Sunday, December 30, 2007
Online gaming 2008: Let the battle commence
BBC reports: [edited]
Challenges to the dominance of World of Warcraft over online games and gamers look set to emerge in 2008. During the year Blizzard's flagship title consolidated its hold on gamers as its subscriber base kept growing. But debuts by Age of Conan, Warhammer Online and many others may mean that hold begins to weaken.
At the start of 2007, the number of active subscribers playing World of Warcraft was eight million but by the end of summer the number had passed 9.3 million. According to statistics gathered by Nielsen the average WoW player racks up 17 hours of play per week - 12 hours more than its nearest competitor The Sims. As such it was the most played PC game between April and November 2007.
Mr Younger said online games such as Lord of the Rings Online, Tabula Rasa and Hellgate: London were widely tipped to poach significant numbers of players from Blizzard but, he said, it was not clear that had happened.
"There seems to be an inability by other massively multi-player game makers to capture what Blizzard managed to capture," said Mr Younger. "There's plenty of choice out there for players now," he said "You can even play massively multiplayer dancing games, if killing monsters isn't your thing."
Conan is familiar to many from Robert E Howard's original stories, the films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and the many contemporary novels that explored the world of the iconic barbarian.
Warhammer is the creation of UK firm Games Workshop and has many fans who played the tabletop game, the role-playing system, the earlier games and has read the books set in its world.
Perhaps more importantly the titles are attempting to move online gaming on from the mechanics established by Blizzard.
In Warhammer many areas of the game are contested and factions will battle to regain control of these areas. Solo players as well as those who prefer pitched battles will contribute to this back and forth that will see a lot of the game world's territory change hands many times.
By contrast Age of Conan is explicitly aiming at a mature audience - in particular combat will be bloody and realistic. The game will also allow player teams, or guilds, to set up and run their own cities or lay siege to each other's strongholds.