As predicted, Kaplan moving from World of Warcraft to the new MMO did stir up some new speculation in the MMO-blogosphere about what IP Blizzard’s next-gen MMO might actually be based on. Tobold didn’t speculate much, but did mention that there is a chance that it will be pretty raid- or achievement-heavy. Stropp did some more thinking on the subject and weighted the various options against each other, guessing that it’s actually a new IP in the works.
One of the reasons for Stropp’s theory is that Blizzard will be aiming for new subscribers, instead of taking subs from World of Warcraft.
I strongly doubt that either Diablo or Starcraft will be the subjects of the new game. Diablo is too similar to WoW in too many ways, and will be too much of a competitor. I’d think Blizzard would want to open up new subscriptions, not take from World of Warcraft.
Starcraft on the other hand would offer a different experience, but could still steal WoW subs. But the problem here is that Starcraft 2 is still in active development and will be for years to come. I doubt Blizzard want to jeopardize that.
Even though it makes sense, and even if I still believe that the MMO is based on Starcraft I am open for the possibility of a brand new IP, I don’t think Blizzard fear taking subs from World of Warcraft. In fact, I think that we might be jumping the gun a bit. Some have speculated that the new game will be revealed at Blizzcon this year, but I think it’s highly doubtful – I personally think that they will announce the new expansion, waiting at least another year before revealing what their next great project is, allowing the next World of Warcraft-expansion get as much publicity as possible.
I also think there are a few points to consider, points that Blizzard themselves are probably aware of.
- At some point, World of Warcraft’s popularity will peak. I’m not saying it’s happened or that it’s even close, remember that Wrath of the Lich King hasn’t even been released in China yet. But peak it will and at that point it will slowly start to lose subscribers.
- At some point, World of Warcraft will start to really show its age. It will celebrate its fifth birthday this year in the US, which in the fast-moving games industry means that it’s really starting to get old. Ancient, in fact. It’s still a great and popular game and Blizzard keep evolving it, but sooner or later it will hit a brick wall when the engine can’t go much further. At that point Blizzard have the choice to either update the whole thing, which has been mentioned by Kaplan in various interviews, or settle for what they currently have and just build upon that.
- At some point, another game will start stealing subscribers from World of Warcraft for real. It hasn’t happened yet, even though many of us did believe Warhammer Online would be the game that could seriously put a dent in WoW’s gazillion subscription numbers. Sooner or later it’s bound to happen, even though I can’t really see a currently announced game accomplish that (perhaps Star Wars: The Old Republic, but probably not).
The new MMO won’t be released in a long time. We’ll see Starcraft 2 (the whole trilogy) and Diablo 3 before that and World of Warcraft will at least get one more expansion before the next-gen MMO goes into beta. Taking the points above into consideration, I don’t think Blizzard sees anything wrong with stealing their own subscribers – it’s better that they do it than someone else. World of Warcraft, which will stay the top dog in the MMO-genre for a long, long time, will sooner or later start to lose its current subscribers, and I think that Blizzard will be there to pick them right up again with a new game.
Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo or a new IP – it really doesn’t matter. Of course, this is all speculation. Somewhere at the Blizzard headquarters is a design document, a formula, that reveals all their hidden secrets and plans. We need someone to break in and steal it and leak the whole thing to the press.