 pointed it out. I even thought, choosing the footage, “Don’t call this SWTOR, Olivia”. I am fail.

      • Jason Jenkins

        its ok ms grace, for you non-star trek / star wars geeks its easy to understand how you could get confused between them, they both are set in space, both ship styles look awesome, both have funky looking aliens.

      • Dularr

        I think there is a way to add annotations to the video.  So you can post your mea culpa direction in the video feed.

  • Lusitan Gaming

    i think what kills other games is:

    1 – the lack of content, why pay and wait for game to get “fixed” when you could just pay for one that as endgame working.

    2 – Dev’s lying about features.

    3 – Lastly, Dev’s not listening to feedback from players in Beta, we all know Dev’s now only use Betas as part of the Hype machine instead of using it for testing purposes nowadays

  • ArsenicSpritzer

    Hype is irrelevant. People throw that word around like “amen” at an evangelical tent revival. It’s just a lot of sophist nonsense.

    There are two things that kills games: poor execution and a developer’s inability to identify the correct audience for their game AND DESIGN FOR IT. If they are thinking blockbuster during development, but upon release, gamers are thinking “niche”, you might as well start picking out a casket. Make it a cheap pine box though, because their won’t be any money left for anything else.

  • Jericho Bull

    I’d like to point out that WoW’s overwhelming success was also due to coming out at the perfect time. Several other games in and before 2005 are STILL pushing on with subs not because of objective quality, necessarily, but because of having snagged a loyal audience and their guilds years ago.


    1) Getting sacrificed at the altar by a publisher desperate to please shareholders by cutting expenses. This destroys either the game (City of Heroes) or the dev team (The Matrix Online, which eventually led to it’s implosion)
    2) The game itself was a massive investment, and wasn’t fun enough to retain an acceptable amount of players (Tabula Rasa).
    3) Licensing disputes/not wanting to create “confusion” or competition with other IPs (Star Wars Galaxies was gutted so LucasArts could shift player attention to TOR, whilst the harmless mini-game MMO Clone Wars Adventures lives on).

    • Lusitan Gaming

      so basically who saying that games that didnt took into consideration casual players are the only ones still running with subs ^^ moreorless.

      Hand-holding is killing MMO’s

  • Inkogni Alex

    only way WoW to die –>> EA injects it with some DLC
    ( buy it to play the “REAL” game, if not… SUX TO BE YOU! ) and some other BS, just cuz they can or Blizz comes out with Diablo 4 thats worse than D3
    then people start to think they can’t make any decent games and quit slowly      

    • David Grimm

      Wow’s been dieing since Wrath. Most of the players I played with since launch left before or shortly after wrath launched. WoW is not dead because more players took u the game. Blizzard made it easier and faster to level so you can get your alts into raiding in BC. This made it so the new players leveled to max level before really learning the game. Also, all the content in wrath was easier than content was in vanilla/bc. So players didn’t HAVE to get good to see all content. Now players can be downright terrible and still see all the content.  It takes away from the personal journey of the game.  It also takes away all the value of the end game gear. But honestly, they just throw gear at players so fast now that no gear ahs any value. The effort spent to get a legendary in wow as of cata is just barely more than the effort spent to get an epic in vanilla. It took guilds full of hundreds of players months and luck to get legendaries in classic. 

      TL;DR: WoW DID die. It’s not the game it was. GAME DEVELOPERS: You may want everyone to see every section of your content. Making the game easier so people without skill or conviction can see everything is bad. People leave the game in the millions. Almost noone who played wow at launch still plays.

      • Dularr

        Sorry, not dead yet.

        • Deadalon

          THe core of WOW has died.  When player choices are removed…then the only thing keeping the game alive is extra content.  Good game has good gameplay – player choices and good content that will last.   In MMO – you add community.   WOW might still have sub numbers – but its not community and its not built on player choices anymore.  So whats left is gameplay and content.   Thats not enough to hold real gamers anymore.  Kids maybe – but not real gamers.

