Will NCSOFT's 'WildStar' Be the Next 'World of Warcraft'?

WildStar, an eagerly anticipated sci-fi MMO, will be released on June 3. Can it live up to the hype and possibly become the next World of Warcraft?

Jun 3, 2014 at 1:43PM

WildStar, an eagerly anticipated new MMOPRG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) from NCSOFT's Carbine Studios, is launching for the PC today.

The release of WildStar has been preceded by a lot of hype. In an interview with IGN, producer Stephan Frost called WildStar "one of the most feature-complete MMOs to be coming out in the past 10 years," comparing the game to premium content found on HBO.

Carbine Studios has the talent to back up those bold claims -- it was founded by 17 members of Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ:ATVI) Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of World of Warcraft, one of the most popular MMOs of all time. NCSOFT, the South Korean publisher of popular MMOs Guild Wars, Lineage, and City of Heroes, acquired Carbine Studios in 2007.


WildStar. Source: Carbine Studios.

WildStar is a pulpy sci-fi western MMO -- a theme that anime series like Cowboy Bebop and Trigun, along with cult favorite series Firefly -- have explored in the past. That's a notable departure from traditional fantasy MMO titles such as World of Warcraft, Zenimax/Bethesda's Elder Scrolls Online, and Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

To see if WildStar can live up to the hype, let's focus on three key areas -- the MMO market as a whole, the market for sci-fi MMOs, and WildStar's business model.

The market for online games is shifting away from MMOs
The launch of Blizzard's World of Warcraft in 2004 was the watershed event that made MMOs a viable mainstream business. World of Warcraft peaked at over 12 million subscribers in 2010, but as of last quarter, only 7.6 million subscribers remained. Activision tried to attract new subscribers by making the game free-to-play up to level 20, after which they must pay a monthly subscription fee.

There were three main reasons that the number of World of Warcraft subscribers declined -- the game was aging graphically compared to flashier titles, similar titles fragmented the market, and free-to-play MMOs became popular with casual gamers.

Another major factor, which affected all MMOs across the market, was the rise of MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) titles such as Tencent/Riot Games' League of Legends and Valve's DotA (Defense of the Ancients) 2. These games, which center around "heroes" battling it out in a large arena, were much faster-paced than traditional MMOs.

Both League of Legends and DotA 2 are free-to-play but feature microtransactions. League of Legends is now much bigger than World of Warcraft, with 67 million monthly players, 27 million daily players, and 7.5 million concurrent players. In early May, DotA 2 also surpassed World of Warcraft's user base with 7.85 million unique accounts.

League Of Legends

League of Legends. Source: Riot Games.

The sci-fi MMO market can be a tough one
There's another reason that MMO developers don't often develop sci-fi MMOs like WildStar -- they simply don't attract as many gamers as fantasy MMOs.

CCP Games' EVE Online, a title best known for its ridiculously expensive spaceship battles, only has around half a million subscribers despite being launched 11 years ago. Sony (NYSE:SNE)/LucasArts' Star Wars Galaxies never became the hit it was meant to be, but limped along for eight years before finally being discontinued in 2011.


Sci-fi MMOs like EVE Online frequently struggle with user growth. Source: CCP Games.

Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA)/Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic -- which cost approximately $155 million to make -- initially looked doomed, but it bounced back from under a million subscribers to 1.6 million after EA replaced the game's subscription-based model with a free-to-play one.

The business of WildStar
WildStar's base game will cost $59.99, while the digital deluxe version -- which includes an in-game hoverboard, suit of armor, armor dye, and special title -- will cost $74.99. Both versions include 30 days of free game time.

After that, gamers will have two payment options. The first will be through a regular monthly subscription, which costs between $10.99 (full year) to $14.99 (monthly). The second is through an in-game item known as a C.R.E.D.D., which can be redeemed for 30 days of additional game time, similar to the PLEX (Pilot License Extension) in EVE Online. C.R.E.D.D.s can also be sold to other gamers for in-game currency.

But when we add all of that up, WildStar costs considerably more than many of its competitors. World of Warcraft is now free-to-play and costs $12.99 to $14.99 per month after level 20. Final Fantasy XIV's base game costs $39.99, and its monthly subscription also costs $12.99 to $14.99. Plenty of other games, such as Sony and Warner Bros.' DC Universe Online, are also free-to-play.

Yet that doesn't mean that WildStar is necessarily overpriced. Zenimax/Bethesda launched Elder Scrolls Online for $59.99 to $79.99, along with a $14.99 monthly subscription fee and in-game microtransactions. Nonetheless, Zenimax reported that 5 million players had registered for the beta version of the game by the time the game launched in April, although it's unclear how many of those players have upgraded to the retail version.

However, WildStar players should remember that Elder Scrolls Online is popular for two other reasons -- it's part of a 20-year-old franchise, and it's a fantasy MMO, not a sci-fi one.

The Foolish final take
In closing, plenty of gamers are excited about WildStar's unique setting, humor, and its customization features for characters and housing. But the main question now is if it can live up to Stephan Frost's lofty promise that the game would be the "HBO of MMOs."


WildStar. Source: Carbine Studios.

WildStar clearly faces some major challenges -- the market now favors free-to-play games with microtransactions, MOBAs are stealing players away from MMOs, and sci-fi MMOs have traditionally been less popular than fantasy ones.

So what do you think, fellow gamers? Will WildStar live up to the hype and deliver on its big promises, or will it fizzle out like many World of Warcraft wannabes before it?

Leaked: Apple's next smart device (warning, it may shock you)
Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret is out, and some early viewers are claiming its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!


Leo Sun has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers