Friday, March 19, 2010

Warhammer Online and Bioware K I SS I N G

Warhammer Online and Bioware in a tree, K I SS I N G, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the expansion from Bioware.

"BioWare talks Warhammer Online's forthcoming expansions" is the title of an article over at Massively.
In a recent GDC 2010 interview with UGO, BioWare's Dr. Ray Muzyka said of Warhammer Online, "Right now it's [a] really profitable business unit within my group." Muzyka went on to say they've actually seen more people come into the game since enacting the free-to-play model on the game's earlier levels, and that he personally felt they were working.

In fact, by the sounds of it, Warhammer Online is due for some interesting announcements in the future. Another of Muzyka's comments on the title was, "We have new content planned and all kinds of cool expansions for it." We don't know how much more clear cut a message can be than that. And hey, it's good news! We're looking forward to our playable Skaven and Lizardmen, Mythic and BioWare.
I know Mythic and Bioware merged to create an "MMO group" within EA, but up until this point it was portrayed as though Mythic was responsible for Warhammer.  It is very strange to see Warhammer Online and Bioware mentioned in the same breath and have Bioware's talking head dictating where WAR is headed.

If Bioware is becoming more involved with the game, this may be the breath of fresh air that WAR needs.  Any expansion will have to rely on work from some of Bioware's development teams as the layoff train hit Mythic pretty hard.  With new developers, new ideas. But, new ideas need restraint.  We don't want another of the infamous "New Game Experience (NGE)" from Star Wars Galaxies all over again. 

Another question is whether the money-handlers behind the game will approve sweeping changes that may affect the bottom line in the slim hope of increasing it over the long term.  There aren't many success stories of MMOGs coming back from underwhelming launches.  Change is always met with resistance.

Now, in the past I've had my own ideas for changing WAR:
I would start the year by pulling a Chronicles of Spellborn and announce that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is 100% free to play. However, development has been frozen as the game is prepared to be launched as a Free 2 Play game supported by micro-transactions.
From the original quotes in the Massively article, the success of the free trial is touted.  Could this be a signal that more free 2 play is in WAR's future?  I would welcome the idea.  Even with Allods Online's cash shop debacle recently, I still like the fact that I can log in whenever I want and play for a few minutes.  I've thought several times about return to WAR, but have only been able to do so during a recent 10-day freebie.

I am interested to see where Bioware/Mythic/EA can take WAR.  At a minimum, it will serve as a case study of how Bioware's development practices can influence other projects.

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