          • Inkogni Alex

            community is dead on the server i used to play, not paying for a transfer ( no $ back then )
            content that gets updated every 6 months or more is slow

  • Harold Jones

    I am still paying to play Star wars the old republic and loving the game, I still play Star Trek online F2p on the odd moon. I was one of them PEEVED OFF City of Heroes players that got kicked in the mouth from NCSoft. The game still had a big pop still, bigger than GW 1, and GW 1 is still up an running. Sorry venting a little.
    But back on topic now.

    1. SWTOR i think it was 75% EA, 20% BW, And 5% fans that got SWTOR in the shape that its is in now.

    2. Star Trek online was it lame Char. combat that killed it, the space combat is 2nd too none, unless you talk to an EVE player.

    3. CoH, I still say it got canned before its time.

    • InvaderMig

      I completely disagree about Swtor.  The majority of whats wrong with that game is BW’s fault.  Their priorities were completely screwed up.  It was their mission statement to make story the forth pillar and as a result they completely slacked on gameplay and stability.  They didn’t even allow people to test endgame content until just about month before launch, no test servers, and still no character transfers a year after launch.  The bottom line is they put all their eggs in one basket, and it bit them in the ass.  I’m sure EA had something to do with rushing them in the last half of the release year, but that game was being developed for over 5 years, there’s no excuse at all, for the the state the game was released in.

    • Bush Swanson, The American Dre

      star wars is great now that its free. It’s a great way for me and my uncle to reconnect  which we needed to do badly…

  • David Grimm

    Games are games because of gameplay. Games with excelent gameplay will thrive without any bells or whistles. *Cough*DayZ*cough*…. also evidenced by the Indie game revolution that’s going on. Games with terrible gamelplay will fail no matter how many bells and whistles you put on them. Alot of games nowadays have lots of fancy graphics and CGI and movies. But the game industry has been forgetting how to make a game fun. Hint: It’s NOT by making the game easy.

  • InvaderMig

    Poor gameplay kills games plain and simple.  As Josh would say, if the game is good, then it’ll be good, and if it’s bad then it’ll be bad.  Poor business decisions can hurt games to a certain extent as is the case with Origin and BF3, but the game is good so it’s still successful.  Over hyping can certainly hurt a game as well if people believe the game to be the second coming as a result, but again if the game is good, it will still be successful. 

  • Anthony

    i think its funny that EverQuest1 is still going and releasing expansions 

    • Michael

      You might think it is funny, but im sure the people playing it think it is great ;) Expansions coming out means that the developers can afford to create them, which means they are making a fairly good chunk of money.

  • Deadalon

    I think it depends abit on the genre what makes or breaks a game.  Good RPG needs strong systems and good player choices.  And there you have what both D3 and WOW have got things wrong in the past 4 years.  They have removed choices.  Devs can say they can balance the game better that way…but in truth – now that WOW has totally removed the talent tree – the game is still unbalanced and BLizzard is adding extra ilvl gear to hide imbalances.  

    I remember back in Vanilla while leveling how the talent point kept me going to the next level even tho I was not getting any new ability.  And back then it gave a REAL choice where I could put it into whatever tree I wanted.   Sounds like POE to me… and thats why POE is having players starting new characters again and again and again.  Because they have a choice how they play even tho they are playing certain class.  And there might be a best build in that game too.. but not for every content.

    And thats where WOW really failed.  It removed player choices.

    • trials

      Well said. Especially the part about them still not being able to balance properly even now with such little choice that players actually have, compared to what it used to be. But thats Blizzard at its best. They have started to try and force things on the players since early wotlk, where they started to focus alot on arena. Classes became more and more similar. And the reasoning for this is usually “we want to be able to balance it more efficiently”.

      And in the end its probably just them being lazy, since if you look at what the game has done over the years, apart from adding questing content and a raid every quarter or so, pretty much nothing. Theres the odd extra pvp map every expansion and a different set of daily quests. But really good new stuff… nothing. All they do is juggle damage values around and nerf+buff some of the cc abilities as if there was some rng running the show.

  • Hicks64

    Stuff to do and community-building/friendly.

  • Luis Paulo Silva

    I still don’t know why some people find pleasure in seeing WoW “dying”. It’s just that some people love their games so much that the only way they get happy is if WoW dies.

