World of Warcraft (WoW) was not the original Massively Multiplayer Online game, but for most people that are into the genre, it might as well be. Of the kajillions of people that have an alternate life in the digital space most of them started it in WOW and most of them have remained there.
The game's stranglehold on the genre has been contested many times since it's debut, but no-one's been able to put even a scratch on its adamantium-like vice grip. Khorne tried, Conan tried, Starfleet tried, Luke Skywalker tried twice. Yet World of Warcraft remains King of the Hill.
In 2013 the challengers will keep coming. If history tells us anything, they're probably wasting their time and all they're really doing is creating fodder for Top Ten style articles like this one. But you never know with video games; no one could have anticipated that a game about chucking birds at pigs would become such a huge phenomenon, so maybe there's a world conquering gem hidden out there somewhere.
One thing that a lot of this years upcoming releases are doing right though, is that they're differentiating themselves from WoW beyond just having a different setting. We have games with highly original premises and varied gameplay styles helping them avoid being just 'me-too' experiences.
Right now, we have little to no information on Bungie's Destiny
aside from a collection of concept art sketches (thanks to Youtuber NGSUniverse for turning them into an unofficial trailer) and a leaked design document describing the game as “social at its core” and offering “a world to explore with friends, both old and new.” That sound vaguely like an MMO to me. But will it be? Hopefully that will be the case, as Bungie has shown in the past with Halo
that they're aces at creating compelling game worlds, whose to say they can't do it again and as a an MMO.
If nothing else, Defiance is ambitious. The game is a first for MMOs in that it's play like a third-person shooter within a vast persistent open world. But to make things even more interesting, is that the game's plot is tightly intertwined with the TV show of the same name that will debut with it. Defiance's plot will be informed by it's concurrent TV show which is being produced by the Sy-Fy network. And it works the other as well since the events within the game will affect the story progression of the TV show. The entire project could end up being a huge disaster, but you have to give developer Trion Worlds credit for trying something new.
Star Citizen isn't just taking a crack at being a successful MMO, it's also trying to revive a genre that once dominated the PC market. A market that was so successful that it practically supported a seperate PC accessory market all on its own. What else were people buying joysticks for? With Star Citizen, longtime PC game designer Chris Roberts hopes to restore the the space combat sim to glory. And given the enthusiastic response this game has gotten on Kickstarter, he may just do it.
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The Elder Scrolls
series has a sterling reputation and is both a critical and commercial darling. It has a deep well of mythological lore to draw from in the construction of its world and a gameplay style that is distinctly different from WOW's, immediately differentiating itself. Thus, of all the franchises that have taken a shot at the WOW crown, The Elder Scrolls
is probably the last one left with a legitimate shot at unseating the Lich King and claiming the Frozen Throne. Unless it takes an arrow to the knee, I can't see this one failing.
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