By Jared Newman | Monday, August 9, 2010 at 9:52 am
But in a recent earnings call, Activision-Blizzard chief executive Bobby Kotick revealed that Blizzard is indeed working on something new. He didn’t reveal much about the game, but said it will be an entirely new intellectual property, which means no Starcraft, Diablo or Warcraft branding. That’d be the easy way out.
Launching an MMORPG is a dangerous endeavor. Unlike traditional retail games, which are released, purchased and forgotten, MMOs must live on for five or 10 years, supported by servers on the publisher’s dime. Many MMOs with grand ambitions have failed miserably, their servers shut down, stranding whatever community they had. If a subscription-based MMO succeeds, the payoff is a steady stream of revenue from players who are thoroughly invested in their virtual characters, but it’s a risky business considering the costs beyond development alone.
For Activision-Blizzard, the stakes aren’t so high. The publisher can dig into its deep pockets for huge investments in development and servers, and Blizzard’s strong following almost guarantees a big player base from day one. According to a 2006 report by DFC Intelligence, those were two main reasons why WoW became dominant in the first place, and they’d hold true for whatever Blizzard develops next.
That’s not to say the game itself won’t matter. As DFC noted in its report, World of Warcraft’s popularity could also be attributed to its way of letting players go solo on missions if they wanted and drawing in deathmatch fans for player-vs.-player battles, and of course, to the “elusive ‘fun’ factor.” In other words, Activision-Blizzard has the resources to make another smash hit like World of Warcraft, but above all it needs to be an awesome game.