Every time a new big-name MMO comes out, everyone on the battle.net forums are abuzz with speculation that the new game will finally be the "wow-killer". Ever since WoW has been out, it has pretty much dominated the entire MMORPG scene. Perhaps it would be more apt to call wow the "MMO-in-general-killer".
I've played my share of MMOs back in the day, but until wow came out on the market, there was no real big-name MMO. Sure, there was a huge Lineage following in Asia and there were some rabid Everquest and Ultima Online players in the US & Europe, but even in their heyday EQ/Ultima had nowhere near the number of subscribers that wow did. Over 10 million - no other game has come even close. No one else even had a chance when Blizzard, a household name in the PC gaming world that draws a huge fan base with just its logo alone, decided to enter the MMO market.
When Rift came out, everyone called it the wow killer. They even attempted to advertise themselves as such. Rift came and went, barely breaking 1 million subscriptions. Bioware tried to do what Trion couldn't do and pushed big advertising dollars into its Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. SWTOR lost 25% of its players within the first quarter, only reaching about 15% of wow's playerbase at its peak.
Even another renowned Blizzard game, Starcraft 2, couldn't kill wow. But I think that was mostly because SC2 was designed for an entirely different fan base compared to wow. SC2 is for the hardcore, as SC1 was. Once you play through the campaign modes, all that's left is content suited for the hardcore gamer: it's all about APMs and ladder rankings and high-pressure matches, which doesn't appeal to the more casual players of wow. I know a lot of people who did pick up SC2 when it came out, played through it once and came back to wow within a couple weeks.
I have always said that the only true wow killer will be World of Warcraft 2: [insert catchy title here]. The day that wow servers would be truly empty and dead would be the day that a bigger and better version of wow made by Blizzard hit the markets. Only time will prove whether I'm right or wrong. But in the meantime, I think we do have a very strong contender for the title of "wow-killer".
On May 15th, Diablo 3 hit the market, and it seems as though almost everyone I knew who played wow has taken up D3. It makes sense - D3 is more "like" wow than SC2. It's kind of like a more action-adventure version of wow. There's no set class roles, no real need for cooperative gameplay, and not as much depth as wow. But at the same time it's fun, it's fast, it's "clicky" and "smashy", if that makes any sense. In wow you click on a monster and your character will swing a sword and you see the monster chirp and die. In D3, you click a monster and you smack it hard in the face with burning fists and the monster explodes all over the screen and dies. It's more visceral, it's more gory, it's ultimately satisfying in a cheap-thrills kind of way.
It's too early to tell whether D3 will retain a permanent hold on the once-devoted wow players. The game has been out for 3 weeks today. When I logged into wow this morning (for the first time in 3 weeks), I was overjoyed to see 6 friends online! Until I looked at my friends list and realized that they were simply my RealID friends who were logged onto D3.
I could see myself going back to wow eventually once I've worked my way through 99% of D3. This could take a while. Let's just hope there are people left to play with when I get back.