Thursday, March 12, 2009

WAR server shrinkage

Warhammer Online is closing down 40 of its 57 US servers, and 20 of its 43 European servers, for an overall closure of 60 out of 100 servers. I'm very much tempted to just state those facts and not give any comment, because somebody is going to accuse me of being a WAR hater if I state the obvious: That closing down 60% of your servers is not indicative of a great success.

But of course for bloggers and MMO theorists the fact that WAR isn't really successful is less interesting than the speculation of WHY it isn't successful. Is it more a technical problem, of large scale battles not being fun due to lag? Is it a problem of incentives, with scenarios being too rewarding compared with the open world, leading to depopulation and lack of open world PvE and PvP? Is is related to leveling up PvE and PvP being much slower than in competitor games? Or is there a fundamental lesson somewhere that MMORPGs with just PvP as endgame are limited to a small niche market?

I don't have an answer, except for stating the likelyhood that it is a bit of all of the above. That is on one side I don't see all that many people interested in fighting over the same PvP keeps for months, but on the other side there would probably be more players interested if those battles had less lag, and leveling up to the endgame was faster and involved less scenario grinding. There is no way around the fact that at its core PvP is zero sum, that is for every winner there must be a loser, while in PvE everybody can be a winner. But I can't say how many people would still like to play zero sum PvP if only there was the perfect PvP game out there. I only know that the number of players in the theoretical perfect PvP game would be smaller than the number of players in the theoretical perfect PvE game. Which leaves game companies having to decide whether to try to make the perfect PvP game, or a sub-perfect PvE game and still get more subscribers. I foresee more PvE games and less PvP games in the coming years.

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