Monday, January 15, 2007

The Tiger Woods of MMOs

Here we are...on the eve of The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft and the hype is palatable. As I was reading though all of the news, blogs and everyone is talking about tomorrow, so hey, why can't I. Jeepers, even the MMO news is kinda slow.

So, I know that my copies of Burning Crusade are sitting at my local EB right now. I got the call yesterday. The EB left a message on my voice mail saying that my copy was in and that they would be open on Monday at midnight and Tuesday morning to pick it up. Are you kidding me? Midnight? Are there actually people who will pick this thing up at midnight at play it in the wee ours of Tuesday morning??? Yes...yes there are, and there are words for those people: Loons. Nutt Bars. Crazy Folk. Wackos. Didn't we learn anything from the console launches....anything at all?? Apparently not. Apparently, people will be lining up at midnight to get their copies...rush home, push Grandma out of the way, run upstairs, install the game and then write a lot of "Server down...WTF!!!" posts on the Blizzard forums. Funny as hell. I'll be the one in the corner with the popcorn, laughing my ass off.

Anyway...what I want to talk about it a somewhat unimpressive and obvious connection of what we're seeing in WoW to what we see in the world of golf. Tiger Woods turned Pro in August of 1996. His famous "Hello World" was truly heard around the world when about a year later he won his first major, The Masters. He has since won 54 PGA tour events, 12 Major wins among those. But Tiger did something else...he made golf a "real" sport. He made it cool. He made it so that you had to be in shape to win. No, you couldn't be downing the fries and beer at the clubhouse and still expect to compete. Everyone who thought they would never play golf suddenly become a fan of the game because of him. He made watching golf something to behold. The shots he would make, the putts, the chips. He has also made golf a very profitable business and you see it everywhere. People are buying clubs, balls, shirts, lessons, anything that will help them with their game. Given that so much money is now involved in golf tournaments now, suddenly, second place means a heck of a lot. Every other golfer is now working out on weights, hitting the gym, working on their shots just to get into second place.

Now, here's the connection. Replace Tiger Woods with WoW, and bring the context into the MMO world and what have you got? You've got the exact same phenomenon happening here. WoW has opened up the world of gaming to people who would have never have picked up a game before. Every MMO developer...well, almost every developer (Darren looks in Sigil's direction) sees how the game is to played because WoW is now driving 345 off the tee and getting the ball within a foot of the hole. Every developer wants to be in second place with their MMO because they know that they will not catch WoW in numbers...especially if Blizzard keeps the the one expansion per year promise. Now, granted, golf is as much an art as it is a sport. Its a game of inches. If you're off by an inch on your swing, the ball is in the trees, or the water or the backseat of somebodies car. In order to be successful in golf, you have to have a repeatable and predictable swing. Blizzard has got that swing. Their mistakes are some other company's best shots.

The MMO world is better off for WoW, no doubt, just as Tiger is good for golf. But everyone is asking and looking for the next Tiger just so that golf remains an exciting sport. We don't ever want to go "ho-hum" over Tiger's great shots. We, and he, want someone to match him, someone to push him. Big question of the day..of the year even: Who's going to match Blizzard shot for shot? Who is going to challenge Blizzard and get them to be a better gaming company then they already are?

D out.

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