    On a serious note, I think the only thing that can pull the plug on games is the company alone, there are games out there that are kicking, even after almost 10+ years in the market. Your game does not need 10 million people to be successfull. You just need money to pay your bills xD

    Let’s use CipSoft example, Tibia is a MMO that was made in 1998, it has 2 major updates per year, it has 30k players online right now, but I think the playerbase is around 100k people. They are a small company that embraces some RPG elements. Yes, I may have some bias on Tibia, because it was my first MMO, but I cannot understand people saying that WoW is dying now that they have 9.6m players when Tibia has 30k players online right now. XP

    This is Tibia’s maximun amount of people online at the same time. TIBIA IS DYING OMG.

    Overall Maximum:   64028 players (on Nov 28 2007, 19:26:00 CET)

    Anyway, people need to just chill, play the game you want, play the game you love, let other people play the games they like and don’t judge people by the games they play. -There, I fixed the internet community problems-  >_<

    • Michael

      I think people like to see WoW lose subs because it means that there is room for new games to come out. The MMO genre is pretty niche still and in order to get people out of the “WoW comfort zone” game devs have to see that it does not always work that well. The same reason people don’t want Call of Duty to succeed. Call of Duty is essentially monopolizing the shooter genre so, unless your game is F2P, you stand no chance of competing in the same market space. It’s the same way with WoW. Obviously their leash has been loosened slightly as we have seen substantial success out of the gate with most new MMOs as well as continued success with GW2. As you see the subs drop you will see creativity rise. That is the reason people like seeing the game lose subs. I don’t like anyone wants WoW to “die” as competition is a good thing and helps create great stuff for us. Its just that right now we are limited as most developers either cannot afford to fund an MMO or are trying to go the safe “WoW” route.

  • Brenton Adams

    BTW that footage isn’t Old Republic. I think its Star Trek game footage.

    • Dennis Schmidt


  • Karizee

    Games that aren’t fair
    Terrible communities
    Mismanaged server populations/dying servers
    Too much gating to get to the content

  • Michael

    Honestly the only games that are dead to me are the ones who no longer produce content updates at any kind of regular pace. Most game’s don’t; people just say they are because they don’t play them. Warhammer,Conan,Aion,ect are still alive and kicking complete with consistent content updates. I don’t play them anymore, but it doesn’t mean they are dead. If the game can’t afford to keep the servers online then it is dead. MMOs aren’t like other types of games. Sure, you need people to play them in order for them to not be “dead” but you also need people to play them in order for the servers to even be up. So you know that MMO that you hate that still has not shut down? Yeah, that one; its not dead.

  • Dennis Schmidt

    1. Fun, above all else, it must remain engaging and fun.
    2. Stable.  Minor cosmetic bugs are exactly that, minor.  Major game mechanic flaws, buggy engines, login queues, encounter bugs, server resets all infuriate players, they expect a stable working game environment.
    3. Endgame, if a game is vertically scaling, it MUST have a fun and deep endgame experience
    4. Community.  This doesn’t grow up by itself, it must be fostered and managed well by the company.  A company must develop a solid trust with the community which means fulfilling promises in a timely manner.

    Any game that fails in any of the above gets into trouble, any game that fails at multiple of the above problems quickly finds themselves irrelevant and on the way to the scrapheap.

  • robotadventures

    trolling on trekers?  star trek.  not star wars.  can we do space combat in starwars?

    • Olivia Grace

      See the multiple replies to the same below! I do these all in one take, and as I loaded up XSplit, and hid it, thought to myself “Not Star Wars, Olivia, not Star Wars”. I still messed up! I should script them or something… 

      • DoctorOverlord

        Of all the geek faux pas that one is probably the most heinous :)  But it was pretty funny.   I thought it was a deliberate troll.

  • Kevin J. Redmond

    Just to clarify, City of Heroes still had a strong community and it was still generating a profit.  That’s part of why it surprised the development team so much when they were literally told on a Friday to pack their bags and clear the office out.  It’s also why the community worked very hard to save it, and why they are consequently working on their own project now.  Most of the speculation seems to indicate that NCSoft was just trying to consolidate towards a more Asian market, especially after the merger with a Japanese company (I forget the name).  Guild Wars 2 is its own monster, and it also performs well in Asian markets where super hero games do not.  So, as far as CoX is concerned… that game died as part of an arbitrary decision by a corporate entity that didn’t seem to care about it anymore.

