When World of Warcraft was at its peak seven years ago (shortly after the launch of its first expansion), it seemed that Blizzard could accomplish anything in the world of MMOs. The company had rewritten the Everquest formula and made the time-consuming genre accessible to more casual PC gamers, all while expanding on the already wildly-popular lore created in the Warcraft games. A second MMO seemed like a logical stem for the company at the time, but seven years later, the landscape has changed enough to make it clear that the company may have been a little too ambitious with the development of the now dead Project Titan.
Blizzard recently had a rocky couple of years overcoming the less than ideal launch of Diablo 3 and constantly plummeting WoW subscribers; but overall, the company seems to have bounced back quite well. The Diablo 3 patches and expansion resolved nearly all the issues with the game and it is still seeing a lot of play. Blizzard also launched an incredibly popular digital card game, Hearthstone, to compete with SolForge and Magic Online, and the Warlords of Draenor beta is sure to give at least a temporary boost to WoW subscribers. Despite all that success, industry experts are still worried about what the cancellation of Titan means for Blizzard.
Video game analyst Michael Pachter, who has been a frequent commentator on the financial side of the industry for years, had the following to say in response to Titan's cancellation...
"At their lead time, there won't be a game for years... So they have to deal with inevitable declines in revenues and no new game on the horizon. I think it is a problem."
Talking to Polygon, Pachter explained that he wasn't surprised to hear about the cancellation, but that it is still going to be a major financial setback for the developer.
"It is a blow, for sure... They need to stem WoW declines, and I am surprised that it took so long to make a decision."
Whether you usually agree with Pachter's assessment of the industry or not, it's hard to argue against him on this one. After sinking seven years of development into the project, it is sure to cause some major delays in Blizzard's ability to deliver a new game anytime soon. As Pachter pointed out, the company has a history of not rushing development on new titles, so unless they have something very secret that has been worked on over the last few years, it may be quite a long wait before we see another feature-length release from Blizzard.
The announcement that the company is out of the business of building MMOs from the ground up certainly does make the decision to consider releasing annual WoW expansion seem a lot more logical. Even with its dwindling subscribers, the game is still highly profitable and Blizzard can continue to pull in $15 per month from millions of subscribers if the expansion packs deliver new and exciting content.
With online first-person shooters like Destiny and Firefall currently taking over the MMO genre, do you think that traditional MMORPGs are on the verge of becoming a thing of the past? Did Blizzard make the right decision getting out of the MMO development business? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Follow Denny on Twitter @The_DFC.