Back before I started playing World of Warcraft (because of something that was work-related, incidentally), I used to tease my then-roommate about playing it well into the night, every night. I was a freshman at a certain horrendously expensive school, and my gaming started and stopped with my Xbox; I had no time for time-sink PC games. Not my roommate, no sir. The day the game came out—he had also been part of the beta—he plopped into his small, uncomfortable chair, Sunkist in hand (man alive did he love Sunkist for some reason), and quested well into the night away.
That was five years ago, and, correct me if I’m wrong, but no other game has even come close to de-throning Blizzard’s little engine that… still does.
Look at the game’s subscription numbers. The current estimate is that some 13.1 million people subscribe to the game in one shape or fashion. Lump all these people together in the same geographic area, and it would be the third biggest city in the world, after Mumbai and Shanghai. (Or, to put it in American terms, that’s nearly twice the population of New York City proper.) That, and the game is still growing… Wrath of the Lich King isn’t even available in China yet! When that hits, bam! Hello, even more money.
So we’ve established that WoW is big; that’s not exactly breaking news. Its closest competitors, I think, at least in the West, are Warhammer Online and AION. Apparently AION has had some technical issues that has driven players away, and Warhammer Online sorta came and went. And it’s not that these games aren’t good, but that, well, if all my friends play WoW, why would I abandon them?
That’s why WoW is where it is, and why it’s not going anywhere any time soon: too many people are playing for someone to come along and not it off its perch. That’s not to say that another game won’t come along and find a successful niche of its own—my money’s on Star Wars: The Old Republic, whenever that comes out!—but you’re crazy if you think another game is going to “kill” WoW.
And what will kill WoW? WoW 2, provided Blizzard wants to rock the boat, so to speak.
The gist is, WoW seems to be pretty much unbeatable right now. It launched at just the right time, with just the right lore, with just the right number of updates, with just the right fanbase.
If that’s a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know.