I am going to preface this post with a disclaimer: Aion will not “kill” WoW. I don’t think anything will “kill” WoW. I don’t think anything will be as big as WoW in the MMO world for a very, very long time. WoW came out at exactly the right time, with exactly the right system requirements and made MMOs accessible for the first time. It was an aberration in many ways and rode very well thought out gameplay, low system requirements and pop culture endorsements to the top. Many of its players are not even gamers but got into the game through friends and found themselves addicted to the ease of gameplay and “carrot-on-a-stick” reward system. Those players will, probably, not go to another game when they quit WoW. They will quit the MMO world entirely.
That being said Aion, or any other new MMO, does not have to beat WoW to be successful, although that is the common misconception among MMO fans and bloggers such as myself. I would consider LotRO a success, though it has “only” 250,ooo or so subs, I would consider Eve a definite success even though it has “only” about the same number of subs. Because WAR is in a fight to stabilize its sub base and AoC has dropped to 100,000 (or less depending on who you talk to), I would say the jury is still out on those titles.
So, how does Aion fit in this crowded MMO battle? How do they “compete” with WoW? I know the game already has a couple of advantages over recent competition, it has phenomenal graphics that run very well at even the highest settings in crowded areas and it has a control scheme that feels as “tight” and responsive as WoW. So, what else can they do to grab WoW players who are starting to get into the post-expansion doldrums? How do they out-wow WoW?
WoW does not have the best PvP in the genre. It doesn’t have the best PvE. What it does have is very good PvP and PvE. WoW gives you a variety of things to do no matter your playstyle. Hate PvP but love raids? WoW has content for you. Hate raids but love small group content? WoW has content for you, too. Like to solo? Like to group? Like small scale PvP? Large scale PvP? It doesn’t matter what you like, WoW had something for you.
Aion must do the same. Give players a variety of things to do, not only while leveling but at endgame. Some players do not like a certain style of MMO gaming, not having something for them means they quit. Players get tired of doing one thing over and over, doing PvP 24/7 can get boring, so can doing instances 24/7. Give players options and you will reap the benefits of that variety.
Borrow concepts and improve on them
Blizzard is the master of borrowing ideas and gameplay concepts from competitors and improving upon them. Questing and instances were nothing new when WoW came out, but quests and instances in WoW were taken and polished to a high shine and seemed totally new because of it. WAR advertised Keep sieges and massive PvP battles, so WoW introduced Wintergrasp. LotRO’s claim to fame was story driven quests, so in WotLK, Blizzard introduced story driven quests and “phased” areas that allowed them to tell a story in a completely new way.
NCSoft needs to look at the current MMO world and take what is popular and improve upon it. Arenas are huge in WoW, take them and improve upon them in some way. Public Quests are one of WARs claims to fame, take that and improve upon a great concept with flawed execution. Tabula Rasa’s cloning system was incredibly cool, take that and improve upon it. There are literally hundreds of things that can be taken and improved upon. Do it better and faster than Blizzard and you have a winner.
Support Video and Machinima
This may seem out of left field compared to my other points, but I think the huge influx of WoW videos on YouTube and on websites such as Warcraft Movies, played a tremendous part in the growth of WoW. Players and potential players saw the PvP and raid videos on YouTube and said “I want to do that!”. The buzz created by the Leeroy Jenkins, Mordots and Big Blue Dress videos was instrumental in its popularity.
Aion needs to do the same, it is already a very photogenic and “video-genic” game. It looks amazing, so host a video site to show it off! Hold contests for the best video of the week. Have the talented video editors of the gaming world making videos about your product and you have thousands of videos that are, essentially, free advertisments of Aion.
Support the Fansites and Blogs
I am not suggesting this to be self-serving, even though this is an Aion blog, I am posting it because it is one of the best ways to increase the popularity of your game. WAR took huge advantage of this, the amount of blogs and fansites dedicated to WAR pre-release was phenomenal, but even more amazing was how involved Mythic was with those fansites. They gave interviews to small blogs and fansites, hosted contests through them and, most importantly, connected to their future player base to them. WoW is the same way in a lot of respects. Try to look up the strategy for a boss fight in LotRO, you may find one or two sites with information out there, now try to do the same for WoW and you will find hundreds and hundreds of sites out there.
Aion is already behind in this regard. As of this moment I know very few sites dedicated to Aion. Aion Source is the biggest, Aion Global is another and then there are the blogs of which I know only two, this one and Persepha Productions. My apologies in advance if I missed one and if I did please comment and let me know so that I can add it to my links on the blog! Regardless, there are not many and there should be more, many more. Aion’s fansite link on their main site shows only two fansites, the aformentioned Aion Source and Aion Global. This is not acceptable. NCSoft has to cultivate a fansite and blog community in todays crowded market. Host some competitions through them, give exclusive interviews and, in turn, the buzz for the game will grow.
Well, that’s my short list for “out-wowing” WoW. Some of you may be surprised that much of the list is not actually in-game stuff, but I think beating WoW in gameplay is only half the battle. Build a solid community and it will draw more people in to your game. WoW has done a tremendous job at this over the years.
As I said, even if Aion nails every one of these they are still not going to be as big as WoW, but they will have a great foundation and they will be well on their way to being the second biggest MMO in the world.
Tomorrow I am going to talk more in preparation of the next phase of beta and what I am going in looking for. See you then!