    I think every game’s death is different.  If they have an early death it’s usually bugs, bad design, too little content, or just something that isn’t fun.  It takes a special game to last into the geriatric game ages (I imagine it works something like dog years?), but even those depend on a dedicated development and publication team… as well as a loyal and consistent fanbase.

  • Demi_God

    In America we call it Star Trek not Star Wars.  Sorry Olivia, we can’t let you live this one down so easily.

    Now repeat after me in Merikan: alt alt alt, shaman shaman shaman, soccer soccer soccer.

    Punishment complete, you should be good now. 

  • trials

    Not having a properly thought out endgame is what kills mmo`s that are not wow. 

    And with that I do not mean a raid instance every few months and arena/bg pvp… 

    Some fresh ideas are needed, maybe even rehashing stuff from older games (daoc+swg) where you might get some world pvp for control of player cities, and by winning battles, getting some ressources to upgrade either your offensive siege weaponry or upgrading your cities defenses and facilities, which in turn will provide better crafting options and bonus.

    Stuff like that would easily keep many people invested in a game _IF_ the combat system doesnt feel like shit. Sadly, the only games that tried to recreate the rvr feel of daoc did not work that great in terms of their combat system or engine problems (warhammer online for example was so damn laggy…)

  • JJversion1

    I think that first and foremost is Accessibility, which WoW and many other MMOs have, it can be played on just about any pc w/o any real need to pay gobs of money to upgrade your pc just to be able to log on. The more accessible the game is to the masses for consumption, the greater the the company’s chances that their product will be a success. Second is Gameplay and that too and includes endgame content, which games like WoW have. Even though there are some that would argue to the contrary, the numbers do not lie and shows that there are a great number of ppl whom would argue that assessment (sounds like I’m defending WoW, but I’m not, I’m just a realist and can clearly see that one of the things that makes WoW a success is the fact that it does have entertaining enough “endgame” to appeal to so many of it’s subscribers). However I’m starting to get off track here, but gameplay is definitely a must. If the game doesn’t have fluid controls and enough entertainment for repeated consumption, then it will fail to be a success. Next is Player Involvement, i.e, by how much will game allow the player to become involved and immersed with the game. How customizable is the character? Can I make him short? Fat? Tall? Skinny? Is there Player Housing? etc. Player Involvement encompasses more than just more choices and whether or not there are alot. Games like Tera allow players to be able to elect another player to a Governmental position (Vanarch I believe) and the more features, like this, that there are in an MMO, the greater the chances, imo, for success. Oddly enough, graphics are not as prevailant as one may think. Although graphics do play an important part in an MMO, making them so important as to usurp my previous points will, again imo, only serve to isolate your game and increase it’s chances of failure. Yes your game should be very appealing visually, but not at the sacrifice of my earlier statements. However if a game is not all that appealing then ppl may lose interest in your game before it has even gotten off of the ground. Ppl, usually, base alot of their judgements off of their first impressions and a “key” factor in that are visuals. If your game is very visually appealing, that would be trigger effect to attracting ppl to try your game out, like bait on a hook, then you can use the aforemention points to help “reel” them in. But those visuals will mean nothing if you put them above everything else and I can’t count how many times I’ve heard ppl say, “Although it’s got crappy graphics, I love playing ‘__insert game name here’ because it’s fun.” Yes making your game look “pretty” might be appealing, but not if it’s at the expense of everything else. I know that was long but I hope I, at least, made it clear why I think some MMOs fail and others are, at the very least moderately so, successful.

  • Jason D Williams

    not knowing what the customer wants, or doing something half a**ed

    the biggest value in wow is time played, i’ll never forget my 5 main toons, so many memories with each, it was hard to say goodbye, and i tried to go back a few times, but it’s not the same game as it was when i created them and made all those great memories. haven’t really enjoyed wow since vanilla/tbc – somewhat because of the people i had fun with in guild left the game, but also because the game changed

  • UniKage

    Voice sync is out again slightly.