It’s a very interesting time to be a MMO gamer, because we’re in somewhat of a holding pattern for the industry. There’s a lot of interesting games on the horizon — and the further out you go, the more games there are — but as for the here and now, it’s “more of the same” with little new to be had. In addition, it seems as though a lot of people are hunkered down in wait for The Old Republic. I keep hearing things like, “Me and my guild are playing Game X until TOR comes out”, kind of like living in temporary housing until your colonial is finished.
Barring a major across-the-board miscalculation by all involved, it’s almost a sure lock that TOR will be a significant MMO — the only question is how significant. Will it be a solid effort but nothing that sets itself apart from the rest of the pack? Will it get huge numbers, and will they be new players or skimmed from other games? Will BioWare’s bet that “story matters” be vindicated or be quietly shelved as the rest of the game steps forward to compensate?
We don’t know. Yet. But we’re in a holding pattern.
And then, of course, are people in wait for one of the many non-BioWare, non-Star Wars titles coming, and there are hopes, excitement and anticipation for them as well.
But oddly enough, I’m starting to get a really weird, gut feeling about Guild Wars 2, a feeling that’s been growing for some time now ever since they started ramping up the pre-launch information blitz. My gut is saying that there’s a very, very good chance that this title is going to storm the industry in a way that few are prepared for. My gut is saying that Guild Wars 2 could take the cake and be the next “BIG” thing, perhaps sharing the mantle with TOR, perhaps even surpassing it.
My gut is backed up by a few observations, of course (plus Lean Pockets). It’s not just that ArenaNet has a huge built-in playerbase starving for more Guild Wars, or that they’re going to continue with their “pay just for the box and play forever” business model — although those help. It’s not just the gorgeous artwork or the neat twists on the standard fantasy world — although those help as well. It’s that from what we’re hearing, GW2 is taking risks and running forward while the rest of the industry is nervously baby-stepping into the future.
People like and respect risk-takers, and tend to root them on. If the risk is backed by talent and success, you have a perfect storm of a blockbuster.
Tycho from Penny Arcade summed it up perfectly:
“I’ve read and re-read every article that breaks the surface of the refurbished Guild Wars 2 presence. I don’t care if they ever launch the game at this point. It’s already contributed to the health of the genre simply by being a judging, omnipresent force.”
The Guild Wars 2 team is showing a bit of take-no-prisoners attitude toward the standard tropes of the MMO genre, and man, that’s refreshing. They’re already breaking the trinity (and eliminating the need for a dedicated healer), abolishing the rote quest system for dynamic events, and rethinking how death works in game. Player housing? How about an entire player neighborhood that changes depending on your actions? These aren’t small neat little features, but pretty ballsy moves that will either result in GW2 falling flat on its face or launching into the stratosphere, with very little middle ground.
I’m certainly not retracting my excitement for TOR, but I feel compelled to acknowledge what I think is shaping up to be a serious contender in the field. What do you think about GW2 so far? Could it knock one out of the park?