Apologies for the recent lack of posts. I’ve found myself irrationally tired lately, and to make matters worse I have not been sleeping great only making issues worse. On top of it all, my Grandfather has been in the hospital, so not exactly prime time to be thinking about blogging. I have a half written post on crafting, that I need to find the train of thought to go finish at some point.
Trion’s Master Plan
With all the hype surrounding the game world that E3 brings on, I had a realization yesterday. Trion for me at least was this juggernaut that came from nowhere. I never really followed any information on the company, and I had never heard of them prior to getting into one of the Rift beta events.
All that said, it felt to me like this company stepped out of the shadows and right out of the gate assumed a position of dominance over the MMO market. Thing is, it finally hit me that Trion is not just gunning down World of Warcraft with Rift, but instead making a push at the entire Blizzard game structure. Trion has fairly quietly been aligning to strike against each of their core game markets.
The Rise of Rift
The fact that Rift was aligned to directly compete with WoW has been evident since the first marketing blows. With slogans like “We’re Not in Azeroth Anymore” and the more recent “Join Our Horde” they have very overtly been throwing jabs here and there at the big blue giant. They managed to pull off a near flawless launch on a bigger scale than we have seen in years, and immediately followed it up with an uppercut of constant content updates.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, in the amount of time it took Blizzard to release the 4.1 patch Trion managed to launch Rift and release 3 content updates and around 30 hotfixes. The 4.1 patch itself was comprised primarily of recycled content, whereas the Rift updates have introduced numerous raids, and a slew of new world content in the form of rifts and events. This level support is a roundhouse to the slow and unresponsive player Blizzard environment.
Like always there was an initial drop after the opening sales, but since then the Rift player base has stabilized and continues to grow. Earlier this week Trion released that they are nearing the 1 million sell-through mark, meaning units actually sold in various outlets and not just shipped and encumbered. While some of those sold only stayed for the first month, there has been a serious dent in the available player pool by this newcomer. Blizzard itself came clean, stating that they are down 600,000 players, so it isn’t hard to see where a large chunk of them have arrived.
End of Nations
What I am coming to realize however is that Rift is just the first strike in a greater war against the Blizzard/Activision bottom line. Quietly gaining player focus is the new MMO-RTS title End of Nations. Similar to the Trion strategy with Rift, they brought on veterans from the RTS industry, Petroglyph Games. The company is made up of mostly Westwood Employees, some of which notably worked on the grandfathers of the genre: Command & Conquer, and Dune II.
End of Nations itself is shaping up to be a game that feels very familiar to those who have played Command & Conquer in appearance but taking it on a much larger scale. All indications at this point make this title look to be another AAA RTS title. It brings to the field a server infrastructure that seems more scalable than that of the Blizzard standard in Battle.net.
All these things add up to place this squarely on the field as direct competition for the Starcraft players attention. If this manages to ship and release as smoothly as Rift did, and have a similar level of player support and content updates then I can see End of Nations pulling away a good number of Blizzard loyalists in the process. I am not a huge player of the genre, so I may be wrong, but having played through Starcraft I can see this title drawing away the old Westwood fans.
The Defiance Experiment
So far we can see clear lines on the battlefield placing Trion in direct competition with Blizzard in the MMO and RTS market, but wait… there is more. Trion in additon to all the other work, is teaming up with the Syfy channel to embark on a unique experiment. They are creating a multiplatform MMO-FPS title that will somehow be linked to a TV Show. Supposedly the show will effect the gameplay, and the players themselves will ultimately effect the TV show. I will be honest, it is somewhat hard to really wrap my head around the ramifications at this point.
What we do know however is that Defiance is a third person mmo shooter, set on a future version of the earth transformed by decades of conflict. There isn’t alot of detail yet on the title, but like every company they state they are looking to produce a AAA shooter. Ultimately the success of the title will rely on so many issues, such as the ability to merge console and pc game play into one cohesive environment. Many titles have promised this, *cough* DC Universe *cough*, but so far not a single one has delivered.
Why this is interesting particularly within the scope of this post is the fact that Blizzard also is working on their very own MMO-FPS title, dubbed Project Titan. Funny thing is, there was another Project Titan… the ill fated Ensemble Studios Titan, which was the Halo MMO. MMO Culture gives the basic rundown of the theory, but the quick version is: some of the disbanded Ensemble staff joined Blizzard Entertainment, Activision and Bungie announce exclusive worldwide partnership, and this document is leaked showing a Blizzard release schedule with Project Titan on it.
With Blizzard now working on an MMO-FPS, this places Trion yet again competing directly. From all indication however, it seems likely that with a TV show tie in, this will probably be coming out well before Blizzard’s normally sluggish schedule (which is also shown on schedule as late 2014). How many years have we been waiting for Diablo III for example? If Trion can beat Blizzard to the MMO-FPS market, and deliver the same kind of performance they have shown possible with Rift it will definitely soften the later’s potential market holding.
Basically that is three major titles with two in hardcore development at the same time from Trion. Each title seems to be directly aligned to take down a Blizzard market. It honestly leaves me wondering, if we will soon see information about a similar title to take on the Diablo III market. I am just still floored that this company, that I had not heard of prior to Rift has come out of the gate and is presenting serious competition. I look forward to seeing more information on the above to come out during e3. Hopefully Trion will continue to delivery quality products and keep up with the same level of support.