Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment wanted to make a big splash in the video game world back in March when it introduced “Matrix Online,” a massively multiplayer online game based on the once-hot film franchise. The game made a big splash all right,World of Warcraft: boosting the game industry Articles like a belly flop.
Over its first three months the game signed up fewer than 50,000 subscribers, a pittance, so in June, Warner cut bait and agreed to sell the game to Sony. Last month “Matrix Online” was downsized from nine virtual “realms” to three, because users were having a hard time finding one another in the game’s vast digital ghost town.
The troubles of “Matrix Online” were partly of Warner’s own making; many players and critics agree that the game is a mediocre experience. But the online market used to make room for mediocre games. Now, the broader phenomenon is that so many contenders, including “Matrix Online,” simply cannot stand up to the overwhelming popularity of online gaming’s new leviathan: “World of Warcraft,” made by Blizzard Entertainment, based in Irvine, Calif.
With its finely polished, subtly humorous rendition of fantasy gaming – complete with orcs, mages, dragons and demons – “World of Warcraft” has become such a runaway success that it is now prompting a debate about whether it is helping the overall industry by bringing millions of new players into subscription-based online gaming or hurting the sector by diverting so many dollars and players from other titles.” ‘World of Warcraft'(WOW) is completely owning the online game space right now,” said Chris Kramer, a spokesman for Sony Online Entertainment, buyer of “Matrix Online” and one of Blizzard’s chief rivals. “Look, ‘Matrix Online’ is good, but it’s like being in the early ’90s and trying to put a fighting game up against ‘Mortal Kombat’ or ‘Street Fighter’; it’s just not going to happen. There are a lot of other online games that are just daman games sucking wind right now because so many people are playing ‘WOW.’ “Kramer is in a position to know. Last November, his company released “EverQuest II,” sequel to the previous champion of massively multiplayer games. Such games, also known as MMOs, allow hundreds or thousands of players to simultaneously explore vast virtual worlds stocked with quests, monsters and treasure. Players sometimes cooperate to take on epic tasks, like killing a huge computer-controlled dragon, and sometimes fight one another in what is known as player-vs.
But November 2005 was the same month that “World of Warcraft” hit the shelves. In a subscriber-based multiplayer online game, the customer buys the game’s software for perhaps $30 to $50, and then pays a monthly fee of usually about $15. (There are also many games that are sold at retail but then are free to play online.)
Since November 2005, “World of Warcraft” has signed up more than 4 million subscribers worldwide, making for an annual revenue stream of more than $700 million. About a million of those subscribers are in the United States (with more than half a million copies sold this year), and another 1.