"Guild Wars" Success Leads to Many Imitators

Posted by jgaudiosi :: Online Gaming

GuildNcSoft-owned ArenaNet has had great success with its subscription free "Guild Wars" franchise in both the U.S. and Europe. "Guild Wars" and "Guild Wars Factions" have sold a combined 2 million units worldwide since April 2005. "Guild Wars Factions" has been a top PC seller since it debuted this April. Players have formed over 7,000 guilds worldwide. A large number of these guilds are currently competing in a tournament that will feature a finals showdown in Germany this August.

While these strong sales have been good for the game's publisher and developer, a survey of the many massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) shown at E3 this year shows that other publishers are looking to replicate this business model. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery. But that might not be the best thing for the MMOG business.

Unlike a traditional MMOG, "Guild Wars" allows players to congregate in a common town area and then go off as a group on an individual quest in a fantasy world. While "EverQuest II" allows these parties to encounter other parties on these quests, "Guild Wars" is a story of MMOG Lite, which means once on a quest, others cannot enter your world. What makes this attractive to other developers is that this type of game is less expensive to make. It doesn't require the same type of infrastructure as a "World of Warcraft."

There's certainly a proven audience for "Guild Wars," but the moment there are a dozen competing products that offer the same experience, it could spell doom for all companies involved. For the longest time, the MMOG publishers stuck with a small niche of "men in tights" games and have only recently introduced new genres to the space like NcSoft's "Auto Assault." Too many fantasy RPGs is never a good thing, especially in this "World of Warcraft"-dominated business.

As long as their are similar games set in outer space or other environments, there's likely room for a few franchises to live on and grow an audience. But those companies looking to cash in on the tumultuous MMOG business aren't going to help anyone with quick or cheap knockoffs of established brands like "Guild Wars."

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