Let me preface this with the following: Do not let this thread devolve into bickering and moaning over which game is better, WoW or GW2. I often referenced WoW in this thread in order to provide a basis for comparison between the games at their release.
Was doing some thinking earlier today, specifically about the evolution of MMORPGs over the years and how and why a certain game can kick another to the curb. Why does 'x' game break ground and 'y' game doesn't?
So I began to think and look at the evolution of games over the past decade or so. I think most of us can agree that WoW, when it was released in 2004, re-shaped the MMORPG market. Everquest was the 'big-dog' that came before it, and while WoW didn't 'kill' Everquest (I hate that term), it stole subscription numbers, and slowly became the go to MMORPG.
But why? What did Blizzard do to make such a popular game?
What it comes down to is player-friendly innovation and evolution. In order to attract more players, and attract players who will not leave, you must have a distinctive quality about your product. Everquest, while very fun, often became more grind'ish, particularly as you reached higher levels. Quests become somewhat obsolete, and in order to progress later in the game groups were needed. WoW on the other hand, allowed a player to play through the majority of the game solo, and ultimately they improved the user experience. They made things moew fun, but managed to make a difficult and challenging game that rewarded the player.
Again, the idea is evolution, not the reinvention of the wheel. WoW renovated the questing system, they streamlined things more, and put more of emphasis on player progression via questing. They tweaked what existed and took a risk. The results? A relatively successful beta period, and a game that prior to release receiver a lot of hype.
Does this sound familiar?
Guild Wars 2 and ArenaNet aren't making a fundamentally different game. At heart it's still a MMORPG, but they're evolving the system, and tweaking what exists, with the ultimate goal of... yep, you guessed it... IMPROVING THE USER EXPERIENCE.
That's the key right there.
People often reference SWTOR and RIFT as examples of why, given the current stranglehold that WoW has over the market, no new game can succeed. Well of course no game that is more-or-less alike to what exists will succeed. People will eventually go back to what they know and are comfortable with. In order to steal players from another game and KEEP them, you must give them a reason to stay -- something that distinguishes yourself from the others. That's what GW2 is doing. They are, as I said before, attempting to create a game that is more enjoyable and ultimately provides a better user experience than what currently exists.
Now I'm not saying that GW2 will kill WoW. I hate the term 'kill' when discussing video games, and I don't think that the process of crowning a new gaming king undergoes such a process. Games slowly lose players and eventually become obsolete, but they don't drop off the face of the Earth. But do I think that GW2 could turn the tables? Absolutely.
Blizzard took a risk in 2004. They had a successful beta period and their game received much hype. At launch the game did enough to live up to expectations and word-of-mouth spread around. WoW steadily grew and gave people a reason to come back and continue playing.
ArenaNet is taking a risk in a week. They had a successful beta period and their game has received much hype.
IF... and I reiterate, IF...
If ArenaNet handles the launch process well (patch bugs ASAP, fine tune servers, provide updates, etc), then I have every reason to believe that GW2 could have an impact on the MMORPG market that WoW had upon its release. As laid out above, I feel like the recipe is there.
WoW did it in '04. Can GW2 do it in '12?
...we'll just have to wait and see.